I began exploring the divine names and titles in the New Testament a few weeks ago, examining up to this point the titles “Father” and “Lord.” This week, let’s take a look at the name we know Him by “Jesus,” and the title that some mistake for a last name – “Christ.”
The title “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew mashiach for “Messiah.” Both christos and mashiach have the same meaning, the former from the word chrio, “to anoint” (John 1:41; 4:25). The noun, therefore, for this word “Christ” is used of and for the Lord Jesus, and means, “the Anointed (One).” The name “Jesus,” transliterated from the Greek Iesous is the translation of the Hebrew Yehoshua, or the abbreviated form Yeshua, transliterated as “Joshua.” This name is also used of Joshua in Hebrews 4:8, transliterated as “Jesus” in the King James Version. The name means “the salvation of YHVH,” or “YHVH the Saviour.”
The name “Jesus” expresses the relation of YHVH to Him in Incarnation, by which “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8), and even though He was God, did not deem His glory a thing not to be relinquished (Phil. 2:6). This name is the name associated with the shame which the Lord endured in order to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The title “Christ,” on the other hand, speaks of His anointing to rule as the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is interesting to note that in the New Testament, the Lord’s followers never addressed Him simply as “Jesus.” Rather, His followers addressed Him as “Master” or “Lord,” and when speaking of Him paired the name with either “Lord” or “Christ,” sometimes both. The only ones who irreverently spoke of Him as “Jesus” were demons (Matt. 8:29), or His enemies while scoffing at Him (John 6:42). Of course, this is not to say that calling Him simply “Jesus” is wrong, but the believer should speak His name in an attitude of reverence.
The Jews, from ancient times to the modern have always substituted the Father’s Name YHVH with Adonai or Kurios, for “Lord,” or occasionally HaShem (“The Name”). Even Moses substituted Adonai for the Lord’s Name in Exodus 36 when speaking to the One Who had just said His Name a few verses prior.
The Lord’s apostles and followers in the New Testament seem to have given the same reverence and respect for the Name of His Incarnation and Shame as the name YHVH.
Today, His is no longer simply “Jesus,” but has been given “a name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9b), and one day all boastful scoffers will bow at the Name of the Humbled One – Jesus (Phil. 2:10). How often do we hear people today use the name “Jesus” as a curse word? He should be given the respect of “Lord” and “Master.”
Further, in your personal reading of God’s Word, you may have noticed that sometimes the Lord is spoken of as “Jesus Christ,” and sometimes as “Christ Jesus.” This is a very important contextual distinction, the former emphatic by its position and the second being explanatory. “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus Who humbled Himself but is now exalted and glorified as Christ.” The reverse means “the exalted ruler Who once humbled Himself.”