Faith Works 10-29-16
Jesus is Lord
What does it mean to say "Jesus is Lord"? It has a direct relationship to another three word statement: Caesar is Lord.
In 30 AD, when a consensus of scholars would say that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Roman Empire under the authority of its "prefect," or "governor" of Judea, Pontius Pilate, the statement "Caesar est Dominus" had been a cultural standard for over 70 years. Julius Caesar was first proclaimed as divine while he still lived, in early 44 BC. His adopted son, Octavian promoted himself as "Divi Filius" or "Son of God" from 29 BC on, and became known as Augustus (an evocation of divinity) in 27 BC, with temples built for his worship not long after.
The Julio-Claudian house brought the ancient civic Republic into a new guise as the Roman Empire through the agency of a lineage of human persons who were proclaimed as gods, as divine persons. Their unique relationship to the heavenly realm, as it was understood in the public mind, was part of their claim on power. Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero — they all embraced, with varying degrees of enthusiasm the role of living divinity.
So during the time of John the Baptizer's teaching by the Jordan River, and all across the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee to Jerusalem, Tiberius was settling into his everyday role as yet another "Divi Filius" or "Son of God." Honoring that "Son of God" put one in a proper relationship with the divine, and with the Roman Empire. That expectation would continue. And increasingly, starting as far back as 49 BC in the east, these Caesars were called "Savior" and "Dominus," the deliverer of the people and lord of the republic.
But springing from Jerusalem and Galilee, there were those who proclaimed that not a descendant of Julius, a Caesar, was "Dominus" or "Lord of All," but in fact this Jesus of Nazareth whom the Roman authorities had crucified was the anointed, or "Christos" of God, and in fact was better understood as the true "Son of God" or "Divi Filius" than was any competing claimant of the House of the Caesars. An itinerant rabbi trained as a carpenter from Nazareth, resident in bucolic Capernaum, friend of marginally literate fishermen, was truly worthy of being called God's Son, and more of a Savior than occupants of palaces in Rome.
The claim continued: Caesar est Dominus. But more and more the people of the land said to each other: no, God's anointed is Lord. Christos est Dominus. Caesar non est Dominus.
This was not so much heresy as it was treason. Caesar non est Dominus? Impossible.
After the fall of Rome, this claim looked somewhat different, and over the centuries, the way the Christian churches have presented this reality has changed — to proclaim that "Jesus is Lord" has a different resonance than it did in the days of empire.
But it is still a subversive proclamation. Saying that Jesus is Lord is still announcing that other claims to lordship over our lives are moot, void, false.
From https://renovare.org/blog/redrawing-the-image - "To look closely at Jesus is to see at last what a real human being looks like." True humanity, the dominant paradigm, the "dominus" for our reality is more like Jesus than a movie star, a character in a TV show, or any political figure. Our model for human flourishing is Jesus, not . . . well, insert your preferred alternative here.
Jesus is Lord, and other claimants are not. And make no mistake, our times and our culture make many and various claims on lordship over our lives. But Christians are united, if on nothing else, on this: that Jesus is Lord. If we would see true leadership, real humanity, actual life as it should be at its best, we look to Jesus.
Not Caesar, neither Julius nor Octavian; not Brad Pitt nor Tom Cruise; we can't even see the best of our possible selves in . . . you know of whom I speak. There are other candidates for this role. They will fail, and Jesus will rise.
Because the heart of our faith is this: "Jesus is Lord."
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about who or what you call Lord at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.