Jots and Tittles: Messiah

It’d be easy to think, when you first read the Gospels and Epistles, that when God became a man about 2000 years ago and walked along the dusty roads of Israel, He was known by the first name ‘Jesus’ and the surname ‘Christ’.

But that’s not the case. ‘Christ’ is a title meaning the anointed one. It’s a Greek word that corresponds to the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ which also means the anointed one. Anyone who was ‘anointed’ had gone through a ceremony where they’d been dabbed with a specially formulated fragrant oil, often on their earlobe, thumb and big toe. Such a ceremony was reserved for raising up a king, a priest or a prophet and appointing them to their given role.

We often think the Jews of the first century were expecting the Messiah to come and sweep the Romans back into the sea. In part they were, but it wasn’t that simple. Based on a prophecy in the first chapter of Zechariah (verses 18–21), they were actually anticipating more than one Messiah. They eagerly looked forward to a royal Messiah, who would be called ‘Son of David’. And they also keenly anticipated the emergence of a priestly Messiah, who would have the title the ‘Righteous One.’ But that wasn’t all! They thought that, in addition, there would be a war Messiah who would be known as ‘Son of Joseph’. It was believed the war messiah would be the one who was going to take on the Romans, smash their hold on the nation and drive them back to where they came from.

By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish people were looking for a mighty liberator to take them into battle as well as a king whose wealth would dwarf the riches of the Roman Empire. They certainly weren’t expecting that all three Messiahs would be the same person!

No one was expecting a king whose kingdom was not of this world. No one was expecting a priest of the line of Melchizedek and not the lineage of Aaron. No one was expecting a war Messiah whose battle strategy was: ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Matthew 5:44 NKJV)

Jesus was a very different kind of Messiah—He was an Anointed One so unusual that even His own disciples didn’t know what to make of Him. Simon, who was bold enough to declare that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, then quickly told Jesus off for explaining that the Messiah had to die!

‘What about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in Heaven…’ From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must… suffer many things… and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Far be it from You, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!’

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’

Matthew 16:15–23 BSB

Jesus is a Messiah who is totally surprising, totally unexpected and totally upsetting to those who have their own idea of who He should be. He is King of kings and Lord of lords—in His own way, not in ours.

About the author

Anne Hamilton

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