Jesus – The Lord
Readings: John 21:1-
Text: Acts 2:36
I don’t know whether you write many letters any more. If you do you’ll probably be familiar with at least some of the appropriate etiquette. If you’re writing an official letter you may well begin with a crisp: "Dear Sir or Madam". It gets your letter off to that proper, respectful start that is expected of you. The same sort of respect used to be shown when letters would be concluded with something like "your obedient servant" but times have changed.
When you were at school you probably addressed your male teachers as "Sir" – it was the right thing to do, you were expected to show a certain amount of respect even if deep down your felt no respect at all for them.
Well cultural norms of politeness vary greatly from one place to another but some things remain constant: we know, for example, when we are not treating another person with proper respect and we quickly recognise when others do not treat us with the respect we would like.
Don’t worry I’m not about to lecture you on "good manners". On Sunday evenings we are thinking about some of the names and titles that are used of Jesus in the Bible. This evening I want us to think about the word "lord" and in the NT the word "lord" has a wide range of meanings.
Use in Gospels
At the most basic level "lord" is used as a title of honour expressing a certain amount of respect. When it is used in this way it is similar to the "Sir" that you use in your letters. It is the way a servant greets his master; it is the way an employee would naturally speak to his employer. It is a term of respect and doesn’t necessarily imply anything more than that. This is the major way in which the word is used in the gospels where a wide variety of people of different folk speak to Jesus as ‘lord’.
Here are just a handful of the many examples scattered through the gospels:
Sick and ailing folk speak to Jesus
Mt.9:28 "When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord.""
Lk.5:12 "While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.""
These people are looking to Jesus for help – it is to be expected that they show a measure of respect to the one from whom they are seeking help. In both these instances their respect is married to a confidence that Jesus has the power and ability to meet their needs.
The case of the centurion who had a sick servant is a little different in that he is not seeking anything for himself but making a request on behalf of his servant. Nevertheless respect is still appropriate and he seems at pains to make it clear that this is no empty formal respect he is showing as he speaks of his own unworthiness:
Lk.7:6 "And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof."
Apostles and disciples
These are the folk who were closest to Jesus and who had the greatest access to him. We have a saying that "familiarity breeds contempt" – well that was evidently not the case for these as they rubbed shoulders with Jesus. They regularly and repeatedly addressed him as Lord.
On the occasion of the Transfiguration for example Peter is impressed by what has happened and unsure quite what he should do next. But as he speaks he is in no doubt but that Jesus is worthy of respect:
Mt.17:4 "And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.""
Early on in their relationship Peter had been deeply impressed by Jesus and his powerful authority. Peter recognised that Jesus was indeed no ordinary person:
Lk.5:8 "But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.""
(This is one of those occasions in the gospels where one has the impression that the use of the word "lord" is already beginning to be associated with something that moves beyond the expression of simple human respect.)
After the resurrection had taken place Peter and John were together on the sea of Galilee fishing. A man calls to them from the shore and John recognised him:
Jn.21:7 "That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!""
It is interesting to note here that this time John is not speaking directly to Jesus but to Peter and Peter has absolutely no doubt to whom he is referring. Peter dives off the boat and swims to shore to be with Jesus.
When the disciples had all gathered together on the shore
Jn.21:12 "Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord."
Mary and Martha
Others of his followers also used this manner of address for Jesus. Martha and Mary were upset, their brother had died and Jesus hadn’t been there! In their grief they use identical words as they greet him:
Jn.11:21, 32 "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
What respect they show him and what confidence they express in his power!
She had found the tomb empty and raced off to tell Peter and John what she had seen. She used the language that must have been common coinage amongst them all:
Jn.20:2 "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
Use in rest of NT
Whereas a case can be made in the gospels for a limited use of "lord" as expressing a simple respect the same is not possible when we move beyond the gospels. In the rest of the NT we find the word being used in a more profound and significant way. It becomes increasingly clear that "lord" has a much greater significance.
As soon as we move on from the gospels the emphasis upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ becomes much clearer and more pronounced. On the day of Pentecost, for example, Peter concluded the first sermon of the church era as follows:
Acts 2:36 "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
And this is an emphasis that continues throughout the NT – the Lordship of Jesus Christ is promoted as being a fundamental and integral part of the Christian gospel. We are moving/have moved beyond the sphere of personal respect to affirmations of absolute fact and devout reverence. In Acts 10 we again find Peter speaking to Cornelius. Peter intends to summarise the gospel message about Jesus and he begins by going out of his way to insist upon the Lordship of Christ:
Acts 10:36 "As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),"
Much later when looking back as he wrote his second letter Peter expressed the same very clear views concerning the wonder of this man he had walked with for three years:
2Pet.1:16 "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
This man had power and majesty and it was all true. This anointed Saviour was also the Lord!
Nor was Peter alone in this. The apostle Paul similarly laid great store by the lordship of Jesus. In his letters he regularly referred to the Lord Jesus in the same breath as he did to God the Father. The association between the Lord Jesus and the Father is so close that at times Paul writes in such a way that we are not entirely as to whom he is referring. In a monotheistic culture and environment this is nothing short of amazing.
In the OT God was referred to as the Lord. This God is still referred to as Lord in the NT but that name or title "the Lord" is now most frequently applied to Jesus himself! For Paul Jesus was and is divine.
And so we find Paul calming the fears of the troubled Philippian jailer with this same message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ:
Acts 16:31 "And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
How important the early Christians considered this teaching concerning the Lordship of Christ to be! Writing to the church in Rome Paul some years later expressed it like this:
Rom.10:9 "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Paul constantly described Jesus Christ as the Lord. This was a profound statement and Paul meant us to understand it so. To say that Jesus was the lord was no mere show of politeness it involved far more than that. Indeed this is obvious from the fact that we find Paul asserting that men would only ever truly be able to affirm Jesus’ lordship if the Holy Spirit was at work in their lives
1Cor.12:3 "Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit."
The Book of Acts closes with the apostle Paul under house arrest in Rome but the message of the gospel continued to be proclaimed. Paul spoke boldly about:
Acts 28:31 "the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ."
The Full Meaning of the word "Lord"
When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek the word that the translators chose to use to translate the name Yahweh was the word kurios. This word is translated Lord in our English translations of the NT.
The implication is strong and born out in considering the way in which the title is used of Jesus that he is divine, indeed that he is one with the God of the OT.
The Lord is the one who owns all things. He is the One to whom all people’s belong. He can and does freely dispose of what is his.
We must be careful as we speak of our Lord Jesus not to forget that this word Lord is no title of convenience but it indicates a reality which is personal and powerful.
We have said that as Lord he owns and disposes of all things and we find just this predicated of him in the NT.
Jn.1:3 "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."
Paul writing to the Colossians affirmed exactly the same truth:
Col.1:16 "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him."
Given these amazing truths it is all the more staggering to realise that it was this One who "took the form of a servant", who "humbled himself" and who died on a cross that we might be saved!
The Father is mightily impressed with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and he wants us to share his appreciation. So he has highly exalted his Son and intends that everyone without exception will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.
It is our gracious privilege to recognise that Lordship now and to live happily under his loving rule as we repent of our sins and call upon his name for salvation. It will be to our everlasting regret not to have done so willingly but to be obliged to do so when he returns and when the gospel door of opportunity is closed forever.
Friends, you know that Jesus is called Lord over and over again – he is called the Lord, the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. You have probably referred to him as such many many times too. Don’t live as though these descriptions are meaningless. Receive him and his reign and rule over your life. Live your life to his praise and glory for:
"The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."