Jesus – Son of God – Son of Man
More than 2,000 years ago, our Lord left His heavenly glory and took on the earthly name Jesus. Since that day, His name is closely tied with our earth: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.”
During this Christmas season of 2016, I would like to meditate together with you on this name – Jesus.
An angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary’s son had to be called Jesus. Did all the other angels know that? How secret was the name? When “the angel of the Lord” visited Israel, he always refused to divulge his name because he was the Second Person of the Trinity. The name Jesus was still hidden in the counsels of God.
All Scripture spoke of him and first described him as “the seed of the woman.” Prophets called him Shiloh and Immanuel, “God is with us.” In Luke’s Gospel he is called the “light of revelation” and “your salvation” (Luke 2:30-32). But his real name remained a secret. Then Gabriel the archangel visited Mary and told her, “You will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). God named him Jesus because it is a salvation name. The Hebrew word Yeshua means: Help, Salvation, Savior, Redeemer... The instructions to Joseph were: “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Our gospel is Jesus.
There are hints about Jesus all through the Scriptures as if God were so excited by this “unspeakable gift” to come that he could not quite keep quiet about it.
In the beginning no one had a name for God except “the Most High.” Then Moses was given God’s personal name, “I am” or YHWH (Exodus 3:14). God’s name is of supreme importance, essential, and a great gift to the world. “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). The Father presented his Son to us as a love gift, allowed us to know him and instructed us to call him familiarly as Jesus of Nazareth.
True Christmas Joy
The first Christmas joy is simply that Jesus came. What a gift! Of all the places in the vast universe, he chose to come here and did not leave us to struggle along, working things out the best we can. Our best is not good enough on the divine scale of things – we needed his help, just as we all do now. “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). I do not know the answer to that rhetorical question, but I am thankful that “the Dayspring from on high has visited us” (Luke 1:78). God’s own son came to be by our side, to see us through to eternal life.
What a man he was! The least we can do is to keep one day to remember his coming. Christmas Day is the radiant jewel in the crown of the year.
Christmas Is like the Radiant Jewel in the Calendar
To appreciate the glory of his name, we need to look back in time. As I have said, in early centuries God was nameless – simply “the Most High.” Israel also described him as the Holy One. In contrast, many people in those days believed in idols and manmade deities, which in reality were demonic powers. They had to be honored with daily offerings for their worshippers to remain on their good side, or they would run the risk of becoming victims to the unpleasant aspects of their nature. Our God is totally different! Christians invaded those days of pagan belief, introducing the perspective of living by faith in Jesus, something entirely new in the world.
The old “gods” tyrannized everybody. But Jesus changed that. Our Gospel Campaigns especially in Africa free multitudes. We always have a bonfire of “gods” during our outdoor meetings. Lucky charms – no more than blocks of wood carved into shape and honored as gods – are shown to be the false protectors that they are as they disintegrate into ash. “Modern” gods include cosmic influences, aliens, star power, the spirit of the earth, and gods as crude as a child’s drawings. That is why we preach Jesus Christ. We shine the gospel light in the darkest places. Our God is the saving Lord. We want to make him known. We are Christ’s messengers proclaiming deliverance, not religionists making proselytes. The name of Jesus is a threat to the devil but good news to the entire world.
The Best News to the Entire World
Jesus is the Holy One, which means he is utterly “separate” – the only one of his kind. No one can even offer us another like him. He has no competitor. “You are the God who performs miracles” (Psalm 77:14). No book has any reference to anyone like Jesus. No god in any other sacred writings is a Savior, the only one who saves, forgives, restores, answers prayer, heals, fills with the Holy Spirit, and guides. “The God who answers by fire – he is God!” (1 Kings 18:24). We do not indulge in heated debates about doctrine or the right road to heaven. We talk about Jesus, just him with no rival.
The name of Jesus spells everything. It is God’s alphabet, from alpha to omega. We believe in Jesus. Dogmas and creeds are for our heads but Jesus goes for the heart. He said, “I am the Way” (John 14:6). He crossed the mountains of our hostility and wickedness, came out of the world of light, and plunged into the darkness of death for us.
The name “I am” as revealed to Moses was held in awe. A hundred years before Christ, anyone uttering the name of God would be expelled from the meeting. In the Gospels, eight times John recorded Jesus saying, “I am.” But John uses the name of Jesus some 250 times.
God Opened the Door of Heaven and Came Down
Christmas is a time to revel, if ever we do revel. The great “I am,” adored by angels, opened the door of heaven, stepped over the threshold into David’s town of Bethlehem, and entrusted himself into the arms of an earthly mother who called him Jesus – his passport name into the kingdom of man. Hidden from the ages, Jesus is our Man, reachable, accessible, and wonderful. He lived a glorious life of triumph, overcame provocation and ignorance and then the fury of human hatred on the Cross. But God wrote an epilogue. He raised his Son from the dead, who then ascended to be received in glory.
Now comes a wonderful truth – in glory he has kept his earthly name, Jesus. It is the only name there where he has gone. When he left earth, angels assured disciples that he would come back and still be “this same Jesus” (Acts 1:11).
How can we fail to celebrate? We have every cause to be glad. At Christmas we indulge in all sorts of good things, but that is because God has indulged us, giving us “his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). In the days of the Persian Empire, Queen Esther saved the Jews from genocide, and Scripture says that the day of deliverance was “a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other” called the feast of Purim (Esther 9:19, 26). Despite the similarities, Christmas is a greater day, a day of rejoicing in the great salvation of our God.
The Son of Man
Jesus’ disciples addressed him as teacher, master or Lord. But he always called himself “the Son of Man,” a title on which much scholastic time and ink have been spent. God called Ezekiel “son of man” over 100 times. “Son of man” is simply a way of saying “man” and means “man’s son.” The first words of the New Testament concern Jesus’ sonship. “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). He is the son; the true son of Abraham was Jesus, not Isaac, and the true Son of David was not Solomon, but Jesus. He, not Cain or Seth, was the promised son of Eve. “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).
In Isaiah the Father sometimes simply calls his son “he”! No one needed ask who “he” was. All heaven knew. “He” was the only one for the Father. God was a God of love because he loved his son from eternity. That is the one he sent on Christmas Day, from the depth of his heart, the son of his love.
There was wonder and excitement in Judea and in the fields of Bethlehem on that first Christmas Day. The very skies were festive, filled with the glittering populace of heaven, seraph voices resounding at Bethlehem, radiant with happiness, echoing over David’s ancient town like a suburb of glory. But for us mortals there is equal excitement. “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, great David’s greater Son, Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!” This is the ever-fresh news, the gospel message. We preach Christ – and if we do not, we betray the world.
“Jesus came!” It means one all-important thing for us. If he came, we must go. He draws us to himself to send us. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). We preach Jesus Christ, because if we don’t, we keep him a secret from the very world he came to save.
He Came and Challenged Us to Go
Jesus came with an earthly name. He made the earth and gave it to us to dwell in, and “he came to his own” (John 1:11) because he belongs here and it all belongs to him. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). He was born here, grew up, ate, slept and worked here, and when he left, the stain of his blood marked the hill called Calvary.
His coming spells out God’s love. It spells out his love when we make it known in love. Nobody believes God loves them if we do not love them. God so loved the world and so must we. He lived out his love. It was not just a matter of words, but sacrifice – not mere friendliness, but the demanding business of seeking lost sheep.
Salvation Was Engaged Here on Earth
Salvation was not worked out and produced in heaven and brought to us by a messenger spirit or angel. We see it as it is: salvation was won here on earth, by real nails fastening Jesus to a real tree, with real blood bringing us real cleansing – a work accomplished right before our very eyes. Salvation came by the Son of Man, not by an angel. His gospel is for earth and heaven – for body and soul – a full gospel for the whole world and the whole man. God does not have “No go” areas. He is Lord of all things in heaven and on earth. The gospel is God with us, made flesh, here in power for whatever purpose he decides, physical or spiritual, to change the nations, to deliver those shackled by sin, to heal the sick, to make our bodies his temples, to prophesy, to speak in tongues, to work wonders. Salvation is not a mystic’s dream, or a logical deduction or theological theory. It is the corporeal reality of a Savior born in Bethlehem, a real Savior on this real earth for us real people with real needs.
The Day When Heaven Came down to Adopt Earth
Christmas cannot be bought pre-packaged at a supermarket. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Christmas is not just a time for children. It is a million times more than carols, sparkling lights and colorful decorations. It is the day when heaven came down to adopt earth as a suburb of the Kingdom of God. It is the day whose dawn is “shining ever brighter until the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18). It is the day where we celebrate Jesus’ coming.
On that note I wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas season.
Reinhard Bonnke with Daniel Kolenda and the entire international CfaN team