A few years ago, I was flying into Amman, Jordan, about a week before Christmas. As I looked out the window, I saw both Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It dawned on me, I’m in angelic airspace right now. I was seeing these cities from a heavenly vantage. I pictured angels coming to shepherds with the Good News of Jesus, proclaiming tidings of joy. In a way, I had a divine view of the city that brought forth the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word Lord is a fitting term to use for Jesus. In the Old Testament, Lord was used as a substitute for God’s Name, YHWH. Because the Jews didn’t want to use God’s Name in vain, they’d say “Lord” instead of “YHWH.” In this context, it means the self-existent God, an inference to how God referenced Himself: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). When YHWH is used in the Old Testament text, you’ll find it capitalized as LORD.
But there’s another term used for Lord in the Old Testament, Adonai. Best translated as master or owner, Adonai was designated in the text using lowercase letters—Lord. Both words are used in relationship to God.
In the New Testament, various authors used Lord in reference to Jesus. But here’s an interesting twist, an illumination of Jesus’ divine life and mission. Both words—and hence, meanings—were used with Jesus. The Apostle Matthew, quoting Psalm 110:1, used—YHWH (LORD) and Adonai (Lord)—in relationship to Jesus: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (Matthew 22:44). For the New Testament authors, Jesus is both God and Master—LORD and Lord.
The use of the word Lord has several implications concerning Jesus’ divine life and mission. Let me give you three: prophecy, place and person.
First, Jesus’ divine birth was prophesied. In a host of texts throughout the Old Testament, we learn about Jesus’ first coming, His incarnation. One of the strongest is Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” His characteristics are described as both human and divine.
When you turn to Jesus’ arrival in the New Testament, John the Baptist told people to “Prepare the way of the LORD” (Matthew 3:3). For both Old and New Testament authors, Jesus is Lord; they foretold in prophecy Jesus’ divine birth and essence.
Like Jesus’ incarnation as Lord, the place He was born gives us a glimpse of His divine nature. Micah prophesied, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (5:2). Matthew reinforced the fulfillment when he linked this verse to Jesus (Matthew 2:6). The “Ruler” is Jesus; Jesus is the Great Shepherd and Sovereign King, the One from “everlasting” (another clue as to His eternality; see John 1).
So, as I looked at Bethlehem from the airplane window, I couldn’t help but think of what occurred in this small city more than 2,000 years ago. Prophecy and place came together as shepherds worshiped Jesus and angels pronounced the Good News—proclaiming Jesus as Lord (Luke 2:11).
The final point leads us back to the Person. One thing is clear: both Old Testament and New declare Jesus as Lord. Jesus wasn’t just a nice guy or just a great teacher (though He was both), but Lord of all, God in human form. The idea of Christ’s divinity wasn’t just a later development in church history but a truth woven into the Bible’s fabric. Three facts underscore this reality:
First, Jesus claimed divinity. He said He was God (John 8:58; 10:30, 33). And then He demonstrated His Lordship through His divine demonstrations (the power to forgive, cast out demons, read people’s thoughts and heal) and prophetic utterances (such as His own death and resurrection and the destruction of the Temple).
Second, the disciples recognized Jesus as divine. After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas confessed Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Thomas—and all the disciples—came to realize that Jesus was God, fulfilling His role as prophet, priest and king by rising as Lord and Savior.
Third, others claimed Jesus was God. The Father in Heaven affirmed His divine nature (Matthew 3:17; 17:5), the angels proclaimed Jesus’ Godhood (Luke 1:32-35 and Luke 2:11), and even demons recognized Jesus as Lord (Matthew 8:29). Here’s my point: Jesus claimed to be Lord and was regarded as Lord by those that knew His true identity. In the Person of Jesus is the fullness of God.
As my plane touched down in Jordan, I thought of it as an analogy. The Lord Jesus came to earth—touching down, if you will, from His heavenly throne. Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune God, took the form of man to redeem and restore. His mission completed, God lifted Jesus up, giving Him “the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
That Name is the title that every tongue will one day confess: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11). He came as Savior, saving the world from sin, and as Christ, the anointed Messiah. But He also came as Lord, God in human flesh, sovereign over Heaven and earth, the King over the natural and supernatural (Colossians 1:15-20).
During this Christmas season, many of us sing a popular German hymn, “Silent Night.” The final refrain reminds us who it is we are honoring: “Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.” Prophesied in ancient times, a little town became the place of the Lord’s birth, hosting angels who gave Him honor as the most wonderful and unique person ever born: The Lord Jesus, God in human flesh. Let’s bend our knees and join our voices this year, proclaiming with the angels the birth of the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). ©2018 Skip Heitzig
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Skip Heitzig is senior pastor of Calvary Church. He hosts a nationwide half-hour radio program and is the author of several books, including “The Bible from 30,000 Feet.”