Thursday, July 9, 2020

Jesus: The Christ, The Messiah, The Anointed One

During my morning time with God in his word and prayer I am often delighted to look up the meaning of words from the original languages of God’s Book. Sometimes this includes looking up parallel words from the Old Testament and the New Testament to see how certain themes are woven through the Scriptures to show us the constancy of God’s nature and his work.

This morning it struck me that, when we speak of Jesus using the Hebrew word “Messiah”, or the Greek word “Christ”, both words have the same meaning but sound quite different. That is because the Greek word “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”.

In English, we are more familiar with a transliteration of these words rather than a translation. This simply means that we are using in English what sounds like a reasonable facsimile of pronouncing the Hebrew and Greek words. Nothing wrong with that at all.

However, when we transliterate instead of translate, we are not as easily drawn to the meaning that would be in a Jewish person’s mind when they hear “Messiah”, or a Greek person’s mind when they hear “Christ”. That is because the meaning of both words is “Anointed One”, something that is not only an unfamiliar translation to most North American church folk, but also an unfamiliar concept.

What’s the point?

That when we see Jesus as “anointed” by God the Father, we see one who was deliberately set apart for a task in relation to a sinful human race. As a king was anointed to set him apart for his leadership, the Savior was someone anointed to do a particular work. Jesus is the set-apart-one, the one-and-only, the Savior commissioned by God to bring about his will in a sinful world.

As we watch our world deteriorating from bad to worse (just as God describes in his Book), whenever we refer to Jesus the Christ, we are speaking of the one person commissioned by God to seek and to save the lost.[1] He is set apart to this work, and no one else can do it.

This is why the early preachers of the good news declared about Jesus,

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”[2]

It is also why the apostles taught the church,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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.[3]

Jesus was sent into the world as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, to lay down his life for sinners.[4] Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has accomplished our salvation forever. Sins are now forgiven, debts are now cancelled, wrongs are now erased, and adoption as the sons of God absolutely secured.[5]

I love the mind-exercise of considering what Peter was like as shown in the gospel records, and what he was like when he wrote his two letters to the churches. We see some of Peter’s struggles, mistakes and failures in the gospels; we see him filled with the Spirit and commissioned to preach the gospel in Acts, and we discover the depths of his love-relationship with God and the church in his letters.

This is what Peter would have us know today as we consider who Jesus is to us now:

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.[6]

Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, was “foreknown” by the Father as the Savior of his people before God even began the work of creation. The triune God went into creation knowing what Satan and sin would try to do to destroy their plans, and how the sacrifice of the Son of God was not only necessary, but also fully satisfactory, to bring about what God had in mind.

Whether you refer to the Son of God as Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, or Jesus the Anointed One, or even any or all the above in the original words, or in whatever words correspond to these in other languages, let your heart fully attach to the person of Jesus, Immanuel, the name above every name, King of kings and Lord of lords, by whom we are saved into the household of God forever.

And live by faith in him no matter how your language would honor him as Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.[7]

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Luke 19:10
[2] Acts 4:12
[3] Philippians 2:9-11
[4] John 10:11, 15, 17; 15:13; I John 3:16
[5] Ephesians 1:1-14 shows the beauty and glory of the redemptive plan of God.
[6] I Peter 1:20-21
[7] Matthew 16:16 is where Peter gives his declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” See also Luke 4:41; John 11:27, and John 20:30-31.

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