From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Nine, Day One
Most of us are so familiar with the title "Christ" that we tend to consider it part of Jesus' personal name. But what exactly does it mean? Like "Messiah," "Christ" means the "anointed one." The phrase "anointed one" refers to someone who has been set apart for a special mission.
That was how the first Christians thought about Jesus. As Israel's Messiah, he was the greatest of all kings, the one called and empowered to destroy God's enemies and extend his kingdom throughout the earth. His mission was to put an end to our deepest troubles — to rebellion, sin, and death. When we pray to Jesus Christ, we are praying to the Messiah, the Anointed One, whose mission involves calling the world back to God through the power of his love.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
His Name Revealed
"Listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him...
"God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear...
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "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."
Acts 2:22 - 24, 32 - 33, 36 - 38
Jesus, my Messiah, I praise you for triumphing over the powers of sin and death. Thank you for allowing yourself to be raised up on a cross and then raised from the grave. Cover me with your forgiveness, and fill me with your Spirit so that my one purpose will be to glorify you now and forever. Amen.
Understanding the Name
Many ancient peoples believed that oil rubbed onto the body could impart strength, health, and beauty. Since oil was a staple of life in biblical times, used for lighting, cooking, medicine, cosmetic purposes, hygiene, and hospitality, it served as a symbol of both wealth and joy.
An abundance of oil was evidence of God's pleasure. Scarcity symbolized his displeasure.
Oil was also used for sacred purposes, such as consecrating altars and vessels for worship, indicating that they had been set apart for the Lord's purposes. People could also be anointed and set apart. Though some of Israel's high priests were anointed when they took office, Israel's kings, especially those descended from David, were anointed rather than crowned. According to rabbinic tradition, oil (olive oil mixed with spices like cinnamon, calamus, and myrrh) was poured on their heads in a circle to form a crown. This anointing signified the king's right to rule. It meant that God had blessed him with authority, strength, and honor.
When the prophet Samuel anointed David as king, David was also given the gift of the Spirit and accorded the Lord's special protection. In time, oil became a symbol for the Holy Spirit, who imparts divine favor, power, and protection. The English word "christen" ("to anoint") comes from the Greek verb chrio ("to anoint").
The New Testament identifies Jesus as Christ, the "Anointed One," no less than 530 times. Jesus, however, was not anointed with oil but with the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan River. The early Christians understood that Jesus was the Christ — the Messiah, or Mashiach (ma-SHEE-ach) — in a unique sense. Like no king before him, he was called to heal the rift between God and his people.
Christ fulfilled his mission as the ideal king in a completely unexpected way, confounding his contemporaries, who expected the Messiah to be a powerful earthly king who would deliver Israel from its enemies. In order to avoid being forced into playing this political role, Jesus avoided the title of Christ or Messiah throughout most of his life. Finally, shortly before his death, he answered the high priest's question: "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" with the startling confession: "I am."
Studying the Name
- Describe in your own words what it means to say that Jesus was anointed, or set apart for God's service.
- Why do you think the Acts 2 passage speaks about the need for repentance and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?
- What do you think it means for believers to be anointed or set apart for Christ's service? How have you experienced this anointing in your own life?
- What do you think it means to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.