The last few weeks, in preparation for Christmas, we have looked at titles of Jesus. Although we didn't look at many of the "I am" titles from John's gospel, we did look at a few. Perhaps we will explore more of these in the coming days. But today I want to propose something along the lines of a "New Year's Resolution." And it is this: that we be very careful this year about how we think of ourselves.
Jesus said of himself, "I am the Good Shepherd," "I am the bread of life," "I am the light of the world." All of these are very positive statements. And, as I pointed out earlier, they use nouns not adjectives. The nouns are shepherd, bread, light, etc. Could we not come up with similar positive statements to make about ourselves? "I am a child of God." "I am the recipient of God's love." "I am a co-heir with Jesus Christ."
Further, can we limit the negative adjectives we use with reference to ourselves? Could we stop saying, "I am tired," "I am lonely," "I am afraid?" For Luke 6:45 says, "The mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Can we keep our hearts full of the positive, rather than the negative? Can we keep our hearts full of the promises of God? Might we look at what we have, rather than what we don't have? Shall we try it? I'd be interested in your feedback.
(I apologize for not posting regularly over the last week. If God does not inspire me, I cannot write. So there were a few days of waiting for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Inspirer.
Perhaps the most important title of Jesus, if we could propose such a thing, is Son. Everything stems from his Sonship. He is the second person of the Trinity who sits at the right hand of the Father, who does only what the Father tells him, who gives honor and glory to the Father.
The Father publicly claimed Jesus as his Son at his baptism (Luke 3:22), "A voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" The author of the letter to the Hebrews takes pains to emphasize that in calling Jesus "Son", the Father is placing him above the angels (Hebrews 1:4-14) and the prophets (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Yet it is a title that Jesus does not claim directly for himself. There is no "I am the Son of God" in John's Gospel among the other "I am" sayings. We hear it instead as an accusation from the high priest in Mark's Gospel (26:63), "Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God," which Jesus answers only obliquely.
For Reflection: The most amazing thing to me is that we also become sons of God when we accept Jesus. We are entitled to call God "Father." Jesus is our brother. And we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus (see Romans 8:12-17). Did you hear? He called me "son."
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Son of God and I am a son of God. I thank you for sharing your Sonship with me. Father, I thank you for allowing me to be your son.
A favorite and well known Christmas hymn is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." The title Emmanuel, which means God with us, comes originally from Isaiah 7:14 which is cited in Matthew 1:23. The birth of Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of "God with us" when the second person of the Trinity chose to be born as a human being, live as a human being, and die as a human being.
We sing the hymn today as both a remembrance of what Jesus did and looking forward toward the second coming of Jesus when he will return to rule over the earth and bring about the complete fulfillment of the kingdom of God on earth. It is a tremendous thing to look forward to, and, like Isaiah, I doubt that we know the true meaning of our words. As Isaiah did not know that Emmanuel would literally mean that God would be with us in our humanity, we do not know what the literal fulfillment of the kingdom of God on earth will look like when we sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
Let us pray. We thank you, Jesus, for choosing to be with us, to become one of us, to live and to die for us.
As we approach the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, we turn to the title "Messiah." The Messiah was the longed-for Savior and Redeemer of the Jewish people who would set them free. Although many thought that the freedom the Messiah would bring would include freedom from their physical oppressors, what he brought instead was freedom from spiritual oppression. So some rejected Jesus as Messiah because he did not meet their expectations by getting them out from under the Romans. They weren't looking for someone who thought it more important to be set free from sin than from occupation by a foreign army.
So when Andrew went to his brother Simon (Peter) and said, "We have found the Messiah", why did he say that? He said it based on the testimony of John the Baptist (that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit) and on the time he had already spent listening to Jesus' teaching (John 1:29-42).
And why did Philip say, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:44-45)? He said it because he had listened to Jesus' teaching.
Jesus' teaching was not of a revolution of overthrowing the Roman government. As we know, governments come and go. They are temporary things. Jesus' revolution was one of forgiveness, healing and justice; one of humility and service. These are things that permanently change the world. His revolution is for all times and places. For Reflection: "You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world" - so sang the Beatles. What type of revolution do we want? What needs to change in our world today? How can we bring it about through the Messiah's teaching?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Messiah, the true Revolutionary. You conquered sin and death and brought everlasting life.
"Before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58). What a powerful statement. What a tremendous claim. Jesus existed before Abraham, before creation, before the beginning of time. When he said this to the Jews, he portrayed himself as divine, and the Jews knew it.
They also realized that he was taking to himself the name God gave to Moses (Exodus 3:14). He is the I Am, the Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob. The God who had always watched over them. The God who had delivered them from Egypt. The God who had brought them into the promised land. The God of Israel. Their God.
And he was standing in their midst explaining to them that he honored the Father and the Father honored him. It was all too much to take in. They were going to stone him for blasphemy, but he escaped.
For Reflection: If Jesus appeared in front of me, right now, what would I do?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the great I am. You are the creator, the deliverer, the nurturer, the fulfillment of promises. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You are my God too.
Son of David
Who doesn't have a "crazy aunt Gladys" in their family lineage? The family either tells funny stories about her all the time or they never mention her at all - the two extremes of dealing with what makes us uncomfortable. If we were to search through our ancestors, I imagine all of us would come up with some unsavory or embarrassing character.
Jesus had a number of characters in his family history. His lineage was a known fact. Jewish people were expert at tracking their ancestry back to the twelve sons of Jacob. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (son of Jacob) which meant that one of his ancestors was King David, also of the tribe of Judah. David wasn't a "crazy aunt Gladys" but he wasn't an example of complete moral uprightness either. As an ancestor, even though he was one of the great kings of Israel, he was somewhat of a mixed bag. Yet it would be prophesied that the Messiah would come from the line of King David, and so it was.
If we choose to become adopted sons and daughters of God, to join the line of King David, then we have Jesus in our heritage who was both King of Kings and charged with being a threat to the state - someone often called a terrorist today. He was given the death penalty for his "crimes" and executed. He is someone we might not be proud to claim as one of ancestors, like "crazy aunt Gladys."
For Reflection: See Matthew 1:1-8; 9:27, Revelation 5:5, 22:16, Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jeremiah 23:5-6. Jesus' background was both illustrious and imperfect. Yet he did not put on airs or let it keep him from accomplishing his mission from God. Am I letting my background, my history, keep me from doing God's will?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Son of David and Bathsheba. Although descended from a king, you did not gloat. Although also Son of God, you did not hold yourself back from the cross. You experienced the highs and lows of human life and came out victorious on the other side. Hail, King Jesus!
Although not always listed among the titles for Jesus, Prophet is surely one of them. Jesus obliquely refers to himself as a prophet (Luke 4:24) when he says, "I tell you the truth - no prophet is accepted in his hometown." At that time, Jesus had already developed a bit of a reputation for healing people. Yet the people of Nazareth, who knew him as Joseph the carpenter's son, couldn't believe that such a lowly, humdrum, everyday person could be performing such miracles. How hard it was to believe that the man who made their tables could be a prophet from God.
Other people referred to Jesus as a prophet also. After Jesus raised a widow's son from the dead, the people who saw it praised God, saying, "A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people" (Luke 7:16).
So who is a prophet? A prophet is one who brings the word of God. Jesus not only brought the word of God through his teaching in the synagogues, the homes and streets of Israel, he is the Word of God sent by his Father to bring salvation to all. There is no greater prophet or prophetic message.
For Reflection: Do I speak the word of God to others? How am I fulfilling my prophetic role? See Luke 9:28-36, Acts 7:37; 10:39-43.
Let us pray. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:68-72, 78-79).
Perhaps we don't think of Jesus being called "Rabbi" as being a particular title for him. Yet it was. Jesus was a teacher. His disciples referred to him as "Rabbi." For example, Peter says, in Mark 9:5 at the Transfiguration, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here." A blind man calls him "Rabbi" in Mark 10:51. "Rabbi, I want to see." Even Judas called him "Rabbi" at the last supper and again in the garden when he betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26: 25, 49).
Jesus said, though, that we should not be called "Rabbi" or "Teacher" or "Father" because there is only one Rabbi, one Master, one Father, one Teacher (Matthew 23:7-11). We are not to give ourselves such an exalted status. Instead we are to be brothers and servants to one another.
For Reflection: Is there any way in which we have exalted ourselves beyond where God has placed us?
Let us pray. Rabbi, you are our great Master, our true Teacher. You have the words of everlasting life.
(photo by Charlotte Romero)
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
King of Kings and Lord of Lords are quite familiar titles for God, but in Revelation 1:5, Jesus is called ruler of the kings of the earth. King of Kings and Lord of Lords may simply sound like Jesus is first among many. That is not so. He is the King, the Lord, the Ruler. Whether earthly kings acknowledge him as such makes no difference to Jesus' standing. He is over them all. He was not elected to the position nor did he inherit it as the king of a country might, nor did he have to defeat other kings in order to gain his position.
There are only a few kings and kingdoms left around the world today, but in many ways each of us thinks of ourselves as king of our own kingdom. We crown ourselves and sit on the throne of our own lives. But no matter what exalted position we have placed ourselves in, Jesus is more exalted. No matter how many people we think we rule, Jesus rules more, and does it better.
For Reflection: Revelation 17:14, 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15-16.
Let us pray. Jesus, you are King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Rule of the Kings of the earth. You are King of my life, Ruler of my heart, my Teacher and Guide in all things.
Just or Righteous One
Got sin? If we do, Jesus will speak to the Father in our defense for he is the "Just One" which is also translated as the "Righteous One" (1 John 2:1). He can speak on our behalf, as our defense lawyer, because he himself made the atoning sacrifice for our sins. So if he pleads us as "not guilty" then that is what we are. In fact, that is what justification means - we are declared "not guilty."
I find this to be an amazing thing. Not that Jesus is just or righteous, but that, even though I am guilty, he says I am not. And Jesus is willing to say so, not just privately to me, but also to his Father.
This does not give us a big stack of "Get Out of Jail Free" cards and license to do whatever we want. No. We might take notice that the authors of Scripture often say, "If you sin." The clear expectation is that we will not sin.
For Reflection: Also see 1 John 2:12, 28, 29; Acts 7:52; Romans 4:4-8; Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 7:25.
Let us pray. Jesus, you are righteous in all your ways. You are loving toward all you have made. You are near to all who call upon you. You know my wickedness and still you defend me. There is no one else like you.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.