Article by Matthew Crocker
A phrase you might hear thrown around if you spend much time in the Church is, “Jesus is Lord.” Yet, what exactly does this mean? What are we assenting to by proclaiming this? How we answer these questions says multitudes about what we believe to be true regarding the world. If Jesus is Lord over the Church, but has no real power over other aspects of life then living one way on Sunday and another Monday is the expected outcome. If Jesus is Lord over my bank account, but has no right to enter the political arena then we should not be surprised that the same people who give large sums of money to their local church can vote in a way that seems completely—dare I say—unchristian. How we answer the question, “what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?” matters. I would even argue that how we answer this question may be the most important thing we ever do. So, what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?
Before we elaborate on Jesus being Lord, we must first explore how the Bible uses this term. Lord can obviously have a variety of meanings. It can be used to denote someone who is above you in social rank (think of lords in the UK), it can be used for a boss (as in master), but it can also be used to describe God. In the Old Testament the name of God was given as Yahweh and was revealed to Moses in the burning bush. (Exod 3:14) This was and is God’s proper name in the Jewish religion. When the Old Testament was eventually translated into Greek, the common language of the day, those translators used the Greek word kurios for Yahweh. Kurios is the Greek word for Lord. This is why the word Lord is capitalized in most modern translations of the Old Testament. It shows that they are translating the personal name of God. Therefore, it is often the case that the Scriptures use the word Lord to refer to God.
This becomes even more apparent—and problematic—when we come to the New Testament. In the New Testament this same Greek word is often attached to Jesus Christ. The implication of this being that Jesus is God. For instance, in the Gospel of John Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection. Unfortunately, one of the disciples did not get the memo and missed this wonderful sight. Quite reasonably, he refuses to believe the disciples’ account—probably thinking they are pulling some sort of cruel prank on him—until he sees Jesus himself. Poor doubting Thomas, if only he could just see the Christ:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26–28)
Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus and comes to believe! He shouts out “my Lord and my God!” This is a crazy statement. To any self-respecting Jew this would have been blasphemy, “a man? God? Impossible!” Yet, here is Thomas proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord (kurios) and God (theos). Clearhy, Jesus is no ordinary man. The Apostle Paul goes as far as to say that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created.” (Col 1:15-16) Creation is ascribed to Jesus Christ, an activity that only God is said to have done everywhere else in the Bible. Finally, in Revelation we are given an image of the lamb of God (Jesus Christ) being called “Lord of lords and King of kings.” (Rev 17:14) No matter which way we cut it there can be no doubt that for the New Testament authors Jesus Christ is Lord (kurios) just as God is Lord in the Old. To put it simply Jesus Christ is God.
Let us now return to our previous query; “what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?” It means that he’s God. This nuclear bomb of a revelation has massive repercussions for our lives. The fallout from this theological explosion is vast. If Jesus Christ is God that means that verses such as “the earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” apply to him. (Ps 24:1) The earth and all its inhabitants already belong to Jesus Christ. Everyone and everything is his because he is Lord. Jesus Christ, sovereignly ruling and reigning over the universe at the right hand of the Father, holds the politician’s hearts in his hand and “turns it wherever he will.” (Prov 21:1) Jesus Christ, the one by whom all things were created, is the ruler of the universe the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev 22:13)
“Yes, but what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?” It means that if you claim to follow Jesus Christ, then you claim to follow the one who is over and above all things. Jesus is over and above our wallets. Jesus created your money, he gives it according to his sovereign will, and if he so chooses, he can take it away. Jesus is Lord over your money. Not just in a “oh Jesus’s Lordship determines what I do with my money” but he is completely Lord over it, it is his. His Lordship extends over our sexuality. We were “bought with a price,” but from whom? (1 Cor. 6:20) Our redemption was bought in the blood of Christ, the benefits of salvation were bought on the cross, but we were never our own. For “whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11) God decides what we do with our bodies, they are his and he is Christ. Our political positions must submit to the Lordship of Christ, full stop. Why? Because there is nothing, not one inch of this universe, that does not belong to Jesus Christ.1
Every single thing in our lives is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All is his because he is God. When we are forgiven our sin and released from bondage by Jesus Christ, he does not remove our shackles and say, “be free” like some rabbit trapped in a cage. No, Christ removes the shackles of sin and trades them for a yoke. But what a joy! No greater yoke has ever been imagined. We are all under his Lordship, but to those who “call on the name of the Lord” they “will be saved.” (Rom 10:13) The shackles we were in lead to death, destruction, and separation from the source of all that is good. Yet, the yoke we have had place upon us leads to life, peace, and eternity with the well-spring of the true, the good, and the beautiful. This is why Jesus can say, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28–30)
I tend to think that everyone longs for a king. Sometimes people long for a king by wishing they were the ruler themselves. Sometimes this longing is expressed by throwing ourselves at political leaders. Sometimes we simply crave order, structure, and justice in the midst of a broken world. Jesus is that King, he is the Lord. He is the sovereign ruler, not just over the Church, but over all things. Nothing in our lives exists outside the bounds of his sovereignty. Caesar’s rule may have extended over the whole Mediterranean, Napoleon’s over the whole of Europe, and you might think that yours extends to the domain of your life, but none of them were anything other than vice-regents of the Lordship of Christ. A day is coming when “at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil 2:10–11) All will bow the knee to Christ, either in humble submission to his rule and reign accepting his yoke or as enemy forces who have now become prisoners of war. This is why the question “what does it mean that Jesus is Lord?” is so important. It is a question of allegiance to warring factions. As Christ himself says, “whoever is not with me is against me” so submit to his Lordship, accept the yoke of salvation, or perish. (Matt 12:30)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily held by everyone at Christ City Church.
1 Abraham Kyuper says something very similar to this but I cannot remember where. Let this suffice as my citation.