Have you ever wondered why the holiday on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus is called Christmas or why followers of Jesus are traditionally called Christians? What is so significant about the title Christ? Contrary to my understanding as a kid, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is a highly significant title given to Jesus throughout the Scriptures. In fact, it is the title that Jesus gladly accepted as divinely inspired by God when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ in Matthew 16:13-18. But what does it mean?
Christ is the Greek word for Messiah which is Hebrew for “anointed one”. Over the course of the Old Testament, and in the period leading up to Jesus’ birth, there arose an expectation that there would be someone to come in the future, a messiah, that would fulfill all the Old Testament promises. He would be an “anointed one” because he would be someone specially selected to bring about the salvation of God’s people. There were three offices in the Old Testament that were traditionally anointed with oil as a symbol of their divine appointment. These three offices include prophets, priests, and kings. Upon examination of Jesus as the Christ, one quickly realizes that Jesus fulfills each of these anointed positions more perfectly than anyone could have ever anticipated.
Christ the Prophet
There is a sense in which we cannot know God truly unless he speaks to us. We are finite, created beings, infinitely smaller than the God of the universe, and our sin has in many ways left us in the dark in regard to who God is and what God is doing in the world. If we are to know God, he must intentionally and specifically speak to us. In the Old Testament, God spoke through men that he rose up as prophets. Throughout the ages, God raised up prophets to speak words of instruction, words of warning and words of comfort but none were greater than Moses. Through Moses, God saved his people from slavery, parted the Red Sea, fed the nation with bread from heaven, delivered the 10 commandments and provided the rest of the Old Testament Law. But during Moses’ prophetic ministry, he made a very peculiar promise that stuck with the people of Israel all the way up to the birth of Jesus.
Deuteronomy 18:15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
Hundreds of years past by and the people of Israel never saw that prophet who was like Moses. There were a lot of prophets, but even after Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the rest, there was still this sense of looking forward to the coming of this prophet who would be like Moses.
When Jesus arrived the scene, he opened his mouth and began to teach in ways that no one had ever heard before. Most prophets would begin their prophetic messages with, “thus says the Lord”, but Jesus just “said it” as if he was the Lord. The crowds immediately recognized that Jesus was different. Matthew 7:28-29 tells us, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Furthermore, God had done incredible things through Moses like parting the red sea and raining food from heaven, but then Jesus arrives and he doesn’t just part the sea, rather he walks on top of it. The winds and the waves obey him. He multiplies food from heaven to the thousands. Naturally, the people start to wonder whether this could be the prophet promised by Moses (John 6:16; 7:40-41).
Jesus was more than a prophet of God. He was God as a prophet. On this occasion, God did not send someone to speak on his behalf. God came himself. He spoke the words of God with unique authority because he was God’s Word in the flesh (John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14).
Hebrews 1:1-4 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Christ the Priest
If Jesus was just a prophet, however, then Christmas is not worth celebrating. It is not enough for us to know more about God or his Word. It is not enough for Jesus to give us more instruction. The problem with humanity is not just that we are ignorant of God’s Word. The problem of humanity is that even when we know exactly what God has instructed, we rebel against him. We need more than just somebody to tell us that we are sinners. We need somebody to take away our sins! In the Old Testament Scriptures, there was an awareness of the separation sin caused between God and Man. God ordained a ceremonial system of worship designed to convey God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness for the world to see. He commanded a temple to be built where God’s holiness would manifest itself in a particular room called the Holy of Holies. The Lord called only certain men to act as priestly “anointed ones”, who could enter the holy place and only once a year, and only to offer a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of the people. There grew a deep longing for an ultimate anointed priest who would restore the world and save the people from their sins for all eternity.
Jesus came to accomplish the work of the priest that the Old Testament sacrificial system only foreshadowed. He was the anointed one, the Christ, but he did not come to sacrifice the blood of goats or bulls. He came to sacrifice himself for the sins of his people. Jesus came to Earth at Christmas for the purpose of going to the cross on Calvary. God had to become a man so that he could take on himself the full punishment that man deserved. Just as a priest would go into the temple to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel. Jesus goes into the true heavenly temple with God the father with the sacrifice of his own blood and like a high priest he represents his people and intercedes for the forgiveness of their sins.
Hebrews 7:23-27 The former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Hebrews 10:11-12 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
Christ the King
Perhaps you like the idea of Jesus being the anointed prophet and the anointed priest. If we could just accept those two offices without our compliance the message of Christianity would be great. If we could just take Jesus’ words as suggestions and accept Jesus’ salvation while we continue to live for our own little kingdoms we would be happy. We will never enjoy the benefits of the previous two offices, however, if we do not believe and embrace this third office – Christ as King. Mankind has been rejecting God’s rule as King since the beginning and we all strive with all our might to set up our own little kingdoms that only lead to disaster and death. But God promised that one day there would come someone from the line of King David who would sit on an eternal throne and rule over a never-ending Kingdom.
Luke 1:32-33 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.
On Christmas day, the Kingdom had come because the King had arrived. When Jesus was born, a new era began for which we still await its completion. Jesus commenced a takeover where God’s Kingdom would enter and totally overrun the kingdom of man. It will be a Kingdom where there is no more war, death, sorrow, nor crying (Rev. 21:4-5). There will be no more curse of sin (Rev. 22:3) and no more separation from God (Rev. 21:3). It will be a kingdom only for those who repent of building their own little kingdoms and turn to trust Jesus Christ in faith as their new and eternal King.
This is why we sing with such Joy at Christmas. Christ has come as the great anointed one. He is our perfect prophet, priest, and King. Read along as John Frame summarizes in his bookSalvation Belongs to the Lord:
“Jesus, the Lord, holds the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. As King, he is the mighty Creator, who rules heaven and earth and ensures the redemption of his people. As Prophet, he is God’s very Word, who teaches us God’s truth. As Priest, he offers his perfect life as a sacrifice for the sins of his people and ever lives in resurrection glory to make intercession for them”
For the Audio of this teaching click here.
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Pastor Brandon Langley
St. Rose Community Church