With praise and reverence, those seeking help and healing during Jesus’s ministry called him “teacher,” “master,” “Lord,” or, like the blind men who cried out to him in Matthew 9:17, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” All these forms of address are fitting the Second Person of the Trinity in his incarnation—he is indeed teacher, master, and Lord, just as he is also prophet, priest, and king. Let’s take a closer look at this title, Lord, found in both the Old and New Testaments, to unpack this image of a sovereign God who has descended to be with his people, a God to whom we can call out for salvation.
Kurios in Greek and Adonai in Hebrew are both translated as Lord in English. Kurios is one of the proper names of God, designating him the Almighty One, ruler and possessor. In the New Testament, it is also used for Christ, revealing him to be truly God, the same God Israel worshiped in the Old Testament—God incarnate (Luke 1:41–45).
Adonai is the name Israel uses to address God, often spoken in place of Yahweh. This usage points to God as the almighty ruler, which is demonstrated in his many acts of power in both the Old and New Testaments—power over kings, power over nature, power over death itself. God conquers vast armies, like sweeping away Pharaoh’s chariots (Exod. 15:1–6). God controls the elements of the earth, bringing plagues upon the land of Egypt (Exod. 7–12), stopping the sun in the sky (Josh. 10:12–14), stilling the fury of storm-swept seas (Luke 8:22–25). God exercises authority over the spiritual world as well—he proves himself over the false gods of the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Persians throughout the Old Testament, and Jesus continually casts out demons as a part of his earthly ministry. The Lord even has the power to raise the dead (1 Kings 17:22; Mark 5:35–42; John 11:43–44).
It is right that we call God Lord. He is indeed powerful to save. And with the blind men in Matthew and with his disciples tossed on the stormy seas, we too, faced with our sin and the sovereign reign of our most holy God, should cry out to him: Lord save us! We are perishing!
The Hebrew consonants for Yahweh are left in biblical texts but the vowels are often replaced with those for Lord (adonai). Many English Bibles use LORD in all capitals to show that those particular uses of “Lord” refer specifically to the proper name of God in the original texts.