Jesus Of Nazareth And Son Of God

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Today  we are meeting  two persons, first being none  other than Jesus  of Nazareth. Mathew’s gospel  introduces  Jesus the Nazorean in these words: ‘There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be  fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Mt  2:23).

In those  days it was unimaginable for he Jews to think  that their savior, the Messiah would come from Nazareth. Because the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem, the city of David. It is another thing that  they could not recognise the Son of God  who was born in Bethlehem! Nathanael’s question  reflects the  doubt  of  an   ordinary Jew. “Can anything good come out of  Nazareth?”(Jn 1:46). But for ‘come and see’, what  other  reply  Philip could give him! This brief reply  contains everything. Doubters should stop asking questions. Instead they should go and see.  When Nathanael went and saw Jesus all his  doubts were cleared and he did not leave Jesus thereafter.

But not all Jews could  ‘go and see’  the  way Nathanael did, nor did they get the grace to understand Jesus. Certainly they  accepted Jesus as a great prophet from Nazareth. The  signs and miracles  performed by Jesus were  before their eyes. They had   no doubt  that  God was  with Jesus. Nicodemus also says; “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one  can do these signs that you do  apart from the  presence of God” (Jn 3:2). The  inscription  over   the head of Jesus   on  the holy cross   also  described the  person as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. It was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew so that nobody should miss it.The centurion who was  witness to  the crucifixion of Jesus  realize who Jesus was  only after  the  Lord  accomplished the eternal  sacrifice for all humanity. It was Jesus  of Nazareth who gave the   gentile centurion  the strength to  proclaim  what  many  Jews could not  admit; “Truly this man was God’s Son.”

Then we have Cleopas and another disciple who were  treading the   lonely  road  from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Though their eyes were kept from recognizing him, their discussion was  about  Jesus from Nazreth. They got their eyes  opened and  could recognize  Jesus  only when  he blessed the bread, broke it  and  gave it to them.  As for  Nicodemus, this truth was revealed  much  before. This is  why he   came  with a mixture of  myrrh and aloes weighing about a hundred pounds to pay  his tributes to the  man whom he met for the first time in the   privacy of  a night.  This time  he  was bold  enough to  declare  his allegiance to   Jesus  before  the fall of  night  on that eventful day.

Jesus of Nazareth! As  Simeon said, he was the one   who  was  destined for the falling and the rising  of many in Israel, and who was to be  a  sign that will be opposed.

Now comes the  second person, the Son of David; the Savior of whom   God revealed through   His prophets  centuries before, that  the  Messiah, the   Son of David should come from Bethlehem. Jews never doubted that  the  coming Christ   should be the Son of David.  It is apparent that  Jesus of Nazareth and   Son of David are one and the same. Certainly both the  names  refer to  Jeus Christ. But   people  recognized  him in two different ways. Majority of them  recognized him as  Jesus from Nazareth.  But a few like  Nicodemus and the centurion on duty at  Calvary, understood the man as  the Son of David. Remember the prophecy of  Simeon  that  Jesus  should be a  sign that  will be opposed.

As  fulfilment of the verses that  ‘whoever  welcomes  a prophet  in  the name of a prophet will receive  a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous  person will receive the  reward of the righteous’ ( Mt 10:41), those who   recognised Jesus as a prophet from Nazareth received   its  reward and  those who recognized him as  the Son of David received its reward.

In the gospel of Luke we read about  a blind beggar from Jericho. He was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard a crowd going by  he  asked what was happening. They  told him that  it was Jesus of Nazareth. A large  crowd was  accompanying Jesus, the  great prophet from Nazareth, the great  teacher who performed miracles and  in whom  God was pleased. His words about  God and his teachings about  the kingdom of heaven  were  deeply engraved in their hearts. Those words were not like the monotonous sermons of  their teachers. They  praised   Jesus of Nazareth  for the great deeds that  God did through his hands.

On the other hand, it was  a totally different  image  of Jesus  that came  to the mind of   the  beggar. Though blind, he understood that the  person  who was passing by was no ordinary prophet from Nazareth, as the  crowd   told  him in one voice.  This  Jesus is the  Savior whom they were expecting for  centuries. Messiah, the   Son of  David! So  he cried out  with  all his  might: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Naturally  it should have  irked the   crowd. They  knew that  Jesus was a  prophet from Nazareth. But here  a blind beggar is  calling  him  the  Son of  David.  Luke records that  the  crowd sternly ordered the blind man to be quiet. It was impossible for them to  permit somebody, that too a blind beggar,  holding a  different view   from the  general opinion.  But their orders  could not silence him. Rather  he  raised  his  sound and  shouted even more loudly; “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus could  not but  stand still. And Jesus left only after  doing what the blind beggar wanted him to do!

A blind man could  see  what thousands with  open eyes  could not  see. He saw the person,whom others saw as Jesus from Nazareth, as ‘Son of David’. It is not  surprising.  Because Jesus himself once said; “I came into this world for judgement so that those who  do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (Jn 9:37)

The Scripture tells us  about  another  person who also  recognized  Jesus Christ as the Son of David.  It was a  Canaanite woman from the  region of   Tyre and Sidon. She was a woman  born into a gentile family.  A woman who did not have  anything to claim on  David or the Messiah  who was to   take birth from the  house of David. Yet  what she  shouted was, 

” Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David”(Mt 15:22). Perhaps none of the twelve  disciples, who were Jews by  birth, could not  grasp the   true meaning  of   what this Canaanite woman called their Master. Had they had any idea about it, they would not have  recommended  Jesus to  send her away. We read that this poor  woman who  wanted nothing  but the ‘crumbs that  fall from  the master’s table’  returned  with  everything  that  she wanted  from the  Master of the universe. We should remember that   even Peter’s declaration  – ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:16) – about  Jesus   came  after this incident. 

It is true that  Jesus  could be   understood in two different ways. As  Jesus the  prophet from  Nazareth and as the Son  of David, the Savior. During the royal procession from the  Mount of Olives to   Jerusalem that  Jesus  undertook on a colt,  the whole  multitude  that  accompanied him shouted; “Hosanna to the Son of  David! Blessed is the one  who comes in the name of  the Lord!”(Mt 21:9). But when the procession  reached Jerusalem and when the  whole city  started asking, ‘who is  this?’ the reply was a  bit  different.  The crowd replied; “This is the  prophet Jesus from  Nazareth in Galilee ”.  Two  different  perspectives!  It cannot be  otherwise, because  he was   supposed to be a  ‘sign  that will be opposed’.

This debate continues through centuries. For some of us, Jesus is a prophet,  philanthropist, social reformer or revolutionary. They  know    him  as Jesus  of Nazareth who did many  great and commendable things. They love  him, or  pretend to  love him.  For them  Jesus is another name like  Mohammed or Budha or  Marx. They will  write stories and novels using this name.  They will mock him  in  cartoons and caricatures. They will depict  him  badly in films and  television  serials. They will mock  and  degrade him. Because, for them Jesus is just  a man  from  Nazareth.

On the other hand,  for the  elect few, he is  the Son  of God, only Savior and  only Redeemer. They know him as  the Son of David and  get the  reward of their faith. For those who acknowledge him as the  only Lord and Savior of mankind,  ‘Jesus’ is the name that is above every  name’. Because it is written; ‘There is no other  name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’ ( Acts 4:12).

When Peter and John were  brought  before the  council on the  charge of  healing a  person, they made it  a point to  reaffirm their  faith in the  great name of  Jesus  by saying, ‘Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is  standing before you  in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised  from the dead’ (Acts 4:10). After this  proclamation of   faith the   council could not  find  any excuse to   punish them. The  firm stand of   Peter and John was  that  it was not right  in  God’s sight to  listen to men rather than  to God. They categorically stated that they could not  keep  from  speaking about  what they have seen and heard.

Now what  did they  see and hear? They first  saw Jesus as a prophet from  Nazareth and  heard his teachings.  Later  they saw with their own eyes what  Jesus did that  could not  be  done  by any other person. They realized that  this was no ordinary  prophet but  the Savior whom they were expecting for  centuries.  None of the apostles  would have volunteered   to die for  Jesus, had he been  just another prophet. 

What is so special with the  name of Jesus? It is the  name that  conquers the devil. This is why all devils   have come together  with their demonic armies  to fight against the  holy name of Jesus. When we read the  instance of  the disciples  returning from their first evangelisation tour,  we see that they were  very much surprised to  have the   experience of   even  devils surrendering  before the  name of  Jesus. What other  testimony  do we need to   tell that there  is nothing   in this  whole universe that can  stand against  the  great name of Jesus. One of the  biggest promises in the   Bible is that  God will  grant  anything  that we  ask Him in the name of  Jesus Christ.  Such is the greatness of this   name. Yet  those  who   confess the name of Jesus  Christ in this world  will not be spared  from persecution.   ‘You will be hated by all because of my name'( Lk 21:17).

It was  God’s divine will  that  His only begotten son should be  named  Jesus. ‘She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Mt 1:21). It is  in  Jesus’ name that God the Father  sends the   Holy Spirit who  renews and  sanctifies everything.  Do  we  really understand the  true  power of   the  name Jesus?  It needs divine grace to understand  what this name  suggests. John records the kind of persons  to whom the  real meaning of  this name is  revealed by the Father. “I have made  your name known  to those whom you gave me  from the world’ (Jn 17:6). Here John tells us a big secret about  the  mystery  called Jesus. The true meaning of the   name of the  Savior will be  fully revealed to only those  who are  selected by the  Father. They   acknowledge  Jesus as  the Son of  God. For others  Jesus is just another name.

Hope it is clear  why certain  people mock the holy name of Jesus  by producing blasphemous films and  entertainment events. Ever wondered   why certain  groups say that  Jesus was only a  prophet, and another person who  came  after  centuries was the last prophet; why do they say that  one Issa  who is introduced  in  certain books as  the son of  Mariam (who was the sister of Aaron) and  Jesus  Christ are one and same  person?  The holy name of Jesus is  a mystery  that is  revealed to  a selected few, and our  salvation is dependent on that same name. Jesus himself  says: ‘While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me” (Jn 17:12).

In  his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions that  confessing the name of  Jesus  with our  lips is  a precondition to get salvation. Jesus also promised that he will acknowledge before the  heavenly Father those who  acknowledge his  name before men. We should never shy away from  proclaiming the  all powerful name of Jesus. Because  the  name of Jesus is one that is above every name. ‘Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name’ (Phil.2:9). It was not without   reason. This  name was given to him ‘so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and  under the earth, and every tongue should confess  that Jesus  Christ is Lord, to the glory of  God the Father’ (Phil 2:10-11).

But  confessing this name   brings with it a great responsibility as well, of which  Paul writes; ‘Let everyone who calls on the name of  the Lord  turn away from  wickedness’ (2 Tim 2:19).  ‘Praise is unseemly on the lips of a sinner’. The name of the  Lord also will not suit the  lips of those who continue in  wickedness. In the  letter to the Hebrews  we read that  the  name that  Jesus has inherited  is more  excellent than the names of  angels. 

But there are  people who  would refuse to  confess the   glorious name of Jesus Christ. About them  John writes: ‘Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus  is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and  the Son  (1 Jn 2:22). He adds; ‘By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that  Jesus Christ has  come in the flesh  is from God, and every spirit that does not confess  Jesus, is not from God. And this is the spirit of  the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world’ (1 Jn 4:2-3). Do we need any further proof to identify the spirit working  behind those who   stand against the holy name of Jesus? Be it in films,  television, newspapers, art, literature or public discourse, when we see somebody  mocking or  making fun of or degrading the  name of  Jesus,  understand that  the spirit  working in him/her is the  spirit of  the antichrist. As for his end,  the book of Revelation testifies that  it will be in the  lake that  burns with fire and sulfur.

Elsewhere in the  book of Revelation   Jesus  gives a special mention to those  churches  that  do not  deny his  glorious name.  He  consoles the church in Philadelphia  with these words; ” If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of  my God, you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name’ (Rev. 3:12). Whenever we are tempted to deny the name of  Jesus, we should remember this great promise from our  Lord.  Why should we  deny   ourselves the  opportunity to  be branded with the   greatest of names? After all, we run and work  for this only.

Therefore, be cautious of those who  blaspheme the  glorious name of Jesus. ‘Why do the nations conspire, and the people plot in vain? The kings of the  earth set themselves, and the  rulers  take  counsel together  against the Lord and  his  anointed………… He who sits in the  heavens laugh’ (Ps 2:1-2). Let us pray for those who mock the  name of  Jesus in the  hope that  a day will come when they will  call  out this very same name for their salvation.

Jesus introduced himself to  Saul as  “Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting”(Acts 22:8). Paul persecuted him under the impression that  he was  none other than ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.  He was  on  a mission to   bring anyone  found following  Jesus of Nazareth  back to  Jerusalem. Paul himself admits it while defending  his  appeal  before  Agrippa:  “Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things  against the  name of  Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9).  Do you think that   he would have done  many things against the  name of   Jesus had he known that   this Jesus was the Son of David? It was  a mistake  on the part of Paul to  identify Jesus wrongly. Unfortunately many  of us  repeat the same mistake, even after two thousand years. We   see Jesus as  the prophet from Nazareth, but fail to recognize him as  our Messiah, the Son of David.  As for Saul,  Jesus  transformed  him into a  new  creation with a new name   to proclaim  the  glorious name of  Jesus  among gentiles. Let  us pray for those who mock this name and hope that   they will  accept him as  the  true son  of God and  their Lord.  Let any one who has an ear listen to  the   commandment:  ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain’. Or at least remember  what  Jesus  told  Saul; “It hurts you to  kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).

Let us  pray that  the Holy Spirit  enlighten them  to  understand that   Jesus Christ is  the  cornerstone   established by   God. Let us also  pray for  them  to understand  that   ‘anybody who falls on this  stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone   on whom it falls’. But for us who revere  the  name of Jesus  the ‘sun of  righteousness shall rise, with  healing  in its wings’.

 Let us  give  glory to the   holy name of  Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer.

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