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Jesus - Christ


Text:   Acts 2:36, 38 "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified... And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Jesus – The Christ

This evening we are thinking about the word "Christ" which appears more than 500 times in the NT. It is used widely appearing in 26 of the 27 books of the NT (the one exception being John’s third letter). It is used as a name as well as. And as you know it is sometimes used as a stand-alone and sometimes as part of a more complete description. This is not new to you but let me remind you of just how the NT writers use the word.

  • The Christ       50+   ( 3/ 4 in the gospels)

  • Jesus Christ      70+   (5x in the gospels)

  • Christ Jesus     70+  (unique to Paul)

  • Christ Jesus our Lord/Saviour/hope     9  (unique to Paul)

  • Lord Jesus Christ     60+  (never in gospels)

  • Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ       3+  (only in 2 Peter)

The early Christians considered it important to tell others that Jesus was the Christ. This was how Paul put it when preaching in Thessalonica:

Acts 17:3 "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ."

What does the word "Christ"actually mean?
The word is clearly an important one as it is applied so frequently to Jesus but what exactly does it mean?

The word "Christ" means "anointed" and it is the Greek word that corresponds to a Hebrew word in the OT that also means "to anoint" or "anointed".

(That Hebrew word is also the source of the title Messiah. That word "messiah" actually itself appears in transliterated form twice in the NT – "messias" and both times it is explained as meaning  the "Christ.")

In the OT anointing was carried out in order to consecrate a person to a particular office or religious service. Priests and kings were the usual recipients of this anointing and it was the anointing which set them apart for their divinely appointed function and so they were sometimes referred to in the OT as "the LORD’s anointed".

It was thus a very important thing this anointing for it marked out a person in a special way before God. The anointing signified the divine seal of approval of a man’s appointment to office. To challenge a man who had received this anointing was tantamount to challenging God who had anointed (or authorised his anointing). Perhaps you will remember how David took this very seriously when others encouraged him to raise his hand against King Saul:

1Sam.24:6, 10 "(David) said... "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed... I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed."

The Jewish expectation of a coming Messiah was thus an expectation of a man anointed by God for accomplishing his divine mission. It would have been unthinkable to oppose such a man because that would have meant opposing God himself.

Is Jesus this "Anointed" One, this Messiah, this Christ?
We are probably so used to thinking about Jesus as Jesus Christ or the Christ that we have never really noticed just how big a deal this was in the early years of the Christian era. As we look back from our vantage point in history all may seem clear and straightforward but that clarity which we enjoy was not immediately obvious to all.

If Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One, then the only sane option would be to trust him and to follow him. If he was the Messiah, the Christ, then to reject him would be to reject the God who commissioned, equipped and sent him and to remain cut off from God and under his judgment. If Jesus was the Messiah what a terrible thing it was to oppose "the LORD’s anointed"!

The gospels make it very clear what their authors thought on the subject:

Mt.1:1 "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
Mk.1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

As we read through the gospels it quickly becomes apparent that people were not ignorant either; they know a lot about this Christ figure.

But was Jesus really the Christ?

The importance of the question ought to be obvious. Its importance is underscored in many different ways in the NT.

It was to convince his readers about the answer to this question that the apostle John wrote his gospel:

Jn.20:30-31 "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Again and again through the gospel record we are given important information concerning the Christ. We are, told, for example, that:

  • his birthplace was known – Bethlehem and definitely not Galilee.

  • his family was known – the Messiah would be a son David even if at the same time he was greater than his illustrious father, a man born to be king – the King of Israel

  • his deeds were known – he would perform numerous miracles and signs

  • he would teach and prophesy

  • he would be able to save and to deliver

And what is more this knowledge was widespread amongst the people; it wasn’t the preserve of the few. I’m not saying that everyone knew everything but there was a lot of information out there in the public domain. And for some it raised questions and for others they had seen enough to be able to supply answers.

The Christ in questions and answers

John the Baptist
John’s fearless ministry was having a great influence – it was evident that God’s hand was on him and that caused several to start asking questions: is this the Christ? John knew that he wasn’t and spoke approvingly of One who was soon to come. But then John got arrested and thrown into prison – things didn’t seem to be turning out as he expected them to. Yet while in prison he heard reports of what Jesus was doing (Matthew actually writes that in prison he heard "about the deeds of the Christ") and sent messengers to Jesus asking for clarity – was Jesus the One or were they to wait for another?

Jesus didn’t answer with a simple yes or no but told John what was happening – the things that were happening were characteristic marks of the Messiah’s coming :

Mt.11:4-5 "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them."

It was allusion to Is.35 which was commonly understood to be speaking about God’s Messiah. Who could carry out the works of the Christ but the Christ himself? Jesus left John to supply his own answer.

In the ensuing discussion Jesus had with his disciples Jesus referred to another passage in the OT and clearly identified John as the forerunner of the Christ who was indicated there.

Peter’s confession
While it was John who asked questions of Jesus it was Jesus who asked questions of his disciples. After they had been with him for a certain amount of time and had had the opportunity of listening to him and observing him Jesus asked them what people in general thought about him.  After various answers had been given Jesus pressed further – was that their opinion, what did they think?

Peter seized the moment and spoke out. The crowds were confused, even though they were convinced that Jesus was someone important but Peter was forthright:

Mt.16:16 "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God"

The Samaritan woman
This woman had arrived at the same conclusion as Peter and she had had just one encounter with Jesus! When Jesus spoke to her identifying her sin she at first wants to change the subject. As she interacts with him and continues to listen to him the penny begins to drop – this man has knowledge, the kind of knowledge that only the Messiah has. She expresses her thoughts and Jesus confirms then but the discussion is then brought to an end as his disciples return.

The woman doesn’t forget what she’s learnt but immediately speaks out to others. Again Jesus’ remarkable knowledge is brought to the fore –she describes him now as "a man that told me all that I ever did." (Jn.4:29) Could this be the Christ she asks? She’s already sure herself but wants others to find it to be true too. It won’t be long before the Christ is further described and identified as being "the Saviour of the world".

The common people
The things that Jesus did and the things he taught prompted a reaction amongst the common folk in Jerusalem. They didn’t pretend that they were experts but they did begin to wonder about who Jesus really was especially as he was performing so many signs:

Jn.7:26 "here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?"

Some were convinced he was the Christ but others were not so sure. They knew him as Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ wasn’t supposed to come from Galilee but from Bethlehem. If only they had known that he had!

The High Priest
He speaks to Jesus directly "tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." (Mt.26:63) He has access to the same evidence as the others but he won’t let that into his closed mind. The High Priest has already made up his mind. Jesus isn’t the Christ he can’t be! And if he says he is, that’ll do nicely, and we’ll charge him with blasphemy.

Jesus the Christ
If Jesus is indeed the Christ as the whole of the NT maintains then that means he must have been anointed and that is precisely what we hear in Peter’s preaching in the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 10:38 "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."

Turning back to the gospels we find this conferral of the Holy Spirit to have occurred at the occasion of his baptism. John in recording the event specifically tells us that the Spirit who descended upon him remained on him. Indeed the Father gave the Spirit to the Son without measure (Jn.3:34) and Jesus exercised his entire ministry in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus is thus the Lord’s anointed. He fulfils the entire ministry that he was sent to accomplish as the Messiah, the Saviour and Deliverer of his people.
The word Christ applies fully and uniquely to Jesus and to Jesus alone. This is something that we see in the use of Christ as both a title and a name for Jesus. As we see in the words of our text:

Acts 2:36, 38 "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified... And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The identification is so close that we use Christ and Jesus as interchangeable terms – they both describe the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

It was this One who was unrecognised by his own people and who was rejected by them. They handed over the LORD’s anointed into the wicked hands of the Gentiles who crucified him after they had cruelly and spitefully tortured him. And Jesus came knowing that this would happen because it had been written beforehand that the Christ would be treated in just this way. On the road to Emmaus Jesus asked two of his followers a question:

Lk.24:26 "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

He know full well what the answer was!

And yet he and he only is the LORD’s anointed. He is able to save to the uttermost those who put their faith and trust in him and he is able to equip us with his Spirit that we might persevere to the end.

Friends, as you well know it is in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved. Let us make sure that we understand what that means and that we do it!

And may God be glorified.


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