‘And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”’ (Matthew 17:1-5)
I believe in… God’s Only Son, our Lord
All of us are defined in some way by our relationships. I am who I am in relationship to others: the son of Gordon and Denise; the husband of Kerry; the father of Joshua, Cara, and Lucy; the Director of Church Society, and the boss of David, Ros, and Sophie. The next line in the Apostles Creed tells us two things about Jesus’s relationships: he is the only Son of God the Father, and he’s our Lord.
The Son of God
Mark 1:1 announces that it is “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus’s cousin, John the Baptist, called Jesus “the Son of God” (John 1:34), as did his disciples (Matthew 14:33; John 1:49; John 11:27). But Mark also tells us that “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:11), and even the Roman centurion who looked on as Jesus died declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” They knew he was different to ordinary man.
Jesus himself always claimed to have a very close and unique relationship with God his Father. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he said, and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (see John 14:8-11). Which is why it is so important to believe in both the Father and the Son, because “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). Jesus even said that just believing in “God” was not enough, because “Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).
We may be children of God, as believers. But that is by the grace of adoption, through faith. Jesus is the Son of God by nature. It is in that sense that he is “God’s only Son” — or as the Nicene Creed puts it, “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.” This is why in the passage with which we started, the Father calls Jesus “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Being the Son of God is something Jesus is by nature. But the other title mentioned here in the Creed is something he becomes: our Lord. The word “Lord” means Master. That is what Jesus is to us, his people. In a sense he is the Lord of all creation, the ruler and boss of everything and everyone. But in a more intimate and special sense, he is the Master of those who follow him and listen to him. He is not just the Lord, but our Lord, when we submit to him and obey his command to repent of our sins and believe in him.
As I mentioned above, even demons recognised Jesus for who he is, the only Son of God. But it is not enough to make a difference in our lives, if all we do is acknowledge him for who he is. We need to willingly bow down to him as Lord, and gladly accept his rule over our lives. That’s what it means to be a Christian — to give up the reins, hand over the wheel, and let Jesus be in charge and make the rules rather than us.
One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Some will submit of their own accord with joy, but others will only reluctantly kneel in obedience. The big question for all of us is this: will we let Jesus be our Lord now, so he can also be our saviour — or will we stubbornly try to resist him, and only meet him as our judge?
Questions for reflection:
1. Have you consciously and deliberately submitted to Jesus as your Lord?
2. What difference does it make in your life to recognise Jesus as your Master?
3. Why is it reassuring that if you’re a Christian, your master is also the unique Son of God?
Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, who sent your only Son into the world to save all those who believe and trust in him as Lord: give us grace to honour his name and listen to his word that with the daily help of your Holy Spirit we may live as his true disciples. Amen.