The next phrase from the Apostles Creed is and in Jesus Christ his only son.
Jesus is just the Aramaic form of the word that we see in the Old Testament Joshua. So it’s a relatively familiar name for a boy, and as is the case with so many Hebrew names, it means something. In this case it means “he who saves, savior.” It’s also a noble name in that it connects to Joshua, who led his people across the Jordan into the promised land completing the Exodus. So the name Joshua or Jesus is automatically a powerful and impressive name for a person.
But Monsignor Knox focuses more on the next term, Christ, for that is the weightier term. Calling somebody the Christ is calling somebody the Messiah. You might remember the scene from the gospels when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And there are answers that suggest people think he’s a prophet like Elijah, and others think he might be John the Baptist. When Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am,” that’s when St Peter has one of his greatest moments and blurts out, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus confirms how important this is because he says, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” [Mt. 16:17]
The Christ is the Messiah and the anointed one, for that’s what they all mean. Christ is just the Latin word for anointed one, and Messiah is the Hebrew word for anointed one, so we’re all talking about the same thing no matter which word we use.
King David was the Lord’s anointed one. When he sent the prophet to Jesse to examine all of his sons, they had to wait until the little one was brought in from the fields before Samuel was told by God to anoint this one. And they poured olive oil over his head to anoint him as king.
Anointing is still important to us in the Catholic Church, as we use this oil, the sacred chrism, at baptisms when we anoint the person being baptized as priest, prophet, and king. When we ordain a bishop, we anoint his head with the same sacred chrism. When we ordain a priest, we anoint his hands with the same sacred chrism. That is one of the important distinctions between an ordained deacon and an ordained priest: Deacons are not consecrated as priests are. That lack of consecration means that the deacons’ ministry is limited to one of service, for he does not have the powers of absolving sins and confessing the Eucharist that priests do.
So the people of Israel were not waiting for a deacon, they were waiting for the anointed one. And Jesus is the anointed one. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the king promised in the Psalms. Perhaps this evening you might read Psalm 110. I’ll just give you a flavor this morning. It opens with this: “The Lord says to my Lord sit at my right hand.” The anointed one will sit forever at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus will sit in his throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father. The Psalm also says: “In holy splendor before the Daystar like the dew I begot you.” We know from the opening lines of the Gospel of John that in the beginning was the word. And Jesus is the Word, begotten not made. The Psalm then says: “the Lord has sworn you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was a priest-king of Salem who offered Abraham a sacrifice of bread and wine, and Melchizedek was not part of the line of Aaron but a priest who was there before the Mosaic law and stands separate and above that Law. Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek, not the order of Aaron and the law of Moses. Jesus is the Christ.
Monsignor Knox reminds the girls of that image from scripture that says he will look like a “son of man.” And from the gospels, we know that many times Jesus referred to himself as the son of man. Knox points us to that phrase because of its significance at the opening of the ministry of the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord addresses Ezekiel as son of man, and he gives him his commission to go speak to the Israelites, who he refers to as a rebellious people. But whether they listen or do not listen, they shall know that a prophet has been among them. Monsignor Knox suggests a “son of man” won’t look like just any old person. And it does seem from the stories that we read in the gospels about Jesus that he had a kind of presence that was undeniable, profoundly attractive, and yet somehow majestically intimidating as well.
Monsignor Knox uses the phrase “son of man” to remind us that Jesus was a human being. And then he explains to the girls the idea of atonement, which is something we have discussed previously in this setting. So I will just briefly remind you of what we talked about at length a few months ago.
Atonement is the idea that one has to do something to make up for a serious injury to a relationship that one has. Something has been done that has injured the relationship, and somebody has to pay for that injury so that the relationship can be healed and restored.
We mentioned Saint Anselm in our discussion of this idea because he’s the one who pointed out that the original offense of Adam and Eve was an offense against God, and therefore the offense is done against something immensely good which makes the offense immensely bad and the debt to be repaid immensely huge. Anselm says that the injury was done by man (or mankind) to God. So the debt repayment has to be on a god scale, but the debt repayer really has to be a human since it’s humanity which incurred the debt. Obviously, no human has the power to repair an injury done to God, which is why in his great love for us God agreed to become man and then make the payment for the injury done against God. Here we are in the middle of Lent, which will end with good Friday and Easter Sunday. And this concept of atonement should help us connect christmas, which was the Incarnation or the god becoming man moment, with Good Friday and Easter, which is the debt repayment moment.
Monsignor Knox reminds us that Jesus is his sacred name and it is a name as sacred as the name of God in the Old Testament, which is sometimes yahweh. Because that name was so powerful, faithful Hebrews were uncomfortable actually speaking his name, so they substituted the word Lord when they ran across it in the scriptures. That’s why in some Bibles they will make sure to put the word Lord in all caps so that the reader knows that in the Hebrew scriptures they would have seen the four sacred letters which are sometimes expressed as Yahweh. It’s an abbreviation or anagram for the Lord’s response when Moses asked what is your name who should I say send me, and the Lord said tell them I am who am I sent you. You can imagine how frightening it would be to hear that the guy Moses was talking to at the top of the mountain calls himself I am Who Am. That’s a very intimidating name. Monsignor Knox wants us to know that the name Jesus has that kind of power, which is why we’re uncomfortable using it in everyday speech, and we really do not like it when it is used as profanity. We recognize it is a sacred name.
Our Lord, on the other hand, is not his name but it is his status. Our Lord is something we might use when we were addressing a king, or a prophet. It is what mary Magdalene said when she bumped into Jesus on Easter Sunday before she recognized him as who he is. My Lord they have taken his body do you know they put it? She asked him. So Lord is an important person a master, it is somebody who should probably be obeyed. It is he in whom I trust. It is he who is my Defender.
Monsignor Knox reminds the girls that the Latin word is “Dominus.” Dominus means” owner of slaves.” slavery is something that outrageous us and seems blessedly rare, but it still exists today. And it was very common at the time of Jesus. The Roman Empire economy really depended on slavery. So when we use the word in our faith, we are claiming — not merely admitting but claiming — that Jesus owns us.
And we sing in Psalm 95 this claim in a joyful voice. “He is our God we are his people, the sheep in his hands.” saint Paul open letter to the Romans as Paul a slave of Christ. Knox tells the girls that shepherds would put a splash of color on their sheep so that if the Sheep. I got mixed with other sheep everybody would know whose sheep were whose. Well we were marked as God’s children at our baptism, and by that spiritual Mark everybody should know to whom we belong, or who our Master is. Our Lord is Jesus. He is our Shepherd and he will rescue us if we become lost sheep, which seems to be the nature of sheep to become lost. So we joyfully declare ourselves to be his and him to be our Lord and Master, our Good Shepherd.