Jesus the Christ

Jesus the Christ

Some persons' last names have their origin in the trade one of their ancestors followed. For instance, long ago someone in the Miller family was probably a miller, while someone in the Baker family was a baker.

Christ is a title that means “the anointed one.” Israelite kings, prophets, and priests were anointed with oil as a sign that they were special to God and filled with God's Spirit. Christ is another word for Messiah. Because Jesus is the Messiah, in time Christ became his proper name. We call him Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were God's chosen people who were promised a Messiah, a great leader to save them. They passed on the promise of Messiah from generation to generation. In their minds, among other things the Messiah would be a powerful ruler who would make Israel a mighty and glorious nation once again. Hebrew Scripture contains prophecies about a king to be born from the family of David, who had been Israel's greatest king.

When Christ did appear, he did not fit many Israelites' notion of the Messiah. They never imagined that God would come to be their Messiah. They did not expect the establishment of a spiritual kingdom by a meek and humble Messiah who was put to death on a cross. Actually Jesus fulfills and exceeds the hopes of Israel. He brought much more than earthly power.

Jesus did not boldly proclaim himself as the Messiah. In fact, he sometimes urged people to keep his miracles secret. (This is known as the “messianic secret.”) He did this possibly so as not to confuse those Israelites who were waiting for a Messiah in the political, royal sense.

In the Gospels, Jesus admitted he was the Messiah in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. She said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus replied, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you” (John 4:25-26). In the Gospel of Mark when the high priest asked Jesus if he were the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One, Jesus answered, “I am” (Mark 14:61-62). According to the Gospel of John, Jesus explained to Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world.

The synoptic Gospels relate that one day Jesus asked the Pharisees whose son the Messiah was. When they answered, “David's,” Jesus countered with another question: Why then did David call him Lord? For in one of the psalms, David called the Messiah Lord, which meant Son of God (Psalm 110:1).

People who believe Jesus is the Messiah and continue his work of bringing about God's kingdom of justice and love are called Christians. The followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch about the middle of the first century. The term means “like Christ.”

Jesus, powerful in word and deed, was the Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit who would be given to all humankind. His followers, too, are anointed ones marked with the oil of baptism and confirmation and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

† Christ yesterday, now, and forever! †