Day 23: Jesus is Lord
Yesu en Rwoth (Alur)
Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
Lordship of Jesus Christ
The earlier verses of Philippians 2 speak of Jesus’s humility, becoming a human being, and of his obedience, following God’s will unto death. For this humble obedience, Paul tells us, God honored Him twice: first, He exalted Him, and then, He gave Him the name that is above all names (Philippians 2:6-9). One day all will know and acknowledge that this humble, obedient Jesus is Lord.
This context is essential as we consider what it means that Jesus is Lord. The concept of “Lord” is used in both the secular and religious realms. In secular politics, it has the meaning of a personality who holds all the power over his people. In various African cultures, this title has different dimensions. It is attributed to a chief who has marked his history with victory, i.e. a “warlord.” Among the Alur people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is used to express a wife’s respect for her husband: rwoth para (my lord), a form she must use to address him.
The Bible, too, uses “Lord” in diverse ways: as a polite way of addressing a superior, who may be equivalent to a gentleman (Matthew 13:27); or to identify the “master” of a servant or slave (Matthew 6:24; 21:40). But it is also used to speak of God (Matthew 4:7). And, at key points in the unfolding revelation of who He is, biblical writers and speakers apply it to Jesus. Elizabeth recognized the lordship of Jesus before He was even born. When Mary visited her, she said, “But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). And in Philippians 2, the title “Lord” for Jesus crowns the passage. It celebrates that Jesus has equality and glory with God beyond the humility of the cross. This text is important—and a wonderful Advent reflection–because it gives us key information about the nature of the incarnation and the nature of Jesus’s Lordship. Jesus humbled himself, taking the condition of a servant, and he suffered in obedience. His reward was an elevation as high as His humiliation had been deep.
Elevation of Christ
After His resurrection, Jesus is honoured above all names throughout the universe because He is the only Saviour and the only hope of the world (Acts 4:12). The authority of our Lord Jesus Christ extending over the whole universe is seen in the fact that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow. This reflects what is true in many cultures in Africa, where bowing shows submission to a person in authority.
The fact that the three realms in heaven, on earth, and under the earth bow to Jesus shows that He is both the Lord of the spiritual world and the Lord of the physical world. In power, glory, and honour, His name is the greatest in heaven and on earth. Those who refuse to admit this do so at their peril. At the Last Judgment, even those who are condemned will recognize Jesus’ authority and His right to rule.
However, we must let the full context of Philippians—and of Jesus’s life—inform our understanding of His lordship. He is the Lord who humbled Himself, by becoming one of us, and was obedient to death that we might have a way to be with Him. He is the Lord who loves and the Lord who serves. Paul made clear that all humanity will submit to Him one way or another, either willingly or under compulsion at His return. What grace that we can know His loving Lordship now and be ready and eager to meet Him when He comes!
The humility of Jesus has immense repercussions at the personal, ecclesial, and national levels. The Lord clearly shows us that humility not only precedes honour and glory but also leads to them. He demonstrates that true authority serves those under its care. Thus the apostle Paul urges the Philippians and us to stand firm in the faith (1:27-30), to live in humility towards one another (2:3), and trust God to glorify us and bring about His justice.
Reverend Georgine Maditkwo is a lecturer at the University of Salama, Faculty of Theology in Aru, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she is involved in Langham Preaching.