Friday, November 29, 2013

Jesus: The Christ

How often do we use the word "Christ" without really thinking about what it means? You've heard the joke about the person who thinks it is Jesus' last name, right? Christ is not a part of Jesus' name, but rather a title that was rich in meaning to the Jews who believed in him.  "Christ" is the Greek word for "Messiah," and both of them mean "Anointed." Someone who was anointed was set aside for a particular purpose. There were three different types of people who received anointing in the Old Testament, and Jesus is the final fulfillment of all of these roles.

From the beginning of the Mosaic age, priests were anointed to their office (Exodus 28:41 and others).  This anointing set them apart for God's service.  The basic job of the priests was to make intercession to God for the people.  They were the ones to offer sacrifices to God for their own sins and the sins of the nation.  They were a kind of intermediary between the people and God.  Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God was, and then only once per year (Leviticus 16). 

When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that blocked off the Most Holy place was torn in two (Matthew 27:51) This was to indicate that a new covenant was now in effect, with Jesus as our High Priest.  "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).  When I call Jesus "the Christ," I am acknowledging that He is the only one through whom I have access to my heavenly Father.  Later in his letter, the Hebrew writer tells us what our response should be to such a priest.

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:22-24). 

Another group of people who were anointed in the Old Testament were kings.  In God's perfect plan, there would be no human kings.  God wanted his people to follow him alone (1 Samuel 8:7). However, the Israelites wanted to be like the other nations and demanded a king be installed.  God gave them over to their human kings, and throughout the history of the kingdom of Israel, we see an interesting phenomenon.  The people followed the king.  When the king was a bad, idolatrous king, the people joined him in his idolatry. (Jeroboam son of Nebat was the first, and many kings were compared to him 1 Kings 16:26 et al).  When the king turned to God, the people likewise repented.  

In the kingdom of God, the church, we are following a divine ruler.  Jesus is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18) and he has been called our King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14, 19:16).  When I call Jesus "the Christ", I acknowledge that He is my king, and I have the duty to follow him.  Just as the children of Israel did what their earthly king did, I am to do as Jesus did, walking in his footsteps.  

Although it is mentioned fewer times in the Bible, prophets were also anointed (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).  The prophet's role was a complement to the priest.  The priest was the one who spoke to God for the people.  The prophet spoke to the people for God.  God gave the prophet a message or an illustration (often a painful one!), and the prophet preached it to the people. 

The Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus is our ultimate prophet. "God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoke to us in His Son" (Hebrews 10:1-2).  God doesn't send prophets to us anymore because His son said everything that needs to be said to us.  As Peter said, Jesus has the words of life (John 6:68).  When I call Jesus "the Christ", I am acknowledging that the words he spoke and the actions he lived out are directly from God.  He intends me to mirror them in every respect.  

Naming Jesus the Christ has an enormous impact on my life if I stop to consider what it means.  Jesus is my pathway to God who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice.  I cannot get to the Father without him.  Jesus is the one who gives me the words of eternal life, straight from the lips of God.  He is the King of kings, and I have the option to make him king of my life, to follow in his footsteps forever.  May I never say "Jesus Christ" in an unthinking way again.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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