Friday, December 30, 2016

Reflecting on the names of Jesus: "Word", "Amen" & "Melchizedek"

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John 1:1-5 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

In considering the Person of Jesus Christ, it is beneficial to consider His names and titles. The names or titles of Christ tell us something about Him. The name "Jesus" for example is defined in Matthew 1:21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." This name tells us that Jesus is none other than the Savior. The title "Christ", often associated with His name, speaks of the quality He possesses as "the anointed One" (the meaning of the Greek word "Christos", whence comes out English word "Christ"). As "The Christ", Jesus is the uniquely anointed One of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit in His humanity while simultaneously being truly Divine. 

It is estimated that there are some 200 names and titles associated with Jesus Christ. Meditating on even a small sampling of these names can yield great spiritual dividends. As I have been thinking through these various names of Jesus, the thought struck concerning the order of their revelation. That is, in what particular order in redemptive history or in the historical and progressive unfolding of God's revelation in the Bible are these names revealed? Noting the order in which we find the names of Jesus revealed tells us just as much about the Person who bears them as the meanings of the individual names themselves. Below, I will list a small sample of these names to illustrate what I mean:

1. He is the "Word" in John 1:1, which points us back to Genesis 1:1. 

God's creative activity is the focal point of John 1:1. We find that as "The Word", Christ is not some creature who was with the Father at the beginning o the creation, but rather a co-equal and co-sharing Person with the Father before the creation. This term "word" has a rich history in Graeco-Roman thought and Hebraic Jewish thought, meaning among other things that which gives order to otherwise chaos, order to disorder and meaning to that which is meaningless. John of course reveals that "The Word" or as called in the Greek, "logos", is a Person - a Divine Person, i.e the Son of God. A.W Tozer notes about this title of Jesus in his classic work "The Pursuit of God":

The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of continuous speech. It is infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words."

2. He is the "Yes" and "Amen" to God's promises, with the first promise illustrated in Genesis 9:12-13 

In Genesis 9:12-13 we read God's promise or covenant with Noah: God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth." Now what does this have to do with Jesus? We could certainly point to many details having to do with the ark itself and the flood as picturing Christ and His redemptive work. However, the fact God makes a promise, a covenant, a sign is indicative of Christ's work as the Mediator who guarantees God's promises. The Apostle Paul brings out a particular name or title of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 1:20-21 "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." The term "amen" means in the Hebrew "truth" or "so be it". Jesus Christ's activity in God's covenants is not just confined to the New Testament, but in the Old Testament revelation itself. Undoubtedly, Christ's role as God's "Amen" was not just limited to God's covenant with Noah. Nevertheless, to follow chronologically how Christ's names unfold His person through redemptive history, it is important to see how He is connected to all of God's promises and covenants.

3. He is the "King of Righteousness" or Mechizedek in Genesis 14

One last example of Christ's names as they appear in their order will be mentioned: Melchizedek. This mysterious figure is first mentioned as a literal king meeting the Patriarch Abraham in Genesis 14:18 "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High." Now on first blush, Melchizedek appear to be nothing more than a gentile King who is sympathetic to Abraham and who serves the Living God. 

The mystery of Melchizedek is heightened by his relative absence for a millennia in the Biblical text. It is not until David's writing of Psalm 110:4 that we find a cosmic dimension associated with Melchizedek: "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110 is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament. The apostles saw in that Psalm a clear identification of the pre-incarnate Christ in conversation with the Father in eternity. 

The mystery then is heightened further without another mention of Melchizedek in revealed scripture for yet another millennium. It is not until we come to the book of Hebrews that we find Melchizedek positively identified as an Old Testament cameo appearance of Jesus in some eight spots (Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1,10,11,15,17). He is by that point revealed as the Divine, eternal High Priest Who is truly God and truly man, forever exalted in the heavens.  

Closing thoughts
Today we considered three of Jesus' names as they appear in their order in the Biblical text: the "Word"; the  "Amen" and "Melchizedek". We saw how each name reveals Him respectively as the one who brings order, structure and life (i.e the Word); guarantees all of God's covenants and promises (i.e the Amen) and Who is the King of righteousness or peace (i.e Melchizedek). Such reflections cause us to look deeper and higher at the Christ Who is deeper and higher still. 

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