The Christ Story

As it is commonly known the title Christ, which is the Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, literally means “the anointed one.” To anoint is to rub or smear with oil. Among other things, anointing was done as part of an ancient ceremony where a new leader was designated by having oil smeared on their head. In ancient Israel they also anointed the leaders of their nation including priests and prophets but “the Anointed One” became a title specifically used for kings. For example, David was famously anointed to be king over Israel in 1 Samuel 16.

Christ or Messiah is therefore a Jewish royal title, similar to “Nana” for Akan chiefs, “Caesar” for Roman Emperors, and “Pharaoh” for Egyptian Kings. Now God was the true king of Israel but he chose to rule his people through a human king. So the Christ (which was the title of the King of Israel) was specially chosen by God. The king was really what we would call God’s deputy since he ruled on God’s behalf.

God made a special promise to David, the second king of Israel, that his descendants would always rule Israel (2 Samuel 7.) In turn David’s family were to serve God faithfully. On account of that agreement the original covenant that God made with Abraham, the forefather of all Jewish people, had an extra feature (Genesis 12:1-3,15:1-21.) The divine promise to make Abraham’s descendants a blessing to the world would now happen through David’s descendants ruling Israel (Psalm 72.) David’s family did rule for a while but they, and the rest of the nation, were unfaithful to their agreement with God. So they were conquered and many were exiled. Some did return and rebuild their nation but they remained under the domination of successive foreign empires.

During that time a strong hope developed, as Jewish people reflected on their story, that God would one day rescue them from foreign rule and fully restore their nation forever. Many believed that God will use a great leader from the family of David to save them. This would usher in a new age where God would rule Israel and the world through that future leader. By the time of the New Testament, Christ had come to mean more than a just a royal title but a way of referring to that future ultimate king.

Jesus claimed he was that long awaited figure: the Christ, King of Israel (Mark 15:32; Luke 23:2.) The Roman Empire, which ruled Israel at the time, had a king: Caesar. They were not going to have a rebel king so they crucified Jesus, an extremely cruel and ghastly type of execution they reserved for rebels and traitors. Matthew tells us the Romans mockingly hung the charge for his crime over his head as they crucified him: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

This was definitely not what was supposed to happen. It was especially disappointing for Jesus’ close followers, who had believed his message that God was going to soon make Israel a kingdom again because God had chosen him to be king. Dead people cannot be kings. To his followers utter shock, God physically raised Jesus from the dead to never die again, the ultimate proof that God had indeed chosen him as Israel’s true Messiah. God had finally fulfilled his promise to David by raising his descendant Jesus.

God has defeated death in Jesus making him king of the world. His resurrection was the beginning of the new age of restoration Jewish people had hoped for (Acts 3:19-21.) So just as God had promised Abraham, Jesus his descendant is the ultimate blessing to the world. Those who faithfully submit to Jesus’ rule, receive renewal and new life from him. They are also guaranteed bodily resurrection, which is the ultimate salvation, just like their anointed king if they remain loyal to him. So when referring to Jesus, Christ is both his title and his name because there is only one true King of Israel and Lord of the world.

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