One of the names of Jesus we see regularly is ‘Christ’. We use the name Jesus Christ so often that we can think that Christ is His surname. In reality His name would simply have been Jesus Bar-Joseph (son of Joseph). Why is He called Jesus Christ so often and what is the significance of the name ‘Christ’?
The meaning of “Christ” originates from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from their sins. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title ‘Christ’. The Greek word Christos (Christ) is the translation of the Hebrew term “Mashiach”, which is where we get the word “Messiah” from. These words all mean “to anoint”. So when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”
In Old Testament times, people were anointed when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, Samuel anointed Saul when he first became king in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?”
David was anointed in the same way along with the priests, as we can see in Exodus 28:41: “And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Prophets too were anointed: “And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” (1 Kings 19:16).
In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was anointed and set apart for a task for God was a sort of messiah as they received a special anointing.
The people of Israel however were looking for the Messiah, someone who would perfectly combine the roles of prophet, priest and king. Sadly, after waiting for centuries, they somehow missed him.
It is amazing to think that when Jesus began His earthly ministry, very few recognised who He was even though He continued to walk in that anointing by healing the sick and raising the dead. He wasn’t even subtle. He started his ministry revealing His fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy with the proclamation in Luke 4:17-21: “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The anointing of Jesus was the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38 it says:
“….how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
This is also prophesied in Isaiah 11 where it says: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”. (v2).
Jesus is the only one able to function in the fullness of the Spirit: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”. (Colossians 1:19).
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”. (Colossians 2:9).
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9).
As Jesus’ representatives we too have been anointed with the Holy Spirit; as part of Christ’s body and being connected to Him, we now walk in His anointing: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:13).
Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?