In Luke’s Gospel, he records the announcement of Christ’s birth in 2:8-12. In this text, Jesus is heralded as “Christ” or “Messiah.” The word “Christ” is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “anointed.” So the words “Messiah” and “Christ” mean the same thing: “God’s Anointed.”
The primary way of understanding the Messiah is this: He is anointed to be a king. He was expected to fulfill the promise made to David back in 2 Samuel 7, a promise that one of David’s descendants would reign on the throne forever. Over the course of time, many Messianic prophecies emerged; Jesus fulfills them:
- He was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- He would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)
- He would be preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3-5)
- He would be known as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
- He would have the appearance of an ordinary man, be despised and rejected by others, pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:2-5)
The Hebrew expectation in Jesus’ day centered on Rome – particularly the purging of Roman authority from Jerusalem, thus restoring the throne of David forever. But it seems the rabbis of Jesus’ day failed to put Isaiah 53 at the center of their expectations of the Messiah. The passage describes a servant – but the Messiah is supposed to be a king? What do we do with that? So when Jesus shows up as a lowly king, almost everybody misses it.
To say that Jesus is the Messiah is to say that He is the fulfillment of every prophecy, every promise that God has ever made to deliver His people. They all come to fruition here in the person of Jesus. Paul says it this way in 2 Cor. 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” And the Hebrew writer extends this by saying that the covenant we now have in Jesus is superior because it is built upon better promises (Heb. 8:6).
So now, we begin to put all our names together: God Saves and God is With Us through His Anointed One, His Promised One.
But there is one more title the angels ascribe to Jesus in their announcement to the shepherds.
And it might be the most important one of all.
In Jesus’ day, there was only one person who held the title “Lord” in the minds of most people and that was Caesar. “Caesar is Lord” was the common parlance of the Roman Empire.
But along come these religious fanatics, these followers of a Galilean rabbi who was crucified for insurrection — and they have a different worldview. Instead of “Caesar is Lord”, they affirm that their deceased teacher is Lord — “Jesus is Lord.”
It might be difficult for us to imagine just how controversial this statement would’ve been in the ancient world.
This ancient work of graffiti, found in Rome, dates back to the early centuries of Christianity. On the left, we see a man raising his hands in adoration, worship, or prayer. The second man hangs on a cross, depicted with the body of a man and the head of an ass. The inscription derisively says, “Alexamenos worships his god.”
It is commonly believed that this ancient street art is ridiculing the Christian faith, a belief that brazenly defied the prevailing worldview of the day (“Caesar is Lord”) with the audacious claim that a Galilean peasant murdered for insurrection was actually somehow divine.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).
The world has always been antagonistic toward those who would make the claim that Jesus is Lord.
In the year 155AD, an 86-year-old Christian by the name of Polycarp was brought before the Roman authorities and ordered to confess the lordship of Caesar. Here is his story:
When the soldiers went out to incarcerate him, they got to his home in the evening and he opened the door; he was a kind, gentle man, already well up in years, 86 years of age. He welcomed them into his home. He asked them, “Have you had anything to eat?” He offered them food and drink, and he said, “Please, allow me time to pray, it’s too late for us to travel back and I will go with you peaceably.” So Polycarp took care of his guards, and he went upstairs and he prayed fervently that night and then he came down.
And the next morning they went and stood before the proconsul. The proconsul who presided at his trial tried to persuade Polycarp, urging him to think about his advanced age, and told him to worship the Emperor. When Polycarp refused, the judge ordered him to cry, “Out with the atheists!” Now what you need to understand is that the accusation against early Christians was that they were atheists. The Roman Empire, with its worship of a hundred gods, thought it ridiculous for people to worship only one god and they thought that was something of an atheistic move. So when the proconsul urges Polycarp to say, “Out with the atheists,” he is as much asking Polycarp to say, “Out with the Christians.” To this, Polycarp responded by pointing at the crowd around him and saying, “Yes, out with the atheists.”
Again the judge insisted, promising that if he would swear by the Emperor and curse Christ he would be free to go, but Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have served Him and He has done me no evil. How could I curse my King who saved me?” When the judge threatened him with burning him alive Polycarp simply answered that the fire that the judge would light would last only a moment; whereas the eternal fire would never go out. Finally, after he was tied to the post in the pyre, he looked up and prayed out loud, “Lord, Sovereign God, I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment, so that jointly with your martyrs I may have a share in the cup of Christ. For this I bless and glorify you. Amen.
This is what it means to confess the lordship of Jesus!
Lord: it is the name by which all creation will someday know Jesus.
Therefore he has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
God Saves and God is With Us through His Anointed One. Will you make Him your Lord?