In this time of Advent leading up to Christmas, many are asking questions about who Jesus is. This post is intended as an introduction to His title and mission as Messiah. This word can be quite mysterious to people, so a little unpacking and a few examples will be given to help shed light on the subject.
First of all, Mashiach (Messiah) comes from the verb mashach in Hebrew and means ‘anointed’; Christos is the Greek translation of this term. It is found in the ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh, known as the Septuagint (LXX), and in the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek. Anointing means to pour oil over someone or something and has very special significance in the Bible. Anointing in the Bible is an action that signifies the person or object has been chosen and dedicated for a special task.
This is what we mean by terms like ‘consecration’ or ‘hallowing’, in more old-fashioned language: it means to make something holy. Biblical holiness is complete devotion in love and obedience to God and His will. With this understanding we can see why Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God. He was chosen by God the Father before time began to be the Saviour of the world. He accepted this mission and fulfilled it according to His love of God and His love of man. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘Not my will, but Yours, be done’, indicates His holiness, His love: He was completely devoted to God, even to the point of death on a cross, to make atonement for the sins of mankind, so that man could come back to God. The Father’s will is that none should perish, but all come to repentance – in other words come home to him.
To see how all these points intersect, I suggest that the reader looks at a Gospel account from the Garden of Gethsemane through to the Crucifixion and Resurrection (e.g. Mark 14-16) and the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the Crucifixion, where God calls Jesus His Servant, indicating Jesus’ complete devotion to His Father’s will (Isaiah 52-53); this complete submission by Jesus to the Father’s will is addressed again in Philippians 2. For God’s desire that we should not be estranged from Him, but be reconciled, any number of New Testament passages might be cited, but these are among the most popular: Luke 15, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:18.
Now for some examples of anointed people in the Tanakh (the Law and the Prophets); three roles are signalled by anointing: Prophet, Priest, King. Jesus uniquely combines these roles and is the supreme example of all of them; He is THE Anointed One. He is the seal of the Prophets, the King of Kings, and our Great High Priest. God’s Word through His servants, the prophets and Apostles, testifies concerning Jesus’ fulfilment of this anointed roles.
First the Tanakh examples, and then the New Testament ones. At Exodus 40:9-11 God commands the prophet Moses to anoint the objects of worship and sacrifice associated with His Tabernacle (tent) that went with the Israelites in the wilderness. This signifies that these objects were devoted to God: they could not be used for ordinary purposes, but only in the true worship of God.
At 1 Kings 19:16 God commands the prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor in the office of Prophet. The role of the prophet is to speak God’s word to the people, be they Jews (as in the case of Jeremiah) or Gentiles (as in the cases of Daniel and Jonah). In this sense the prophet is ‘chosen’ or ‘anointed’ by God to be His spokesman, and it is important that the prophet be dedicated to God: he must speak ALL of God’s word, not leaving anything unsaid, and he must say it and act it in the manner God commands.
At 1 Samuel 16:1-13 God commands Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel because Saul has gone astray. Samuel goes down to Bethlehem (where Jesus was born) and, under instruction from the Holy Spirit, anoints David King of Israel (David was an ancestor of Jesus). Saul was the people’s choice; David was God’s choice. The role of the king was to act as God’s viceroy over the people. As such, the king had to be a man after God’s own heart (as indeed David was): he had to have a true sense of justice and righteousness, as well as mercy, and a proper understanding of war. In fact, it was so important to God that His kings rule wisely and justly that He included a code of conduct for them in the Torah: Deuteronomy 17:14-20. The king, like a shepherd, was responsible for protecting, feeding, and guiding the people: they came to him as supreme judge, helper, and military leader.
At Exodus 29 God gives the prophet Moses instructions for anointing Aaron (Aharon, Haroon), the brother of Moses, as High Priest, and Aaron’s sons as priests. The role of the priest was to represent the people to God through sacrifices offered. Sacrifices were offered to make atonement for the sins of the people. This term ‘atonement’ is tricky, and doesn’t always help in conversation. It is in fact a combination of two English words ‘at’ and ‘one’ with ‘-ment’ added to make it into an abstract noun. The basic idea is reconciliation: two parties have become estranged and they must go through a process of reconciliation in order to share and enjoy each other’s company again – as if the mistake and its consequent guilt and shame that separated them had never happened. In Hebrew, the main original language of the Tanakh, there are several concepts that are linked in this theme. In terms of the priest’s function, ‘covering’ is the main one (caphar). Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is more literally the ‘Day of Covering’: on this day the High Priest sprinkles blood on the Ark of the Covenant. The idea is that God sees the blood, and it covers the sin of the people so that the sin is seen no more. God in His Word declares, ‘The life of every living thing is in the blood, and that is why the Lord has commanded that all blood be poured out on the altar to take away the people’s sins. Blood, which is life, takes away sins.’ (Leviticus 17:11, Good News Translation).
Jesus is the fulfillment of all these roles. As the Prophet, the one Moses prophesied would come (“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear”, Deuteronomy 18:15) he brought the greatest revelation of God to mankind. He was not only the ‘Messenger of the Covenant’ (Malachi 3:1) but He was the Message itself; He is the Word of God come in the flesh (John 1:14-18; Revelation 19:11-16). As the King of Israel and King of Kings, He is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:1-17; Luke 22:26-33); there will come a day when He will sit upon the throne of His father, David, and rule the world with an iron sceptre from the Holy City in Israel. As our Great High Priest Jesus shed His blood to take away our guilt and shame and bring us back to God. The Epistle to the Hebrews, often knowns simply as ‘Hebrews’ discusses this idea at length, but it is beautifully expressed by the Apostle John (Yochanan, Yahya) at 1 John 4:10: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ (NKJV)
I invite those who want to know more about Jesus the Messiah to spend some time in prayer and reading the New Testament this Advent and Christmas season. Peace be with you and God bless.
St Bosco said:
Wow. You must be smart
Thank you for your beautiful summary! So Good! May you be richly blessed!!!
Thank you so much Nicholas. I always enjoy what you write, but I loved this one especially 🙂 x
You’re welcome 🙂 I hope it will be of use to seekers.
Pingback: Things Are Never What They Seem | New Heaven on Earth!
NJB – I liked the post but have couple of questions one being on the translation below:
“God in His Word declares, ‘The life of every living thing is in the blood, and that is why the LORD has commanded that all blood be poured out on the altar to take away the people’s sins. Blood, which is life, takes away sins.’ (Leviticus 17:11, Good News Translation)”.
I recall reading a paper surveying ‘The meaning of the word blood in scripture’. The conclusion was that the word ‘blood’ in relation to atonement was always used in the sense of ‘the blood poured out’ and was a reference to the death of the sacrificial victim rather that its life. It referred to the life given up in death. The translation above would imply that the atonement is the fruit of Christ life rather than His death, which I consider is mistaken.
I have also hearer it said that the word atonement in the sense of a covering for sin meant rather more than that. It was described as a cloth covering a mess absorbing it and clearing it away – rather than the thought of just covering over it. To your knowledge is there any truth in this or any indication that the word atonement carries such a meaning.
I would be interested in your comments.
Regarding Lev. 17:11 a couple of interesting points. The ‘life’ that is in the blood is nephesh in the Hebrew (soul), rather than hayim (life). לְכַפֵּ֖ר ‘to make atonement’, literally ‘to cover’ – lecapper (from caphar). יְכַפֵּֽר ‘[that] makes atonement’ – yecapper.
I think the basic idea involved here is that innocent life is taken away (death) in exchange for the life of the person who offers the sacrifice. The innocent animal dies so that its blood is poured out on the altar to take away sin, and its flesh is eaten as a sign of life and restored fellowship between God and man. This is where the various types of sacrifice enter in. In a holocaust/whole burnt offering, no flesh is left over. But in other types of sacrifice the priests and the offerer eat part of the animal. In this sense they are ‘sharing a meal’ with God, symbolising reconciliation, while the blood shed and the flesh eaten show that death was necessary to take away the sin of the offerer and the offerer by eating the meat gains life (biology term proteins). Thus the innocent has died so that the guilty might have life.
The broader context is the command not to eat blood (which is preserved for the Christian community in the Jerusalem Council in Acts). Put this all together and we see that the Gospel story was built into even the way we eat. Sacrifice and eating go together in both OT and NT.
I don’t think that answers all your questions, but it might be a useful starting point.
Again thanks for the Hebrew definitions. I think we agreed then that it was the blood poured out i.e. the Death of Christ that provided for atonement rather than His life albeit that His sinless life (typified in the perfect OT Sacrificial victims) qualified Him.
Just out of interest my first 11 years as a believer were spent among the Plymouth Brethren, OT tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices, types and shadows was an area well studied.
Do you consider that the prohibition on eating blood is obligatory for Christians. I wrote an analysis on the Jerusalem ruling for a JW: I was talking with.
The council of Jerusalem put out four restrictions that actually come down to three.
Refrain from fornication
Refrain from Blood and things strangled
Do not eat things offered to idols
Paul upholds the first which is clearly a moral constant but discounts the third, although tell he us to observe it if offends our brothers conscience.
The question is what was the purpose of refraining from blood? I think the context of Acts 15 seems to be to keep harmony between Jewish and Gentile Christians at that time rather than a continuing obligation upon us for all time.
That’s a difficult one to answer because of different views about the authority of the Council. Personally I am uneasy about eating blood, but that might make me one of the weaker Christians in Paul’s discussion about conscience and food offered to idols. Blood representing the person (its life) is quite a big theme so it causes me to pay some attention to the commandment: Abel’s blood cried out to the LORD after Cain murdered him.
I have known other Christians who would not eat blood product mainly those in Pentecostal denominations. Personally I do not eat such products due to a dislike of them rather than any conviction against the practice.