Jesus - The Lord
Fr. Thomas Hopko · April 4, 2009
In Matthew 22, Jesus asked "What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?" What follows is a dialog about David's son and his statement in Psalm 110 "The Lord said to my Lord..." What does it mean that Jesus is The Lord?
We are reflecting on the names and titles of Jesus our Lord, Savior, Jesus the Christ according to the Holy Scriptures. So far we reflected on the name Jesus, the name given to him by God through the angel according to the Holy Scriptures. The name Jesus, which is Yeshua or Joshua, which means savior or victor or conqueror or the one who triumphs, this is the name given to Jesus. And we reflected on that name, and we also reflected on what it can mean, that he is called soter, savior, or salvation, soteria, comes through him, victory, the conquering, that the gospel of Christ is the gospel of the king’s victory over the enemies, and Jesus is the king. He is the victor.
So, he’s given this name Jesus from the very beginning, and then we meditated also on the fact, we considered or reflected on the fact, that he is confessed in the Holy Scripture as “ho Christos” as the Christ, the anointed of God. And we remembered or we recalled that according to Matthew and Mark and Luke, Jesus begins his ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan. In the baptismal narrative in all four gospels, Jesus is called God’s son, the Father bears witness to him, that he is the Son of God, that the Holy Spirit descends on him, and remains on him showing that he is the Son of God, and that he is the savior of the world, that he’s going to die for the world. That’s what baptism means. And we know that after Jesus was baptized, he, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he’s tempted of Satan in the desert. He goes into the desert like the people of Israel were taken in the desert to be tested. He goes into the desert, and he is tested. Satan brings him these temptations.
The Russian writer Dostoyevsky said they’re the most fierce temptations that could ever be offered to a human being, and they are the temptations particularly suited to the Christ, to the Messiah, the anointed one. Of course, the three temptations we might recall now were the temptations to change stone into bread and to feed the people, and just to have the people follow you because you give them earthly bread. And Jesus answers and says man does not live by bread alone, and we know, and we will reflect on the fact that Jesus will call himself the bread of life in St. John’s gospel. I am the bread of life. That man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And Jesus is the word. He not only speaks the word, but he is the davar. He is the logos, and we will at some point reflect upon that too. But Satan also tempts Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and that the angels will come and catch him in the hands, as it is written in the Psalm, the angels will bear you up. You will not smash your foot against the stone. And Jesus, of course, says you shall not tempt the Lord your God. You trust God, but you don’t put him to the test. You don’t test him. And then of course, Satan also tempts Jesus to worship him. Simply be evil. Don’t bring a kingdom from God, a kingdom not from this world. Just have an earthly kingdom, and Dostoyevsky said these three temptations for food and for miracles and healings and for power and earthly happiness, these are the great temptations that faced a human being. And they’re certainly the temptations that faced the Messiah because he came to be himself the bread of life. He came himself to heal all wounds and diseases through the Cross, to raise the dead, and he came to bring people into the kingdom of God who alone is to be worshipped.
But Jesus, then, after being tempted and triumphing over Satan in the desert, he beings his public ministry, and we know that in his public ministry, Jesus did all the things that the Law and the Psalms and the Prophets predicted and foretold that the Messiah would do when he came. That he did all the messianic signs. He announced the gospel to the poor. He said that the meek would inherit the earth. He had the poor and the meek to follow him as his disciples. He pronounced the forgiveness of sins upon all the sinners. He said he came to save the sinners, not the righteous, and then of course, he showed that he had divine power. That he had all the power that in the Scripture belongs to God alone. He not only has the power to forgive sins, and cast out demons, and have power over all the dark powers and diseases and destruction, but over all sicknesses, the epileptic, the lunatic, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the lame, the paralyzed. All these are healed by Jesus, and he feeds in the wilderness with the bread to show that he is the bread of life, that he can do this, but that he didn’t come just to give earthly bread. He also shows that he can calm the winds and walk upon the water, and then ultimately he shows that he can raise the dead. And in St. John’s gospel, he will say I am the resurrection and the life. And we will meditate upon that.
But what we want to see for now is that when Jesus did all of these acts and said all of these things, then this very center of the gospel, and even literally and literarily, the center, the climatic center, of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is when Jesus asks the disciples, who do you say that I am? Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am? We know that the answer: some say you’re John the Baptist risen, some say you’re a prophet. And then he says: who do you say that I am? And this is the central question. This is the question of all questions as far as ancient Christianity is concerned. And we should remember once again. We’ve remembered this before, let’s remember it again. Jesus didn’t say to the people, how do you relate to my teaching, are you finding yourself comfortable with my spiritual path, you know, what do you think of my doctrine, my philosophy of life, my worldview? Jesus was not that kind of a teacher. The question isn’t what are you thinking about what I am saying and doing, what I’m teaching? Jesus asks, who do you say that I am?
And we know already, or we reflected already, on the fact that in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the answer is, you are the Christ. You are the Messiah, the anointed one. Mark and Luke simply have Peter saying, you are the Christ. In Matthew, Peter says you are the Christ, the son of the living God. And then of course, Jesus, in this narrative, he says yes, this is revealed to you by my Father in heaven, and on this, my whole church will be founded. The power of death will not be able to destroy it, and then he teaches for the first time that he has to be crucified, that he’s the crucified one. The Messiah must be crucified to enter into his glory, and he announces that for the first time. The disciples are shocked. Peter says no.
Jesus takes them during the Feast of Booths to the mountain. He transfigures in front of them. Again, God the Father says this is my Son, my beloved, my chosen. Listen to him. The whole glory and splendor of God is now shining through him. Moses and Elijah are there to show that indeed he is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, that he is the lord of heaven and earth, that he is the lord of the living and the dead. Moses standing for the law and the earth and the dead; Elijah standing for the prophets and the Spirit and heaven and the life because Elijah never dies. So this is what we see, and then he again, comes down from the mountain and again says that he has to be crucified. And then he enters into a rather violent contestation with the leaders of the people that then leads to his passion, to his being rejected, beaten, mocked, scourged, and ultimately put to death by the vilest ugliest death that a human being and a Jew could possibly die, the death by crucifixion among the Gentiles at the hands of the Gentiles.
Now, in Matthew, we noted just now that the answer of Peter in Matthew was, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. And here in our series of reflections, we already did, we already had, two reflections on Son of God. What can it mean that Jesus is called the Son of God? Not simply a Son of God, but the Son of God. Not merely an anointed, but the anointed one, definite article. And we said that basic Christian creed is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Iesous Christos he huios tou theou or ho huios tou theou: the Son of God.
Now, what we want to reflect on now is an additional word. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, and now we want to think about the Lord. The Lord. That Jesus is called the Lord. Not just a lord, not just lord, like a lord might be a very important person in society. He may be a master of slaves. He may be a person who has exousia, who has authority among men. It can even be a title. You know in Modern Greek, even the term for mister is kurie. You know, you say Mr. Stavros, it would be kurie here. And that term lord, you know in other countries, like Herr in German, or in English, lord, like you have lord and ladies, and you have My Lord Bishop, you know, Lady Di or something like that. So the terms lord and lady and the term lord, just like the term son of God and just like the term christ, it can be used in a kind of general sense, like a lord, or a christ, an anointed one, or a son of God. But here we have in Scripture, Jesus not simply being called a lord, or being called lord simply when he’s addressed by the people, which could also be and sometimes is in English just simply translated, sir, like mister or sir, it’s just a polite address to a man that he would be called kurie or lord, but what we want to see now is this confession of Jesus as ho kurios the Lord and what that can possibly mean.
Now in the gospels, it’s so interesting that in Matthew and Mark and Luke, the central question that Jesus asks is who do you say that I am? And then they answer, you are the Christ and in Matthew, the son of the living God. Then Jesus says he’s going to be crucified. Then he transfigures before Peter, James, and John on the mountain. He shows forth his glory as the Son of God, the fulfillment of Law and Prophets, Moses and Elijah, and then he even speaks in St. Luke’s gospel on the mountain of transfiguration about the exodus that he will make in Jerusalem, about his death, about his departure from this world, and then he comes down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John again saying that he has to be given up, and crucified, and put to death, and rise again on the third day in order to enter into his messianic glory, the glory of the Son of God.
Now, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after the transfiguration, Jesus enters into this contestation into the leaders of the people, and this leads us to our present topic. The issue of the expression “the Lord” or kurios, the Lord, because Jesus asks the question of his disciples, who do you say that I am, and they say, you are the Christ. But in Mark, and in Matthew, and in Luke, after Jesus is struggling with these leaders of the people, and we know from the gospel that the leaders of the people were trying to catch Jesus in his words. As a matter of fact, what they were doing was testing him, and they were trying to find reasons to make a fool of him. They were trying to show that he was beside himself, that he was crazy, or whatever it was. They were very worried that the people were following after Jesus. In fact, it says in the gospel they finally gave him up out of envy because the people were listening to him and not to them. So, they wanted to kind of denigrate him. They wanted to devalue him in the eyes of the people, so they came up with these questions. And whatever question they asked, Jesus was able to answer.
They would say like, should you give tax to Caesar or not? And he would ask a coin and he would say give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give to God what belongs to God. Then they would ask him about the resurrection. There was a woman whose husband died, her brother-in-law took her, he died, another one took her, he died. She had seven husbands, and they ask him if there is a resurrection, who gets the girl? They’re asking all these questions to try to catch him in his words. They ask him questions like what’s the greatest commandment in the Law just to see what he would say. It was not done in good faith at all. It was a provocation, basically. But then Jesus turns the tables, and he says let me ask you a few questions. The baptism of John: was it of God or not? And they couldn’t answer. They wouldn’t dare answer because if they said yes, he would say why didn’t you follow what he said then? Why didn’t you believe him? If they said no, they feared the people because the people thought of John the Baptist as a great prophet, and even as a martyr because they knew that he had been beheaded by Herod. So, Jesus starts asking them questions.
Then you get to the question that we’re interested in right now, which you could say is the second great question of the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The first question is who do you say that I am? The answer is, you are the Christ. Now we come to the second question. And the question as its put in the Gospel of St. Matthew, this is how it happens. They’re trying to catch him in all of his teachings. They’re asking him all these leading questions, and then finally Jesus says—this is all in the 22nd chapter of Matthew—Jesus says to them while the Pharisees were gathered together, it says Jesus asked them a question saying, what do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he? Whose son is he? What do you think of the messiah? Whose son is he? And then it says in St. Matthew’s gospel, they said to him, the son of David. Then it continues, and he said to them, how is it then that David inspired by the Spirit, or David in the Spirit, you see, filled with the Spirit of God, calls him, and then you have the word, kurios. Lord. So Jesus says how is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord saying, and then Jesus quotes the first verse of Psalm 110, which was considered to be a Psalm of David. So that’s why he refers to David.
In general, when the New Testament speaks about quoting David, they mean the Psalter normally. In fact, that was a practice through ancient Christianity. For example, St. John Chrysostom when he’s preaching about the Psalms, he just calls them David. He says you wake up in the morning, and you have David on your lips. And then you go to eat something, and you have David on your lips, and then you are wondering about something and you’re unhappy, and so the words of David come to your lips. And then you’re happy and you’re thanking God, and again the words of David come to your lips. And then you’re in despair, and you’re frustrated, and you’re confused, and you don’t know what to say to God, and the words of David comes to your lips. And then you’re praising God and singing alleluia and knowing, confessing the mercy of God, and again, David comes upon your lips. And as Chrysostom said, it’s always David, no matter what. It’s David, meaning the Psalms, meaning the Psalms.
So here we have the lord, referring to David, and he refers to Psalm 110, and this is what that verse says. It says, eipen ho kurios to kurio mou. The Lord says to my lord. The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand ‘til I put your enemies under your feet. The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. Then Jesus continues in Matthew: if David thus calls him kurios, lord, how is he, David’s, son? And then it says, and no one was able to answer him a word. Not from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. In fact, they took counsel to kill him. It was at that moment that they decided that they had to kill him because he said the Lord say to my lord, sit at my right hand, and then Jesus said, if David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, calls him kurios, how can you say that he is David’s son? And they did not know how to answer him.
Now this very same encounter is recorded in Mark and in Luke. In Mark, this is how it’s presented in the Gospel According to St. Mark. Yes, in Mark, it’s the 35th verse, and it puts the conversation in the temple, that it takes place in the temple. It says, as Jesus taught in the temple he said, how can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself inspired by the Holy Spirit declared, or David in the Holy Spirit declared, the Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies under your feet. David himself calls him the Christ, kurios, Lord, so how is he his son? And then it says, and the great throng heard him gladly. So the great crowd hears him gladly, but the leaders of the people don’t dare ask him anything anymore. This is it. As far as they’re concerned, this is the great blasphemy, and he’s got to be put to death.
Now, let’s just, to have a complete picture, let’s read how the same thing is put in Luke. In Luke, it’s in the 20th chapter, and it goes like this. When Jesus is being interrogated, and he keeps answering back to the people, it says in Luke, some of the scribes answered and said to him, Teacher, Rabbi, you have spoken well, and it says for they no longer dared to ask him anymore questions. And you find that in Matthew, but what’s interesting in Luke is that it’s only after that they dare not ask him any more questions that Jesus continues with them. It says, but he said to them, how can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself, and in Luke it actually says “in the book of Psalms” so he refers directly to the Psalter, for David himself says in the book of Psalms, the Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies a stool for thy feet. David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son? And then, it continues as in Mark and in Matthew: the end, the confrontation, the arrest, the scourging, the beating and the killing, crucifixion.
Now, this Psalm line 110, the Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand, that Jesus uses. We should know that this is the most quoted verse in the Old Testament, in the New Testament. If you had asked the question, what verse of the Bible, of the Scriptures, the Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, is quoted most in the 27 writings that we call the New Testament? The answer would be this particular verse. And this particular verse conflated also with another verse from Daniel 7 about the Son of Man. We’re going to speak later about what it means that Jesus always calls himself the Son of Man. Jesus, by the way, never refers to himself as the Son of God. The devils do, the people do, the crowds do, the apostles do, and then everybody does. Peter does in Matthew on the very day he confesses him as the Christ: you are the son of the living God. But the Son of Man is what Jesus uses as himself, and the Son of Man was also a messianic title as we’ll see at some point in the future. But the Son of Man in Daniel is also co-enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, and he sits upon the throne with the Ancient of Days, and to him is given all glory, all honor, worship, and all the enemies are put under his feet.
And so, you have those verses connected together with the sitting at the right hand. And the sitting at the right hand means being in the very same power and glory as God himself. And by the way, sitting at the right hand and coming in power is what gets Jesus crucified in the gospels. When he’s at the trial at Jesus by Pontius Pilate and the high priests, it comes to an end when Jesus says, you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds and having rule and reign over the whole of creation, and all will be subjected to him and put under his feet. Well, then that’s considered blasphemy, and of course, in this very same sentence about how is he David’s son if David calls him kurios and lord. Of course, what it’s trying to lead us to understand is, yes, Jesus is the son of David, humanly speaking. According to Scripture, there’s no doubt about it. He’s born in Bethlehem. We already meditated on the genealogies of Jesus and how he comes from the house of David, he’s of the seed of Abraham. David is in fact the king who triumphs and so on. He’s the great prototype in the Old Testament of Jesus as the messianic figure.
When we reflected on Messiah, we saw that David was the anointed one, the kings were the anointed one. We’ll speak about kingship more specifically. But what we want to see now is that when Jesus says how can he be David’s son if he’s called lord? We’re also led to think that well of course, he’s David’s son, but he’s God’s son too. He is the Son of God. As Matthew said, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. And we already had two reflections on what it means in Scripture for Jesus to be called the Son of God. Not a son of God, but the Son of God, God’s very literal son. And therefore, can have the title Kurios, Lord. So all these are almost synonymous terms. Jesus Christ God’s Son, Lord, and as we’ll see, King, Son of Man, these are all different ways in the Scripture of saying what, in reality, in existential living life, is one in the same thing. But now we still want to continue to look more at the term Lord, Kurios.
The Lord says to my lord sit at my right hand until I put all the enemies under your feet. If David inspired by the Spirit calls him Kurios, Lord, how can you say he is David’s son? Now, that expression, the Lord said to my lord, it immediately shows us that there are two lords. Just as we’ll see that there are two kings, there are two saviors so to speak. God is the savior, and Christ is the savior. God is the powerful victor, and Christ is the victor. God is the healer, God is the conqueror, and Christ is the conqueror. God is the King who makes salvation in the midst of the earth, and Jesus is that very same King, that very same Lord. So that term Lord, it goes both to God and to Jesus, and we’re going to see right now what it actually means according to the Scripture, but before we do that, we’re going to also point out that in the Book of Acts, we have exactly the same thing happening on the day of Pentecost.
On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples of the risen Lord, of the risen Christ, of Jesus being raised and glorified, the Apostle Peter gives a sermon. He preaches the very first sermon in Christian history. And in this sermon that he gives, it’s in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, on the day of Pentecost all these things happened, and then Peter gets up and preaches. And he says, this is the fulfillment of the prophet Joel, the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, and then it says, before the day of the Lord comes, and the Lord in the Bible, the Lord is God. God is the Lord as we’ll see. And then it says, men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst as you yourselves know, this Jesus delivered up (meaning crucified) according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, God raised him up, loosed the pangs of death, for David, again, the Psalm says, I saw the Lord always before me. He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. He will not allow my soul into Sheol, nor will he let the Holy One see corruption.
And later on, we’re going to reflect on Jesus as one of his titles as the Holy One. The Holy One. Ho hagios. The holy one because only God is holy, and then Jesus is going to be the Holy One, the only holy one. But what we want to see now is that when Jesus is raised from the dead, was not abandoned to Hades. His flesh did not see corruption. Then the Apostle Peter says, being therefore exalted, raised from the dead and exalted, at the right hand of God. See, the Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand. Peter refers to this on the very day of Pentecost, in the very first Christian sermon. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit—so you’ve got Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. So you have the Trinity right there on the first day of Pentecost on the very first Pentecost I should say. He has poured out this which you see and hear. And then listen to what Peter says. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, and here you have it again, the quotation again of Psalm 110:1: the Lord, said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies a stool for thy feet. And then Peter continues, let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God the Father has made him, Jesus, both Lord and Christ, kurios kai Christos, this Jesus whom you crucified. God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
So what you have here is what you’re going to have through the entire New Testament. Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lord. And we might even say that Iesous Christos Kurios is the foundational Christian creed adding huios tou theou, Son of God. Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus is the Christ, and the Christ is the Lord, the Kurios. Now, if we leave behind now the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, where the term lord is used in many different ways and so on throughout those writings, but what we want to see now is that this expression Lord Jesus Christ becomes a kind of commonplace in the Christian Scriptures. It becomes a kind of a technical formula: Lord Christ, Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ the Lord, Jesus is Lord, Christ Jesus the Lord. And in I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, Timothy, you have this formula: the Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, I Thessalonians, scholars tell us, is the earliest Christian writing that exists. The very first Scripture for Christians that became canonical scripture for Christians was St. Paul’s first letter to Thessalonians. And in that letter the expression Lord Jesus is used four times, and in that same letter, the expression Lord Jesus Christ is used 4 times. So you have eight times in the first Christian Scripture, the very first Christian writing which is I Thessalonians which is only five chapters long, you have the expression Lord Jesus Christ or Lord Jesus used eight times. And then in there, you have the Lord used many more times. The Lord, just Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ, and then you have until the coming of the Lord, until the day of the Lord, you have this expression or referral to Jesus of simply the term Kurios, the Lord.
Now, the term lord, kurios, like I said, already could be just an everyday term of someone who has authority and power. In fact, the term Lord generally speaking in the language of the time, certainly the Hellenic Greek language, it had two basic, several basic meanings, two or three. One is that the lord is kurios, is the one who has exousia, is the one who has authority, the one who has power. If you the lord, you have power. You can dispose of your subjects. You can order them around. They must obey you. And then the term lord also means that you have ownership. You know, the opposite of kurios would be doulos, and the word doulos means a slave or a servant or a bonded servant. So, if you’re a lord, then you have servants.
Now we should note, however, that there is another word in Greek, in the New Testament, that is sometimes translated in English as lord, which is not kurios, and that would be the term despotis. It’s like we have now in our church, we sing to our bishops since they were given civil power under the Turks, hes polai de despota, despot. And that word is used for Jesus in Scripture, it is. It’s used, for example, in the Song of Simeon in Luke’s gospel where we say in English, Lord and now let your servant depart in peace. Well, in Greek it’s not kurios, it’s despotis. In Slavonic “vladiko”—it’s master because despotis technically means a master of slaves, a master of servants, and that’s why Jesus uses that term in his parables when he speaks about the servants waiting for the master to come, waiting for the Lord to return. Well, usually in those parables, it’s the term despotis that is used, not kurios. But kurios doesn’t have simply the connotation of having like a master over slaves. It has a meaning of being a ruler, being like a king. The one who reigns, the lord reigns. The lord is king. So it’s a kingly, royal, ruling title of one with real authority and power.
What we’re going to say now is very important and that is this: that in the Old Testament, the term Lord in Hebrew, Adonai, Lord, was considered to be the name title for God, for Theos, for Elohim, for the El Shaddai, for the Most High. That in the Scriptures, you have God is the Lord, the one who reigns forever, who rules over all, to whom all belongs, to whom everyone is a subject, to the one that everyone must obey, the one to whom we all belong, and our literally subject is God. God is called the Lord. The Lord is God, God is the Lord. And in the Old Testament, there was even again, a kind of formulaic title, a formula: the Lord God. Adonai Elohim, the Lord God.
Look at the Bible, read the Bible. See how many times that is put together, and then the Scripture is that there is only one Lord and that is God. God is the Lord over all the lords. He is the King over all the kings. And in the New Testament, that very Old Testament expression, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the Apocalypse, is applied to Jesus. It’s applied to the lamb. Now it’s interesting that in the Apocalypse, the Lord is almost never used for the Lamb. The one who sits upon the throne, God is the Lord, and generally in the Bible, the Lord means God or God the Father, God. And that is why it’s so incredible that that same title is given to the crucified Jesus, that he would have exactly the same title that belongs only to God because only God is the Lord. But in the Apocalypse, the Lamb who was slain and is raised is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, and that’s how it’s used in the Apocalypse.
In St. John’s gospel, and generally in the writings of St. John, the term Lord is not used very often at all, but the most important use in St. John’s gospel is when Thomas, seeing the risen Christ with his own eyes, and reaching out and being asked to touch his wounds, his hands, where the nails were, he says one of the most important theological statements in the New Testament. He says to Jesus, falls down before him, and says “My Lord and my God.” Ho kurios kai ho theos mou. The Lord of me and the God of me. And then of course, in John, they speak about “it is the Lord” when he is risen from the dead, they see him, they call him the Lord. So, the expression calling Jesus the Lord is definitely throughout the Scriptures. In the epistles of John, you don’t have the term used at all. But what we’re going to see next time, the very next reflection will be on what John is saying when the other Scriptures say the Lord, and here is what we want to see now which is perhaps the most important thing of this particular reflection and that is this.
That in the Old Testament, the first name of God was El Shaddai, the Most High. And it’s written in the Law of Moses that he was known among the people as the Most High, the God of Israel, the Most High God. And already the Israelites began to confess and get into huge trouble by saying that their God was the only real God that existed. All the other gods were no gods at all. And that it was their God that created the heavens and the earth, and that it was their God, the one who lead them out of Egypt and constituted them as his people, a people who once they were no people, and now they’re God’s people, a kingdom of prophets and priests and so on, this is what the Israelites understood themselves to be, as being called by God, constituted by God, convoked by God, congregated by God, assembled by God, that that God was the only God there was. But then that God gave another name to Moses. He said until now, to Moses, I was known as El Shaddai, the Most High God. In Greek, that would be the ekoranios theos, the super-heavenly God, the God in the heavens.
But then, when Moses asks him his name, he gives the famous tetragrammaton, the four consonants in Hebrew where you provide the vowels and you get the word that’s usually pronounced in English, Yahweh, Yahweh. Sometimes they used to call it Jehovah. It’s where the Jehovah Witnesses get their name. But the tetragrammaton, the word that you’re not supposed to say, Yahweh, this is the name that’s given to God from now on after Moses. He said you will know me as Yahweh. Now this term Yahweh, which wasn’t supposed to be said, and was only said once a year by the high priest. It was the holiest name, the name of all names. we say it rather easily now, but I always feel a little badly, feel a little squeamish as I start saying the word as it was pronounced because it wasn’t said. Now that particular word, I read in one wordbook, German wordbook, they claim that they can find that term, that tetragrammaton, 5321 times in the Old Testament, the term Yahweh. Now that term literally means “I am who I am” or simply “I am”, ego eimi. Some scholars say that it really should not be understand as a kind of noun, it should rather be better understood as a kind of a verb.
For example, some linguistic scholars of Semitic languages that that word doesn’t mean so much “I am who I am”, but it means I do what I want to do, I cause to be what I want to be, I will do what I will do, I will act as I will act, and you can’t say anything about me, you know. But in the Greek translation of the Scripture, it came simply to be ego eimi, I am. And participial format, it was ho on, the existing one, or the one who is. Then it was connected with being, but scholars tell us that it wasn’t so much connected with being in the Hebrew language, it was connected with acting. I’m the one who does everything, that’s what it means. Anything done, I did it. Creation, redemption, whatever’s going on, I am the one. I am. And that’s how you’re supposed to know me, and that’s how you’re supposed to confess me.
But what we want to see now is that the Jews, when they saw that word, that meant I am, or I will be who I will be, or I will do what I will do, or I will cause to be what I will cause to be, or I will act how I will act, I was as I was, I will be as I will be, I mean all these meanings that that little word could have, when it was in the text of the Law of the Psalms and the Prophets, when it was read in synagogue, when it was chanted in the Psalms because the Psalms are filled with this word, it was not pronounced in Hebrew Yahweh. It was pronounced in Hebrew, Adonai which means the Lord. And then when the Jews translated the Holy Scriptures into Greek, they didn’t write ego eimi, I am, or Yahweh, or some other way of translating it. They simply translated it the Lord, Kurios. So the Adonai of Hebrew is the Kurios of Greek, which is the Lord in English, and this is the point, it’s God’s name. It’s the name of God. Adonai Elohenu, theos kurios, Bog Gaspod in Slavonic. God is Lord or the Lord is God is probably more accurate translation. Yahweh is God, and so, but when you see it, you read the Lord is God. And you say the Lord.
For example, the Shema Yisrael of Deuteronomy, the very center of the Mosaic Law, the Shema, it says Hear O Israel, how does it go? It says Hear O Israel, the Lord he is God, the Lord he is One, and you will love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your soul, all your heart, all your strength. Now if you were reading it literally as it was written in Hebrew in the Mosaic Law, it would say Hear O Israel, Yahweh is God, and you will worship Yahweh God, who is one, with all your mind, soul, heart, and strength. Actually in Hebrew, it just says heart, soul, and strength because the Hebrew doesn’t have mind. Mind is put in the New Testament because it’s kind of for the Gentiles. It’s for the Greeks.
But in any case, the point we want to see here is that in Hebrew it says Adonai Elohenu Adonai echad, the Lord is one, and then it says you will worship the Lord God. Adonai Elohenu, again, the Adonai Elohim, the Lord God, but in Greek, it’s Theos Kurios. It’s kurios. So that, put very simply, the word Kurios in the New Testament as attributed to Jesus is to say that he’s divine. It gives him the name that belongs only to God because they are attributed to all of Jesus’ actions, even in his humanity, activities that only God can do. Only God saves. Only God has power over the universe. Only God has power over diseases. Only God has power over life and death. Only God can pronounce the forgiveness of sins. That’s why in John’s gospel, Jesus is put to death as a blasphemer.
Now, what we’re going to see next time is that you don’t have the term Lord virtually at all, practically, but you do have it in the confession of Thomas, of course, and other places in St. John’s gospel, but what you have is the term “I Am.” And we’re going to see next time, how in John’s gospel, this very same word which is “the Lord” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in the writings of Paul becomes the “I Am” or the “Son of God” in John so that the main words in John will be “I Am” and the “Son of God.” And I mentioned already when we were thinking about Son of God, that in the little five chapter letter of I John, the expression Son of God is used 20 times whereas the term Lord isn’t used at all. But what we’re going to see next time is how often that expression “I Am” appears in John’s gospel. And it’s the name that gets Jesus crucified because it’s God’s name. It’s Yahweh.
And we’re going to see next time that it’s even in St. Mark’s gospel at the passion when they say are you the Christ, the son of the Most High? He’s going to answer ego eimi which is I am, which is Yahweh, which is the Lord, and then they decide to kill him. Then of course, he says he’ll be coming on the clouds, seated at the right hand of the Father, the Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand, and what’s he going to do? He’s going to subject the whole of creation under his feet. He’s going to come as the victorious king, as the Lord, and God, and Son of God, and God himself, the great I Am. So all of this comes together in the Holy Scripture in an absolutely marvelous way, and when you contemplate the Holy Scriptures, this is what you see. You see it working back and forth and in and out and weaving in different ways. And basically these terms, they all mean the same thing, but with a kind of different, little bit different meaning or connotation, the Christ, God’s son, the Lord, the I Am, and then we’ll even see that Jesus is even called simply God, Theos, God. We’ll get to that.
But for now, what we want to see now is how the term Kurios, Jesus is Lord, is the Christian confession. In the letter to the Romans, he’s Lord of the dead and the living. He’s the Lord over all things. You can only confess him as Lord if the Holy Spirit is in you, and he is the Lord together with God his Father. God the Father is the Lord, and Christ is the Lord. And so, in Johannine terms, in the terms of St. John, which will come into the Nicene Creed, it will say, and I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Light from Light, true God from true God. And we can also say today, true Lord from true Lord, Lord from Lord because the Lord God, the Father of Jesus says to my lord, who is God’s Son, also the Lord, confessed as the Lord, and of course, according to the Scripture, as we heard from Acts, Jesus enters into his lordship, into his glory, designated and shown forth as the Christ when he is raised from the dead. But the Lord has to be put to death, and the Lord has to be raised.
So we confess Jesus as Kurios. And so, when we pray in church like Kyrie Eleison, actually we don’t know. It’s hard to say even. Are we addressing God the Father, are we addressing the Son of God, and by the way, we must add for now, also, that in the Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit is called Lord. In the Corinthian letter, the Apostle Paul says, when he speaks about the Spirit indwelling in us, he says the Spirit who is the Lord, and the Nicene Creed will call the Holy Spirit, also, the Lord. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and the giver of life. So there are three who are the Lord, and there is one Lordship, one Lord-hood, and that’s the Lord-hood of God the Father, which is also the Lordship of the Son, and the Lordship of the Holy Spirit. One God, One Lord, and three who are prayed to and addressed to as the Lord. And here you have it already in David’s prophetic Psalm. The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand.
So Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. This is how the Scripture speaks. And as I mentioned, all of Paul’s letters have a formula: the Lord Jesus Christ. When you read the gospels, see how that’s so often used. And of course, that’s the reason why it’s in the Nicene Creed. And I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ. And very often, even St. Paul will use the expression “the Lord”, more for Jesus than for God himself, because God will become then the Father. So we have the one God and Father and the one Lord Jesus Christ. But for us Christians, ancient Christians, scripture-following Christians, believers, we confess that God is the Lord, that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and being the Christ, being the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth also is forever, having been crucified and glorified, the Lord, the Lord over all creation, the Lord of all people, the Lord of the universe, the Lord of the living and the dead. He is the Lord, exactly the same lordship as God his Father which is also the lordship of the Holy Spirit. So we confess, this is our creed, this is our statement of faith. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Lord, the I am.