Savior. Christ. Lord.
Luke 2:11 (ESV)
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…
God is doing something great! There’s something about Jesus coming into the world that changed the way our world operates.
You can look at history and see that’s true.
But, what is it about Jesus that makes this happen? What about Jesus changes the world? What about Jesus makes the world a better place?
The Angel Gabriel told Mary,
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, ESV)
You’ll notice three capitalized words in that verse that are used to describe Jesus: Savior, Christ, Lord.
I’d like to look at each as we see how Jesus turns the world upside down.
The first title of Jesus is…
Savior is an interesting title, actually. If you watch Once Upon a Time, you’re familiar with the concept of ‘the savior.’
Not anyone can be ‘the savior.’ In stories—ancient and modern—the savior is a chosen one, one who was prophesied to come, and one who emerges at just the right time to save the day.
Sometimes we call saviors Christ motifs. It’s the idea that people tell stories that point to Jesus, whether they realize it or not.
Star Wars does this. Just look at the first film—which is the 4th film, or is it the other way around? … Anyway, Luke Skywalker shows up at just the right time to lead the rebel forces in the destruction of the death star. He’s not just any savior. He’s the savior.
George Lucas, the maker of the Star Wars movies, who is not precisely a Christian, was asked what he thought of people making Star Wars out to be religious metaphor. Here’s how he responded:
“I don’t see “Star Wars” as profoundly religious. I see “Star Wars” as taking all of the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and more easily accessible construct that people can grab onto to accept the fact that there is a greater mystery out there.” (George Lucas)
Lucas looks at all the stories of saviors and gods and decides that they must all be part of the wiring of human beings since ancient times. They all point to the same mysteries of the universe.
Consider, Mithra—the Sun God of ancient Persia. Mithra predates Jesus, but is a story of a Sun God who came to earth and was sacrificed to thwart evil and instill world peace.
It seems as if we are wired to know there is a God and we know that we need, not just any savior, but ‘The Savior.’ We need one appointed by God to rescue us from the world we live in.
Some people would say that is evidence that there is no one correct religion. If all religions are looking for a divine savior, then they can’t all be true so none are true. Every religion is nothing more than the perspective of a unique group of people trying to find their version of a savior.
In the early 1900’s, a man named G.K. Chesterton wrote at length about this issue. Here’s his thesis. He wrote,
“If the Christian God really made this human race, would not the human race tend to rumors and perversions of the Christian God? If the center of our life is a certain fact, would not people far from the center have a muddled version of that fact?” (G.K. Chesterton)
He’s saying that, if one is true, then all others would be a cheap copy of the one that is true.
His point is, that, humans wrestling with the idea of God and stories of saviors evidences, not just that there is a God and not just that we need a savior, but the countless, imperfect stories about gods and saviors all point to the one true God and one true savior.
It’s not that they are all true. It’s not that none are true. It’s that only one is true and all the rest are imperfect copies.
This is actually the testimony of the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote,
[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV)
By nature, we can’t see the whole story, but God and eternity are a natural part of our created being.
So, the question begs, What makes Jesus the real savior and not some other savior from another story or another religion?
Again, I think Chesterton is helpful here. He made the observation that all other religions look to Christianity as the antithesis of their own religion.
Consider our own political climate. Many of the same groups who fight for tolerance and religious freedom for immigrants also fight to suppress the influence of Christianity in our culture.
Chesterton observed, and I believe this is still true today, that the greatest critics of Christianity can’t seem to get their heads out of it. No matter what your view on Christianity is, it has a universal draw, that even the most vehement opponents inevitably find intriguing.
I believe Jesus is the true Savior that all other saviors from stories of old and stories of late point to.
I believe that is because of the second title mentioned by the Angel Gabriel. Jesus is savior, but he is also the…
It might be better to say that Jesus is able to be savior because he is the Christ. Here’s why.
The word Christ is not properly Jesus’s last name. People didn’t have last names back then. Some people had titles that allowed them to identify more specifically who you are talking about, but they weren’t names.
But, you can’t escape the fact—in Greek, the original language of the NT, or English—that Christ is used as a name for Jesus.
But, it’s not exactly a name. It’s more like his vocation.
And it’s confusing because references to Jesus as Christ take two forms.
ὁ χριστὸς (the christ) vs. Χριστοῦ (Christ)
Sometimes the Bible reads,
ὁ χριστὸς (the christ)
Using the article, ‘the.’ And sometimes it reads,
No ‘the’ and a capital ‘C’ like a name. You can see the first instance clearly in Matthew 2. Herod is questioning the wise men as they are searching for the christ. Mathew wrote,
And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ (ὁ χριστὸς) was to be born. (Matthew 2:4, ESV)
No one even knew the Christ’s name yet. He wasn’t even born. But, they all knew the Christ was coming.
NAMES: Jesus = Christ = Jesus Christ = Christ Jesus
Then there are plenty of places in the New Testament where the writers use Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, and Christ Jesus interchangeably.
Why so many different ways to refer to Jesus?
Most scholars agree that the coming of the Christ was so unique, that after Jesus died, was resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, the disciples began using this word—Christ—interchangeably with Jesus’s name. It’s almost as if they gave him, not a last name, but a second name.
So, who cares, right? Isn’t it all the same?
Well, it matters because of what it means to to be the Christ.
The word Christ is the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew word, Messiah.
If you have been a Christian very long you have probably heard that term a lot. But, depending on what translation of the Bible you read, you may have noticed that you’ve never actually read it in your Bible. It shows up in the Holman and New American Standard Bible in the New Testament, but not in the Old Testament—which is weird because messiah is a Hebrew word.
This is because in the Old Testament, the word messiah is usually translated into English as anointed.
Anointing is the gifting of divine authority or ability on someone.
In the Old Testament, there are three types of people who are anointed.
Kings were anointed. When Solomon was to be anointed as the new King, his father, King David said this,
And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint [massah/messiah] him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon! (1 Kings 1:34, ESV)
Prophets were anointed. Psalm 105:
Touch not my anointed [messiah] ones, do my prophets no harm! (Psalm 105:15, ESV)
And Priests were anointed. When Aaron’s sons were made priests, Moses wrote,
Anoint [mashata/messiah] them, as you anointed [mashata/messiah] their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing [mashat/messiah] shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations. (Exodus 40:15, ESV)
In calling Jesus the Christ, the New Testament authors are repeatedly emphasizing that Jesus is anointed by God. Or better, we might say that Jesus is the anointed one of God.
But, anointed for what?
Well, I would argue that Jesus was anointed for those same three things: Prophet, Priest, and King.
So, first, Jesus was anointed as the prophet—the one who declares the will and purposes of God. The Apostle John recorded Jesus as saying,
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is [to speak of] eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me. (John 12:49–50, ESV)
Jesus spoke, only as he was instructed by the Father. Jesus is better than any other prophet, because every word he spoke was the very words of God.
Jesus spoke on behalf of God to the people, and then second, Jesus was anointed as Priest—the one who speaks to God on behalf of the people.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote,
Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…(Hebrews 10:19–22, ESV)
In the Old Testament times, a person had to go to the priest who then would offer sacrifices for the people. Communicating with God required a priest. But, in the New Testament, all a person needs is Jesus. That’s what makes him the great high priest. He’s greater than any other priest, because, he allows us direct access to God.
And, third, Jesus was anointed as King—the one who rules over all things.
The Apostle Paul wrote that,
God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (Philippians 2:9–10, ESV)
That’s king language. Everyone bows to Jesus … eventually.
Jesus is the highest King, the greatest Priest, and the most authoritative prophet. He is in every way more anointed than anyone who ever lived or will live. So, it’s no surprise the early Christians stopped calling him, ‘the christ,’ the anointed one and just started calling him Christ as a name.
Jesus is better than all other saviors because Jesus isn’t just chosen by God. In every way he is the perfect representation of God on earth. He speaks for God as prophet. He communes with God as priest. And he rules for God as King.
That’s why Jesus could say,
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. (John 14:7, ESV)
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9, ESV)
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30, ESV)
Jesus isn’t just so much like God that you can see and hear God through him. Jesus is God in human flesh, so God’s anointing is upon him in every way.
You know, the funny thing about saviors today, though, is that saviors in movies and stories are meant to inspire you. They’re meant to pull at your heart strings and make you feel like maybe you could be a savior too. Saviors are supposed to make everyone feel like they can be a savior too.
And that’s where Jesus’s path diverges from all other heroes. Jesus didn’t come to inspire us to save ourselves. Jesus came because we don’t have the strength to be heroes on our own. He came because we all want it, but can’t attain it. And thus, Jesus came to be the savior for us.
As he looked upon the earth he saw that there was no one righteous, not one. There wasn’t one who could save humankind from the sin that is destroying this earth. So, Jesus came to be the savior of the world.
Jesus isn’t like the saviors of the movies and tv shows that try to inspire you to be a savior. He isn’t like the saviors of Islam and other world religions that teach you how to save yourself. He stepped down from his throne in glory to be savior for you.
Now, Jesus has returned to his throne where he rules over his people. And if he rules, then he is not just anointed by God to be your savior. But, Jesus has been anointed to be your…
Jesus is savior, Christ, and Lord.
And when I say Lord, I don’t mean like the Father allows Jesus to rule under him. Sometimes that’s how we look at it. Jesus isn’t just Lord now; Jesus has always been Lord since before creation.
Let me show you. One day Jesus was teaching the Jewish people and he made this very famous statement. He said,
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46, ESV)
There’s something you ought to know about this statement. The people did not call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord.’ That’s a very specific and unique title that belongs to no man. Many of Jesus’s disciples called him Lord, but ‘Lord, Lord’ was a specific designation that even they didn’t use.
You see, when Jesus referred to himself as Lord, Lord, he was identifying himself with the Lord of the Old Testament. And if Jesus was not the Lord of the Old Testament, then that would be blasphemy.
There are two Hebrew words which are translated into English as Lord. When they are used together in English we change one to God so that it says, ‘Lord God.’ You may have read that in your Bible. In Jesus’s day, they didn’t change one to read God like we do today; they just kept it Lord, Lord.
So, then when Jesus referred to himself as the Lord, God or the Lord, Lord of the Old Testament, that must have been an utterly shocking statement. He was claiming to be the God of gods, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He was claiming to be the supreme God of the universe who created all things and who is sovereign over all things.
That sounds completely crazy coming out of the mouth of a human being, but that’s what Jesus said!
So, the question is, for our purposes, Was Jesus lying? Is he actually the Lord God? Or is he less? I’ll point you to 3 places in the New Testament quickly. In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul wrote,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7, ESV)
Paul clearly says that Jesus had the form or substance of the Lord God, but became the opposite, taking on the form of a servant, which is human.
Jesus wasn’t created at his birth into this world. He existed in the beginning.
Still, Jesus isn’t just a lesser being than God who existed before creation, like some sort of angel or something. The Apostle Paul also wrote that,
He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15–16, ESV)
That’s God language. Jesus made everything that exists and everything that exists was created for Jesus. That’s what it says.
But, look at the first part of the verse. This helps explain the doctrine we call the trinity. Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
If the Father God is the uncreated God who exists apart from everything that is created in the spiritual realm, then Jesus is that same God within the created realm. Jesus is what God looks like with skin in. Thus, Jesus is no less God than the Father.
But, these are both kind of abstracts. I want to point you to one other place in the New Testament where Jesus explains pretty obviously who he is.
After Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, he visited many of the disciples before he ascended into the heavens. One day Jesus was walking from Jerusalem towards a town called Emmaus and he encountered two men who were talking about Jesus dying on the cross and rising again to life.
When they realized who Jesus was, he began to teach them. Here’s what the Bible says about that time of teaching:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27, ESV)
That means, everywhere in the Old Testament where it says Lord or Lord God, Jesus explained how that pertains to himself.
We don’t call Jesus Lord because he became Lord; we call Jesus Lord because he has always been Lord.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Jesus is the Savior because he is the Christ and he is the Christ because he is the Lord over all.
These three concepts are inseparable. They define what we call Christianity. Any teaching that makes salvation the work of any person except Jesus is not Christianity. Any system that says there are things you have to do to be saved, is not Christianity.
And any system that doesn’t recognize Jesus as the Christ, the one anointed by God, is not Christianity. Unless Jesus is the Lord’s anointed, then he is not the savior.
And any system that makes Jesus out to be anything less than Lord of all things is not Christianity.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
So, I want to end with a final thought. How is someone saved by Jesus if you can’t save yourself?
If you are here today and you haven’t become a Christian, I want to walk you through three steps. These aren’t things that save you; Jesus did everything that needed to be done to save you. These are things that change in your heart and mind. They are more like beliefs not works to be accomplished.
• The first is Admit. Do you admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation? Do you admit that you have worked against God and His goodness at times in your life? Do you admit that you can’t be your own savior, that you can’t do enough to return to God and His goodness on your own?
• And then, Believe. Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is? Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the savior of the world? Do you believe that his death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sins, your failures?
• Then finally, Commit. Believing in Jesus makes you a new person. It gives you the ability to live a life honoring to God, a life full of love, a life of power and of humility. But, God doesn’t force your hand. He doesn’t make you follow Him. The scriptures teach that those who truly believe will be committed followers of Jesus. Are you a committed follower of Jesus?
Admit that you need Jesus. Believe he has accomplished everything you need to do to experience the goodness of God in life now and for eternity. And commit to live in light of His goodness.
At this time, I’m going to ask you to take out your Next Step cards. It’s our practice that everyone present fill out that card and turn it in in the collection basket when it comes around at the end of service. But, I’d like you to commit now to a Next Step this week. It can be anything you have been inspired to do because of this message.
Maybe your next step is to commit to follow Jesus for the first time.
Maybe you know someone who believes that Jesus was just a good man. Your next step could be to go share what you learned today and help them see that Jesus is the Savior, the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed. Or your step could be to ask them to listen to it online with you.
And maybe you admit you need Jesus and you believe in him, but you’re still walking through the filth of the world. You aren’t walking in the ways of Jesus yet. Maybe your next step is to make some changes to your life so that you can walk in the goodness of Jesus and not in the patterns of darkness any more.
And maybe your next step is something else entirely. Whatever it is, write it in and put your name on it and you can turn that in, in the collection plate in a few moments. And then our staff will be praying for you as you take that next step this weak.
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