May 7th, 2023
We confess in the Nicene Creed that “we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ.” In my last note, I considered the significance of the name “Jesus.” In this note, I want to consider the significance of his title, “Christ.”
The word “Christ” means “anointed.” In Hebrew, “Christ” or “anointed one” is “Messiah.” Remember what we read in Luke 4:16-20:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The confession that Jesus is the Christ was at the heart of the apostles’ preaching: “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:42).
While there is much to say about the significance of this title, I find the summary statement in the Heidelberg Catechism helpful. While we think of anointing primarily with reference to kings, the catechism reminds us that prophets and priests were also anointed.
Question 31. Why is He called “Christ,” that is, “Anointed?”
Because He has been ordained by God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us, and who ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.
We read in Acts that followers of Jesus were called Christians. The catechism asks a follow up question:
Question 32. Why are you called a Christian?
Because by faith I am a member of Christ, and thus a partaker of His anointing; so that I also may confess His name; present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him; and with a free conscience fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter, in eternity, reign with Him over all creatures.