Savior, Messiah, Lord
Savior, Messiah, Lord
Luke 2:11. CHRISTMAS EVE, 2021
Some of you have been around River City for a while, and you know we’ve only started here a few years ago, and I had not been a lead pastor before. So I remember the first time I was with one of my friends and they referred to me as “their pastor.” I remember thinking there is no way they are talking about me. The title of “pastor” was something I was still getting used to.
We all have titles of some sort, right? Maybe it's “Chief Executive Officer”, or CFO, or COO. Maybe it’s mom or dad or student. Maybe you’re a teacher and your title is Mrs or Mr. whatever your last name is. Maybe you play sports and you have a title based on what position you play.
Other titles we are familiar with: Doctor. Registered Nurse. Commander. Captain. Chief. Professor. Those are earned titles. Sometimes titles are given. King. Queen. Prince. President. Governor.
But titles aren’t just words. They mean something. They carry a weight or authority that goes with them. If you have the title “coach”, you can ask a team of players to run laps and they had better listen. If you don’t have that title, and you walk up to the same group of players on the same field, and ask them to give you fast feet for 30 seconds, they are going to look at you like you’re crazy.
Sometimes the weight of a title is perceived as good, and it can be wielded in such a way that good things come of it. Calling the police to the scene of a domestic dispute or an accident brings an authority that can bring order and resolve to the situation. Pastors are given authority in scripture to call things to order in someone’s life where it looks like sin has taken control. Many of us have listened to the voice of some authority or another in the past two years to try and make sense of what is or isn’t happening in the world.
Sometimes the weight of a title is perceived as bad, and many of us have experienced pain or hurt coming from some authority. I remember sitting next to a woman on a flight several years ago, and we had a lovely conversation about things until she asked what I do, and I told her I was a worship pastor. Just that word “pastor” and she almost scowled and the conversation was over. She looked at me like I was the very thing that was wrong with the world.
For those of you who have been hurt by the church or a pastor in the past – two things: 1) I’m sorry. And 2) Thank you for showing up here tonight. I’m sure you have your guard up and are emotionally on high alert, and I don’t blame you.
For others of us, you have perhaps been hurt by other authorities, either directly or indirectly in your life: The title of Father doesn’t mean what you wish it meant. The title of boss or manager brings negative feelings. The title Landlord makes you cringe. The title President or policeman or mayor or Governor or Ex might make you feel some emotion.
Now, I have a couple of working titles myself besides Pastor. I’m a friend, father, son, Grandson, husband, alumni, and according to some of the stuff that comes in my mailbox, a title I’m pretty proud of, I am a “current resident”. Nothing feels quite as personal as having something addressed to “current resident”.
But for all of us in the room, no matter who you are or what titles you go by, for all of earth’s current residents, the birth of Jesus is good news for you.
In Luke 2:10, the angels show up to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and they say, “behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
And then these angels announced Jesus’ birth with three titles. Three titles that tell us who Jesus is and what he came to do. I would bet most of you have heard the story of Jesus’ birth, but the titles given by the angels give us a really good look at who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish.
So let’s take a look: Luke 2:11.
 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Savior, Messiah, and Lord.
This word means Rescuer, or one who delivers, preserves or saves. Sometimes the way we use that word in modern terms is an athlete who all of a sudden plays really well in a game and by his efforts keeps the team from losing. Or maybe you use it to refer to the person who brought you coffee on a rough morning or sacrificially picked up something important you forgot and brought it to you. Or maybe a person who pulls a child who ran on the street to safety when a car was coming.
In the NT, the authors only use this word in reference to God the Father and his only Son. In fact, the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves”. In the sense the new Testament uses to talk about Jesus, it refers to something very similar to pulling a child out of traffic: It’s refers to freeing someone or something from a present danger, restoring proper relationship to God, making someone whole (which is something we’re going to talk a lot more about on Sunday morning when we talk about Peace).
The Israelites who would have read scripture or heard it preached about Jesus the “Savior” would have assumed that meant Jesus would be rescuing them from the oppressive Roman government. They assumed this would be a political savior.
But the biggest disappointment to most Israelites before Jesus’ resurrection was that Jesus was not a political savior. He was not here to represent one particular nation or kingdom or style of government on the earth. He was here to save us from ourselves. To save us from the power and presence and penalty of sin in the human heart.
The angels announce Jesus as “Savior” because in his living, dying, and rising, Jesus will be pulling us out of the oncoming traffic of judgment for sin, and restore us to a right relationship with God. Jesus is here to save. How will he save? That’s the next title:
The idea here with Messiah is someone who is formally chosen and commissioned for a specific task. That commissioning is anointing that person with special authority to perform a special role or function.
Again, the Bible only uses this term in regard to Jesus. Messiah and Christ are the same thing, so Jesus the Messiah is saying the same thing as Jesus the Christ, or Jesus Christ. He is the anointed One, God’s special choice, given special authority and function, along with the approval of God.
So the question naturally is, what is that special task that Jesus is anointed for?
In the Garden of Eden, the book of Genesis tells us in chapters 1 & 2, Adam and Eve had every good thing God ever created available to them. There was not a single thing wrong with the world God had created. Perfect harmony between people and God. God walked and talked with them like a friend. Perfect harmony between humans. No war, no violence, no hatred. No racism. Only harmony. And there was perfect harmony between humans and the rest of creation. No wasting or misusing resources. No fear. No anxiety or warring over available resources.
Perfect harmony all around. That was the world God created. But then in Genesis 3, for several reasons, the humans threw it all away. They turned their back on God’s leadership and his wisdom for ruling the world, and decided they knew better. Following the temptation of the serpent, the devil, the enemy of God, they broke the one command God had given them. And the moment they disobeyed God, everything changed.
The following chapters of scripture are filled with all the things Eden didn’t have. Violence. Hatred. Murder. Pride. Greed. Jealousy. Lust. And the result was a mixture of God’s grace and his judgment.
Judgment in that they could never go back to that kind of peace. Never go back to that kind of joy. From this point on there would be pain in the good things of life. Pain in raising families. Pain and hardship in earning a living. And distance in their relationship with God. This was the curse of sin.
But Grace in that God didn’t just erase them from history and start over. Grace in that God was still present. Still speaking. Still compassionate. And after announcing what consequences they could expect as a result of their sin, in Genesis 3:15 God pronounced what he would do in order to maintain the relationship he had with them. He spoke directly to the devil and said I will put hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He (her child) will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.
That’s the beginning of the prophecies of the Messiah. The offspring of Eve who would be anointed for one special task: put an end to the deceit and accusation of Satan by crushing the head of the snake, even though this Messiah would be injured himself in the process.
In the garden, God showed another form of grace. Instead of erasing Adam and Eve, instead of killing them for their treason, God took the life of one of the animals he had created, and fashioned it into clothes that would cover Adam and Eve’s shame. This form of grace is that God accepted substitutes in the place of sinful humans.
The angels announce Jesus as the Messiah; the anointed snake crusher who will put an end to sin and suffering and death, and usher in a new kingdom of peace and joy and life by becoming the substitute for sinners. He would stand in for us when the punishment came down for our sin. Like the animal God killed to cover Adam and Eve’s shame, Jesus would die to take our sin and cover our shame.
He would rescue us from the oncoming traffic of God’s judgement for sin by stepping in front of the truck himself. The special task Jesus was anointed for was dying in the place of sinners.
What made his death any more special than anyone else’s though? That’s because of the third title:
This refers to authority; a Master or owner; someone who exercises authority over the people, property, land, etc that belongs to an estate. When you see it in scripture written normally, with a capital L, it is referring to God’s authority and rule. It’s the Hebrew name Adonai, where the focus is on his authority and rule over heaven and earth.
So the angels are announcing this birth saying this child not only has authority on earth, he is the authority of heaven and earth. He is the Master. He is God! This is what we sang in the song “Joy to the World” when we sang “He rules the world…” Jesus’ death is unique because he is God. This title was not given or earned. He is God because he is God. No one gave him the title Lord – if someone had, that person would be the higher authority.
He is Lord because this is his world we are living in. His air we are breathing. His dirt we walk on and drive on and plant things in. His water we drink. His resources we use for making metals, fuel, wood. His sunlight, his oxygen, his art we enjoy, his love we experience in relationships, his plan being worked out for human history, his universe that we find ourselves in.
Back to Isaiah 9 that was read at the beginning, this is what is prophesied:
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
Look at that kingdom language in there. Vast dominion. He is establishing and reigning over a kingdom that will be marked by righteousness and justice. How can we be sure this will happen?
The zeal of the LORD of Armies will accomplish this.
Here you notice something different about the word Lord – it’s all capital letters. When you see the word Lord in all caps like that, it refers to the same person, still talking about God, but the name in Hebrew is Yahweh, which refers specifically to the personal and covenant keeping aspect of God. In other words, Jesus’ kingdom will come, both now and in the future, because the covenant keeping God wants it to happen.
Look at those names. Counselor. Father. Peace. Mighty. Titles of comfort and care. Titles of protection and help and rest. Jesus did not come as an angry God, eager to settle the score with sinners.
He came with gentleness. Kindness. He specifically looked for those whose hearts had been broken. Whose stories were filled with shame and hurt and grief and sin against him. He came to usher in a kingdom not marked by political power and control, but by peace. Joy. Hope. Restoration.
One day, Revelation 21 tells us, we will see it all with our own eyes: God will once again walk with us like he did with Adam and Eve in the garden – God himself will be with us, and will be our God. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, pain will be no more, because he is making all things new… even now!
How do you know it will happen? Because when Jesus hung on the cross he said “It is finished!” It is done! There is nothing more that needs to be done to make sure it happens.
The only thing we have to do is follow him wherever he goes. His kingdom is already advancing in the world wherever forgiveness and reconciliation are found; wherever someone is generous or self-controlled or kind. Wherever someone who once was angry is now gentle. The kingdom is growing even now as we speak, as God makes all things new.
So what is God waiting for? Why doesn’t he just make it happen right now? Because when he comes it is too late for people to change their minds about him.
When he comes, the door is shut. You’ll see him as the Savior, Messiah, and Lord he really is and it’s too late to follow him. Too late to let him make you a new creation. God is patiently waiting for more people to come to him for salvation. Kindly and patiently waiting for more to repent of their sin and turn to him for salvation.
Revelation 21:6, Jesus says “I will freely give the water of life to anyone who is thirsty.”
The prerequisite for following Jesus is that you are thirsty for him!
- If you feel like Jesus needed to come to save you from others, you will miss it.
- If you feel like the job Jesus was anointed for was establishing your health, wealth and prosperity, basically just to make you happy and get you out of suffering - you will miss it.
- If you feel like Jesus is just another option in the list of religious figures to choose from, you will miss it.
- If you feel like following Jesus is one more thing you need to squeeze into your busy schedule, you will miss it.
But to anyone who says “Save me from myself! Even if I have to go through physical pain, ridicule, or hardship, and give up my house, my car, my family, my wealth, my freedoms – I want you, Jesus! Nothing and no one else will do!”
To anyone who is thirsty, he freely says “Come to me and I will give you rest. Join me, and let’s work toward the kingdom of heaven coming to earth, starting with you and your heart.”
Jesus is not just another option for the busy lifestyle. He’s not just another option to worship among many. He is Savior, Messiah, and Lord.
I pray that we will all receive him as such this day and every day until our king returns.