“He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.””
(John 1:20–21 ESV)
We have to go into this topic of Christ because it is muy importante [I know, what you’re thinking: Do we really? I was a Marine. Trust me. I
love doing this because I look so smart wouldn’t do this unless I absolutely had to. There is no one who is more easily bored by arcane theological data than me].
Who is this mysterious character “the Christ” whom both John the Baptizer and his questioners and most of the people we meet in the gospels were expecting?
- “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”” (John 4:25 ESV)
- “And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ” (John 7:26 ESV)
- “(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)” (John 9:22 ESV)
The word Christ [χριστός – for the geeks] started out as an adjective that meant “anointed.” It is derived from the Greek chrein which means “to rub lightly” or “to spread.” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT) [yeah, I waded through that so you wouldn’t have to, great book though. Seriously.] says: In the OT two office bearers are expressly described as mashiah i.e. as anointed (with oil): the high priest as the one responsible for the official cult (Priest) and the king. So the Jewish people were familiar with the concept of anointing and associated it with the offices of priest and king. Being anointed in this sense “implied that the appointee was endowed with a special portion of God’s spirit for the task in question” (Bible Speaks Today).
No one could agree on what exactly the Messiah was supposed to do at the time of John the Baptizer.
There was no single ruling view of the Messiah in Jesus’ day. Some thought he would bring peace, others stressed righteousness. Due to the Roman occupation many cast him in a military role and saw him as leading the overthrow of the Roman yoke and, beyond that, securing the world-wide prominence of the Jewish nation. For some he would be a clearly supernatural visitant from God, for others a human prince from David’s line. (Bible Speaks Today).
People were looking for the Messiah, the Anointed One, but that’s as much as they could agree on. As we soon find out, no one got him exactly right. They were all surprised at how Christ revealed the Messiah to the world (except maybe Simeon and Anna).
As NIDNTT points out: The confession “Jesus is the Christ” formed the breaking point with the synagogue ([John]9:22), and followers of Jesus should therefore consider very carefully what constituted the core of their faith and what should be kept in mind in ongoing discussions with “the Jews.”
The remarkable thing about the word “Christ” is how quickly it transitioned from an adjective to part of Jesus’ proper name so that he quickly becomes to the New Testament writers, “Jesus Christ.” Paul writes:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4 ESV)
So by the time Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, Christ is synonymous as a name for Jesus.
To sum it all up then, Christ is a word that expresses that Jesus is “the anointed one” of God, who would have the special task of reconciling all people to God through his sacrifice on the cross, or as Paul puts it to the church at Ephesus:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:13–16 ESV)