Not Just 'Jesus'
When people speak about our Lord Jesus Christ, they often simply say "Jesus." Professor Dr. S. Greijdanus taught his students that it is not proper to simply say "Jesus." According to him, doing this means that we fail to give to our Lord and Savior the honor that is due to Him. We should seriously consider what Professor Greijdanus said. I shall give some arguments to support this.
When we read the Gospels, we almost always find only "Jesus" in the continuing narrative, when the Gospel author speaks of what our Lord, "Jesus," said or did. Matthew, for instance, uses the name Jesus one hundred and forty-eight times by itself and only three times in combination with the name "Christ" (Matthew 1:1, 16, 18). Mark writes "Jesus Christ" two times (Mark 1:1 and 16:19), and only "Jesus" seventy-nine times. With a complete concordance you yourself can do the counting with regard to the Gospels of Luke and John, and you will find a similar picture.
Some Statistical Data
Does this not mean that Professor Greijdanus was exaggerating? Do the Gospels themselves not give us permission to say just "Jesus"? Here two counter arguments must be given. In the first place, in the four Gospels our Lord is never addressed as just "Jesus." Specifically in the Gospel of Matthew those who believe in the Jesus as the Christ, the Savior, address Him as "Lord" (e.g., Matthew 8:2, 6, 8; 14:28, 30; 15:22, 25, cf also Acts 1:6).
In the second place, in the biblical times people had just one name. We read in the Old Testament about Abel, Noah, Moses, Elijah, and soon. In the same way the New Testament tells us about Zechariah, Simeon, Simon, and so on. When persons had the same name and needed to be distinguished, the name of their father or of their residence was mentioned: Simon, son of Jonah, or Joseph of Arimathea. Sometimes a person got a nickname that characterized him, such as John the Baptizer.
In a similar way our Lord, when He was on earth and worked in the midst of the people, was known as "Jesus" or "the prophet Jesus of Nazareth" (Matthew 21:11), or "Jesus the son of Joseph from Nazareth" (John 1:45), or "Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 10:38). Our conclusion must be that the Gospels speak about "Jesus" when describing our Lord in His actions and in His speaking while He lived as man among His people in the state of humiliation.
In the book of Acts the picture is changing. The simple name "Jesus" is still used some thirty-six times, many times, however, when reference is made to Christ as He lived and worked on earth. However, in this second book of his, Luke employs a combination of names thirty-two times. We find "the Lord Jesus" (fourteen times), "the Lord Jesus Christ" (three times), "Christ Jesus" (six times), and "Jesus Christ" (nine times).
This change continues in Paul's letters. In his letter to the Romans he uses the simple name "Jesus" only twice. The other thirty five times the name "Jesus" is combined with the names "Lord" and/or "Christ." In the other letters "Jesus" occurs from zero to four times, whereas the combination with the other names is frequent. I may again refer you to a concordance. Only in Hebrews and Revelation does the simple "Jesus" again occur more often. The church fathers continued to use the combination of names.
The conclusion therefore is that the New Testament itself illustrates that after the resurrection and ascension of Christ frequently the name Jesus used in combination with the names or titles "Christ" and "(our) Lord," rather than by itself.
The Majesty of Our Lord
It is also important to see what the New Testament reveals us about our Lord Jesus Christ. He is, first of all, the eternal glorious Son of God; He is God. With awe and deep respect, the apostle Thomas came to the confession, "My Lord and My God," when Christ Jesus revealed Himself as the risen One to him (John 20:28). Even though he partook of our flesh and blood and became man, Christ Jesus remained and remains almighty God, and is far above us, so that godly fear is due to Him. This respect and fear should be expressed in our attitude toward Him, including the way in which we speak about Him and to Him in prayer.
In the second place, the Lord Jesus is, also as man, the Lord of lords and the King of kings (Revelation 17:14). As the Judge of heaven and earth, He will come back in great glory on the clouds of heaven, and He is now seated at God's right hand (Matthew 26:64). Christ said about Himself that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matthew 28:18). When the apostle John, on Patmos, saw the Lord Jesus in His heavenly glory and majesty, he fell down to the earth as dead (Revelation 1:17). Thus, Christ Jesus is, as Thomas confessed, beside our God, also our Lord.
Now it says in Hebrews that He is not ashamed to call us brothers, and that He partook of our flesh and blood in order to become our faithful and merciful High Priest. The apostle John (John 15:14,15) records that our Lord said to His disciples that He called them His friends because all that He heard from the Father He made known to them. The characteristic point of being a friend is here the sharing of intimate knowledge. It is evident that Christ's calling the disciples friends does not mean that He and they were on the same level. We have a parallel in James 2:23 where we read that Abraham was called "a friend of God." Although not the same word is used, reference is made to 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:7 where Abraham is called God's "beloved." We can also refer to Genesis 18:17. Here we have the same thought. The LORD says, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?" Great grace is expressed here. It was a wonderful gift that God so treated a sinful person; and that the Son of God dealt with sinful disciples in such an intimate way. When Abraham is called God's beloved, God's friend, however, this does not make Abraham equal to God, just as it does not make the disciples equal to Christ Jesus.
Our Lord, God's Son and our mighty and holy Lord is worthy to receive all glory and honor.
We have seen that, even though the Gospels, when narrating what our Lord said and did, speak about "Jesus," never do the believers address Him with just this name. It is also clear that in the New Testament letters the Lord is most frequently spoken about as "Christ Jesus," or "the Lord Jesus Christ," or in other similar ways. This is in acknowledgment of His greatness as our Lord and our God, and this humble reverence and godly fear with respect to Him should remain with us. We are to honor Him at all times and in every way. This honor we give Him also when we speak of and to Him in a reverent manner by not just saying "Jesus," but, for instance, "the Lord Jesus," or "Christ Jesus."
This is the more urgent since there is in our modern world the trend of equality. People want to treat each other as equals. This philosophy of equality undermines respect for persons in a position of authority. Those in high places in government, in church, or in school are often treated and dealt with without due respect. Respect for God and for the Lord Jesus Christ is fading as well. The idle and vain use of the holy Names "God," "Jesus," and "Christ" is proof of this.
Therefore, let us in our speaking, as in everything we do, be witnesses of the glorious and holy majesty of our Lord. Let us not just say "Jesus," but let us heed the advice of Professor Greijdanus and many others of our fathers, and speak with reverent fear about "our Lord Jesus Christ."