From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Nine, Day Three
Most of us are so familiar with the title "Christ" that we tend to consider it part of Jesus' personal name. But what exactly does it mean? Like "Messiah," "Christ" means the "anointed one." The phrase "anointed one" refers to someone who has been set apart for a special mission.
That was how the first Christians thought about Jesus. As Israel's Messiah, he was the greatest of all kings, the one called and empowered to destroy God's enemies and extend his kingdom throughout the earth. His mission was to put an end to our deepest troubles — to rebellion, sin, and death. When we pray to Jesus Christ, we are praying to the Messiah, the Anointed One, whose mission involves calling the world back to God through the power of his love.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
Praying the Name
"God raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him...
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:24, 36 - 38
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12 - 13
Praise God: For the promise of eternal life.
Offer Thanks: For the way God has enabled you to endure difficulty.
Confess: Any habit of complaining or any unbelief leading to despair.
Ask God: To give you the grace to persevere to the end.
What if somebody managed to concoct a vitamin that enabled you to live forever? Its only drawback was that it didn't start working until all your vital signs had shut down. In other words, you would need to die once before coming back to life.
Or what if you had a choice of riding out a storm in either a 1,200-foot cruise ship that despite its size could not withstand the storm, or a small lifeboat that registered every swell of the sea but was designed to be self-bailing, self-righting, and nearly unsinkable — able to right itself eight seconds after capsizing? Wouldn't the choice be obvious in both cases?
These are the crudest of images to explain how Jesus saves us. Belonging to him does not insulate us from suffering and death. But it does mean that Christ will be faithful to his mission by raising us to live with him forever. When Jesus himself was crucified, it was as though death opened its mouth too wide, unaware that it was attempting the impossible, trying to swallow life itself. No wonder Paul remarks that "it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." So it makes sense that when Christ lives within us through faith, we inherit a kind of spiritual buoyancy that cannot be destroyed by death. But blending our lives with Christ's is not like swallowing a pill.
Being "in Christ" means that we are called to draw our strength from him in order to reproduce the pattern of his life on a smaller scale. With him and in him, we too will suffer, die, and rise. I confess that I like the last bit, about rising, but I shrink back from the part about suffering and dying.
Nine years ago an executive from CBS News negotiated a ten-year lease for the right to broadcast from a hotel that overlooks St. Peter's Square. She wanted cameras to capture the drama of Pope John Paul II's death the moment it happened. But the pope nearly outlived her lease at the hotel. As one editor remarked, "I have been interviewed for obituaries on the pope for the last ten years and he's outlived everybody, even some of his biographers."
What is so remarkable is not that Pope John Paul II had a corner on longevity but that this once-vigorous man made a point, not of hiding his suffering but of giving the world a close-up view of his decline from Parkinson's disease. In a time when many are advocating euthanasia as a way for people to die with dignity, the pope used his illness to show the world how to face suffering with dignity and courage, believing that life is a gift from God. To those who say his illness should have ended his papacy, he merely replied: "Did Christ come down from the Cross?"
The point is not that the pope thought he was Christ but that he believed Christ lived within him and that he needed to obediently imitate the Lord by living with hope and trust in the midst of suffering. As one of his biographers so aptly remarked prior to his death, "The world is watching a man live out, to the end, one of the convictions that has shaped his life and his impact on history: the conviction that the light of Easter is always preceded by the darkness of Good Friday, not just on the calendar but in the realm of the spirit."
What kind of suffering have you faced and how have you faced it?
If you are like me you may have sometimes responded to difficulty with complaining, evasion, and near despair. But Christ calls each of us to face it with courage, trust, and hope, confident that as we share in his sufferings, we will one day share in his glory.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.