Not Just Jesus
Since apostolic days men have always referred to the Lord Jesus as just “Jesus”. Now since the name of Jesus was not unique to our Lord (see Acts 13: 6), its use simply puts Him on the same level as other men––as if He were merely their peer. In 1 Cor. 12: 3 we read these words: “I give you therefore to know, that no one, speaking in [the power of the] Spirit of God, says, Curse [on] Jesus; and no one can say, Lord Jesus, unless in [the power of the] Holy Spirit”. Those who love the Saviour should delight to give Him a distinctive name: He and He alone, is the Lord Jesus.
Sadly, however, many of those who claim to love Him have, in recent years, descended to the language of the world and refer to Him continually as simply “Jesus”. Even worse than this, the Lord is addressed by some as “Jesus” in prayer. “Thank you Jesus”, “Praise you Jesus” and so on, are expressions that are employed. Many of these persons may really love Him, but in calling Him “Jesus”, they fail to see that they do Him no honour, and that their confession does not recognise His Lordship. We read in Rom. 10: 9, 10: “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among [the] dead, thou shalt be saved. For with [the] heart is believed to righteousness; and with [the] mouth confession made to salvation”, and again in verse 13 “For every one whosoever, who shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved”. It does not say “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Saviour, or Jesus as the Christ … thou shalt be saved”. Nor does verse 13 read “For every one whosoever, who shall call on the name of Jesus, shall be saved”. No, it is the distinctiveness of His absolute authority, His Lordship, that must be owned.
But how was the Lord addressed when He was here on earth as recorded in the Gospels? How did His own speak to Him in prayer when He was absent from this scene, as recorded in the early chapters of Acts? Surely the answers to these questions should determine the mode of address for the saints of this day?
Consider first those who clearly had a living link with Christ. Time and again we read of Peter, James and John, of Philip and Thomas, all addressing Him as Lord. Add to their number Zacchaeus, Mary and Martha––all speak to Him as Lord. NEVER ONCE DO THEY ADDRESS HIM AS JESUS! Travel on into the Acts and you can add to their number Stephen, Saul of Tarsus and Ananaias. These all speak to Him as Lord.
The Gospels tell of those who came to the Lord in all their need. There is the centurion, the blind man, the Canaanitish woman, the lepers and others. Each of these address Him as Lord, never once just as Jesus. (The blind man of Mark 10: 47 may cry out “Jesus” but only after the precedent “O Son of David”.)
Widen out the circle still further to include His enemies. How do they speak? We read of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the lawyers, and the Herodians. Is there one among their number who speak to Him as Jesus? Not one! Again and again even they give Him a title of respect––they speak to Him as Rabbi or Teacher. Never once do they use His personal name.
Go through the Gospels and search the matter out. The Lord Jesus is addressed by all men, whether as loving or hating Him, as Lord, Rabbi, Teacher, Master, Sir, etc. Never as just Jesus. So in John 13: 13 the Lord Jesus says to His disciples “Ye call me the Teacher and the Lord, and ye say well, for I am [so]”. O Dear fellow–believer let His words sink into your soul: “ye say well” (my emphasis). How were they addressing Him? As Jesus? No, as the Teacher and as the Lord, giving Him in their address a distinctive place that none other could occupy. If the name of Jesus is ever used, it is never used alone. (Apart from one exception which I will come to in a moment.)
The confession of Jesus as Lord is a characteristic and a proof of real discipleship, for “no one can say, Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 12: 3), but by the Holy Spirit. Any lips, of course, can frame the words; but as another has observed, it is a fact of extraordinary interest that the unspiritual never do say “Lord Jesus”. They may call Him “Jesus”, or “Jesus Christ”, or use some such term as “our Saviour”, but “the Lord Jesus”––never!
But what of that one exception? This incident is found in Mark 1: 24 and Luke 4: 34. There we see a man possessed by an unclean spirit and the Lord is spoken to as “Jesus, Nazarene”. Does the man so speak? No! Read the words carefully: It is not “Eh! What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Nazarene? But “Eh! What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Nazarene?” (my emphasis). It is the demon who thus speaks. A demon was the only one, on the pages of Scripture, who ever addressed the Lord by His personal name alone! That demands sober consideration.
Saints of God should own His Lordship and make it evident in the way that they speak of Him, and most certainly in the way that they speak to Him. The world refuses His Lordship and hence the apostle says that no one can call Jesus Lord except in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, let me give you a striking example of this seen at the last Passover as recorded in Matthew chapter 26. In this chapter we have the only two occasions in Scripture where the man who betrayed the Lord Jesus is recorded as speaking to Him. In verse 49 Judas identifies the Lord in the garden for those who take Him, by coming up to Him and saying “Hail, Rabbi” and covering Him with kisses. That is one occasion.
But it is the other occasion which tells the tale. This is found in verses 22 to 25 of the same chapter. On learning that it was to be one of the twelve that would deliver the Lord up, it says that they were exceedingly grieved and “began to say to him, each of them, Is it I, Lord?” (v22). Now note this wording carefully. One by one they ask the question, each one of them addressing Him as Lord. It says they began to say to Him, and while they were so asking, the Lord gives an identification of the one who would deliver Him up, and then in verse 25 Judas responds, not by asking “Is it I, Lord” but “Is it I, Rabbi?”
As far as Scripture records, all of them addressed the Lord Jesus as Lord except Judas, who addressed Him only as Rabbi––Teacher.
May this short article give my brethren in Christ cause for prayerful reflection as to how they address their Lord. Might He be able to say to each of us “ye say well”!