Jesus, the Christ and Messiah: What is in a Name: Part I
This series: Jesus the Christ and Messiah: What is in a name addresses and answers he most crucial issue in every person’s life. It brings you face to face with one of the most important questions for you to answer. And you will answer! It will be by doubt, default, delay, or deny! Your answer is critical for this life and the life to come.
The opening sentences presuppose several facts: Jesus was and is and He is the Christ and Messiah. The questions are age-old. Your answers are based on your view of God, self, and life. Such was the case during Jesus’ time on earth.
The term Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yeshua or Joshua and means Yahweh saves or Yahweh is help or salvation. It was a common name among the Jews in Jesus’ time; but by the end of the first century, the name Jesus had become uncommon as a personal name among the Jews.
The name refers primarily to Jesus’ person and His humanity. Its derivation is obscure, but it is agreed among most Christians that it is the personal name of the God-man Jesus Christ. That latter statement separates true Christianity from false religions. These religions deny the eternal, essential deity of Christ. Further, they deny that He has two natures in one person; He is fully God and fully man. This is the apostolic message (1 John 4:1-6).
According to Matthew 1:21 (She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins) and Luke 1:31 (You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus), Jesus’ name was determined by heavenly counsel and given by angelic instruction to Joseph and Mary respectively. The name also describes Jesus’ future task of saving His people from Satan, self, and their sins and sinfulness. The name points to His Person and to His mission and ministry.
Christ is the official name for Jesus Christ in His mission. It is the English form of the Greek Christos which is the Greek transliteration and translation of the Hebrew Mashiach – messiah – meaning anointed one. And or it is derived from the Hebrew verb masah meaning to smear or to anoint. There had been false Christs claiming to be the messiah, but there is only one true Christ.
The word Christ was not coined by the New Testament writers. They used the word and concept that was already in existence. The title “Christ” or “Anointed One” occurs about 350 times in the New Testament. But the term messiah occurs only twice, both in John’s gospel (John 1:41; 4:25). As mentioned above, it is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub or smear (something)” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone ceremonially for an office.”
The term Christ moves us into the concept of messiah and the idea of kingship and rule. Alongside the prophets and priests, God added a third type of leader – a king to rule over His people (2 Samuel 7:8-16). All prophets, priests, and kings were God’s appointee. Moses gave teaching about the prophet and king in Deuteronomy (13:1-5l; 18:21; 17:14-20).
The people of Israel had “physical eyes” and interpreted kingship as a physical land, rule, seed, and blessing. Moses anticipated Israel’s desire for a king like other nations. Their goal was to be like other nations! Gideon had refused kingship telling the people, The Lord will rule over you (Judges 8:23).
The people demanded that Samuel give them a king to lead them so that they would be like other nations (1 Samuel 8:4-5). They rejected Yahweh! But Israel was not any other nation and their King, Yahweh, was not like any other King!
The people looked for a king to deliver them into glory spelled their way. Their glory was that which the world offered defined with such terms as prosperity, peace, security, and comfort – the so-called “good things of life.” Their way was best! The idea is expressed as for me and to me. Moses and Joshua exhorted the people to remain covenantally faithful: Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Joshua 24:14-15. They did not!
Subsequently, it was prophesied that God world restore His favor to His people; He would renew His covenant by raising up a righteous king in the line of David and reestablish the people in a physical land (Genesis 12 and 22; 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Isaiah 9:2-7; 11;1-7; Ezekiel 34; Micah 5:2-6). The people had a messianic consciousness – they looked forward to the anointing of a physical king for a physical kingdom and all the benefits. They failed to understand the “deeper things.” They failed to understand God!
The biblical idea of the Messiah and His work is divinely revealed. The people must have eyes to see and ears to hear in order to receive, assimilate, and apply truth. The idea did not originate in human thought. The messiah was the Lord’s anointed – for God, by God, and to God. The Lord’s anointed included the king. King David was the lesser messiah. He pointed to Jesus the greater David and the true Messiah (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 21:41-44). Jesus would consummate the final establishment of a kingdom of justice, righteousness, and peace as God, King, and Judge. Kingship was and is Intratrinitarian in nature.
However, the word messiah occurs only twice in the New Testament: one: John 1:41 in which Andrew expressed to Peter the excitement of the discovery of the Messiah, the Christ; and John 4:25: Jesus revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman but she considered Him to be only a great prophet. However, we understand the passages as a continuation and an explanation of the Old Testament message: God sends Himself in His Son to bring a people to Himself.
1. Define the term Jesus.
2. Define the term Christ.
3. What is the significance of each?
4. How does the deity of Christ fit each term?
Jesus, the Christ and Messiah: Terms Defined Part II
This is the second in the series: Jesus the Christ and Messiah: What is in a name? Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah. Others had made and will make the claim of being the messiah but apparently no one else was making that claim during Jesus’ lifetime.
People have a standard and the standard has an origin. People judge and pick and choose according to a standard. The correct standard is essential for a correct interpretation of the facts. Moreover, everyone has senses and use them. People have sensual experiences. The people saw and heard Jesus. They witnessed miracles, wonders, and signs. Their interpretation of them depended on their interpretation of Jesus – who they thought He was.
The best the people could say was that He was a prophet and great teacher – one who taught with authority (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:27-29). Let’s remember that the Old Testament taught that if you see God – enter into His presence – you would die (Genesis 16:13; 32:30; 33:10; Exodus 24:10; 33:20, 23; Numbers 12:8; Judges 6:22; 13:22; Isaiah 6:1-5). The people were face to face with Jesus and they did not die. In fact, He looked like them! Their conclusion: He can’t be God! As many do today, they followed their sin-cursed reasoning rather than God’s truth.
The gospel writers and the apostles referenced Jesus as the Triune God’s Anointed One but as we shall see they missed the significance of the person and ministry of Jesus, the Christ and Messiah. Eventually, at Pentecost and beyond (perhaps in John 20), they had eyes to see and ears to ear! They understood! Truth impacted them and they were set free (John 8:31-32).
The term messiah had an eschatological significance. It referred to the king in the line of David, ruling in Jerusalem and anointed by the Lord through the priest. Isaiah used the term anointed only once and that for the Persian king Cyrus, the Lord’s anointed for His purpose (Isaiah 45:1). He was God’s chosen one. The use of the term messiah for a pagan king must have been a shock to the Israelites.
Moreover, toward the end of the Old Testament period, the term Messiah took on the meaning of the ideal king anointed and empowered by God to rescue His people from their enemies and establish a kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace (Daniel 9:25-26). Thus the idea of the title messiah wrongly centered on the physical, national, and political.
The people had a similar or greater shock when trying to appreciate Jesus who looked like an ordinary Jewish man as God’s Messiah who was the greater David! The term had been used for the patriarchs (Psalm 105:15) and King David (Psalm 2:2) as well as the coming Messiah (Daniel 9:25-26).
The political significance of the term centered on a warrior king. The messiah would destroy the world powers especially Rome and deliver Israel from her enemies and restore her as a nation. It was not blasphemy for a person to declare that he was the messiah.
As mentioned, the desire to have a king, savior, and deliverer actually traces back to 1 Samuel 8. Yahweh told Samuel that the people had not rejected him but Yahweh (1 Samuel 8:6-9)! Israel, unbelievers, and even believers still reject Jesus Christ as the reigning King now! The desire for a king traces back to the Garden; it is an aftermath of Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment!
The New Testament conception of the Messiah is developed directly from the teaching in the Old Testament. The Old Testament gives no clear development of the messianic expectation. However, better times were thought to be ahead for Israel as alluded to in such passages as Jeremiah 23:5-6; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 17:22f; 37:24f. In addition, the hope of a messiah from the line of David persists to this day in Israel.
The essential feature and fulfillment of the Old Testament picture of the Messiah is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s Anointed One prophesied in the Old Testament and in the Hebrew Bible to be the Savior and Deliverer of His people.
However, the phrase Savior of the world is used of Christ in the New Testament only by John (John 4:42: They said to the woman: “We no longer believe just because of what we have heard what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world) and 1 John 4:14: And we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world). The Romans called emperors savior of the world. The truth and fullness of who Jesus was – God – had not reached the hearts of the people.
The Old Testament refers to the anointing of the Lord in Psalms 2:2 and 45:7 (and to David in Psalm 18:50 and 132:10, 17) and in Isaiah 11:2 and 42:1. The New Testament refers to the anointing of the Lord in Acts 4:27 and 10:38. Kings and priests were regularly anointed in the Old Testament and the prophet as well although references to the anointing of prophets are much fewer (1 Kings 19:16; Psalm 105:15; Isaiah 61:1). The people did not draw the connection that the greater David is God incarnate (Psalm 110:1).
The anointing represented a transfer of the Holy Spirit to the now consecrated, set-apart person. Such was the case with Jesus: Isaiah 11:1-4; Matthew 3:16-17; 17:5). It was a visible sign of an appointment to an office and of the establishment of a special relationship between the person and God. Matthew 4:1 and Luke 4:1 speak of the Holy Spirit’s activity in Jesus’ life. The Spirit led Him into the wilderness to accomplish what physical Israel failed to accomplish.
Christ was appointed to His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King from all eternity but historically His anointing took place when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and when He received the Holy Spirit especially at the time of His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:32; John 1:32; 3:34).
People understood several terms such as Jesus, Christ, anointed one, son of David, and son of man. Yet the supernatural aspect of Jesus Christ as the God-man was non-existent for whatever reasons. The continuity of the Old and New Testaments awaited the New Testament writings.
Jesus came to His own people who rejected Him (John 1:9-11). He was not considered much: He was born in a third rate place; the people knew His parents, His family, and His origin; He was charged with being demon-possessed; and He looked like any other Jewish male (Mark 6:3; Luke 2:1-7; John 6:42; 7:27-28, 44, 52 – 1:46; 8:19; 9:29; Isaiah 53:3 – Psalm 22;6).
How do you answer: Jesus the Christ and Messiah: Who is He? Who is the real Jesus? As we shall discuss in the next section, Jesus posed the question to His disciples: who do the people say I am and to the disciples: who do you say I am. Later, Jesus posed the question to the spiritual leaders. The answers are interesting and instructive. The same question remains for you today: who do you think Jesus is and what is the significance of your answer in daily life?
1. What does the term messiah mean?
2. What expectations did Israel have?
3. What were some of the problems that the people had with Jesus? What is your reaction?
Matthew 16: Part III
This is the third in the series: Jesus, the Christ and Messiah: What is in a Name. Consider this point: as the true Messiah, Jesus held a unique and representative position both with regard to mankind and to God. In His ministry, Jesus probed hearts. He had a message and a ministry. He brought life-giving truth about the Triune God, mankind and individuals, the world, and God’s control.
The people were in trouble. They agreed but their definition of trouble and its solution differed from that of Jesus’ definitions. Jesus ushered in a radical, cataclysmic change that only He could accomplish for the Triune God (John 6:37-43) Truth, light, and life must replace falsehood, darkness, and deadness. How would He do this? The answer for them and us in every age: a proper understanding and worshipping of Jesus the Christ and Messiah.
The Triune God is all of these!
- Truth: The Father (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; Romans 15:8); the Son (John 1:14-18; 6:46; 8:31-32; 14:6); and the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 27; 4:6; 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
- Light: The Father (Psalm 27:1; 36:9; 119:18; Isaiah 58:8; 60:1-2, 19-20; Micah 7:8; Acts 17:25; 2 Corinthians 4:6; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 22:5); Jesus (Isaiah 9;2; 42;6; 49:6 – Luke 2:32 – 60:3; John 1:5, 8-9; 5;22; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36; Acts 3;15; 1 Corinthians 15:45; the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64; Ephesians 1;17-19).
- Life: The Father (Deuteronomy 30:20; Psalm 27;1; 36:9; Proverbs 14;27; Isaiah 42:5; John 5:21-26; Acts 3;15; 17:25); the Son (John 1:14-18; 4:10-14; 6:35; 5:21-26; 14:6; Acts 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:45); the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:63; Romans 8:2).
However, the people had themselves and had their idea of the problem. They were not the problem! It was Rome and Gentiles; they were the bad guys! John wrote that they loved the darkness and hated the light (John 3:17-21). The people knew their past history: they called to be God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:7-11; 9:4-6; 10:12-15). Israel in Jesus’ time had the memory of the great king David. They looked forward to their rightful place; but they reasoned it would not require a change in their thoughts, desires, and actions toward sin, self, God, and others.
Jesus began His ministry slowly even keeping a low profile. His first miracle was in relative obscurity (John 2:1-11). John wrote …He thus revealed his glory and his disciples put their faith in him. However, prior to this as a boy, Luke recorded Jesus teaching at the temple (Luke 2:41-50). Jesus was unique as was His teaching/message, but no one understood!
Jesus wanted to get to the heart of the matter which was the person’s heart (Proverbs 4:18-19, 23). In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus completed His discussion of the radical change He was ushering in. In verses 20-24, Jesus pronounced woes as He denounced the Jewish cities and people in which He had taught and performed miracles. They did not repent! They had a sensual experience extraordinaire but they did not experience Jesus the Person; they only witnessed His works.
However they did not experience Jesus (Psalm 34:8). Jesus mentioned two Gentile cities that were “bad” people (Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-28; Amos 1:9; Joel 3:6). Yet in their badness, Jesus said that they would have repented if Jesus had been there and performed the same miracles! He closes this section with mention of Sodom in the same vein. Israel was a non-repentant people throughout their history but the Gentiles were more theologically responsive!
Jesus then offered Himself in verses 11:28-30: come to me all who are heavy-burdened with your self-righteousness, self-exaltation, self-sufficiency, and pride. Come to me for rest and the comfort that comes from depending on me and what I am doing here: repent and believe the kingdom of God is here (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). No response of the people is recorded. The people knew that Jesus was no ordinary person. But is He the messiah? No. Certainly not! Moreover, He can’t be God! We already have Him!
Moving to Matthew 16:13ff, Jesus is in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. He approached the issue of His true nature by asking the apostles two questions. The location of the question-asking is interesting. Caesarea Philippi was prominent for its idol worship. Jesus was moving to the heart of the matter: the heart.
First, Jesus asked: who do the people say I, the Son of Man, am? Everyone seemed to know the term Son of Man. It was Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself. The disciples answered: they say one of the prophets including John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah (v.14). He then asked a second question: who do you – disciples – say Jesus is? Peter spoke for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (v.16).
Peter used the terms Christ and the Son of the living God for the person of Jesus. Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ meant that they understood Jesus to be the Messiah, the long-awaited Anointed One. Peter followed with the term Son of God. Did this mean that the disciples fully understood Jesus to be fully God and fully man? No. That reality awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus responded by telling the disciples that they got it! They got it not because of self but because of grace upon grace by the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not mention the Holy Spirit. His teaching on the Holy Spirit occupied much of His teaching the night before He died! Jesus gave a preview of the activity of the Holy Spirit by proclaiming that this great truth was revealed to Peter by my Father in heaven (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Jesus emphasized that wisdom comes from above (see James 1:5-8; 3:13-18).
The disciples did not fully understand how Jesus was filling this term with new meaning. At least two references shed light on newness and oldness. In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus explains true righteousness: Jesus filled full the Law by His perfect law-keeping; only God could give and keep the perfect Law with perfect and complete law-keeping! In John 13:34-35 Jesus speaks of a new but old commandment: the perfect law of love. The command to love God and neighbor was old; its newness rested in the Person and work of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit who love perfectly, completely, and comprehensively.
Jesus would follow with the “rest of the story:” As the true Messiah there would be trouble such that He would be perceived as a loser. What followed in Jesus’ teaching was the theme of the suffering but victorious Servant according to the Scriptures: He would be tried, and crucified. However the true Messiah is not only a crucified One but the risen and ascended heavenly-bound Messiah who would return (Matthew 16:21)!
Jesus was and is the Christ (Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:28-30). For the earliest believers this was tantamount to acknowledging that Jesus held a position equal to God. In fact, the unique position of Jesus presented in the New Testament is contrary to all Jewish views. He did not fit into their preconceived ideas of who and what the messiah was to be like. They rejected Him as they did Yahweh in the Old Testament. Jesus was on God’s agenda not the people’s agenda.
1. Review Matthew 11:20-24, 25-27, 28-30: what do you learn about the Messiah?
2. Review Matthew 16:13-16: Jesus asked questions to do what?
3. Did the disciples understand Peter’s statement and the reason for it? What do you learn?
Matthew 22:41-45: Part IV
This is the fourth in the series: Jesus, the Christ and Messiah. As I have written, the people were looking for a messiah from their perspective. Others had and would claim that title. Jesus did not “look the part.” However, Jesus’ definition of Messiah differed from the people’s understanding or more correctly their misunderstanding. The term carried theological weight but Jesus moved slowly as He instructed the people into truth – the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).
In Matthew 16, Peter acknowledged for himself and the disciples that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (v.16). However, Jesus acknowledged the source of such an answer: it is God’s self-revelation received by a changed heart as opposed to autonomous human reasoning. Jesus then moved to the establishment of the Church and its perpetual existence and well-being (v.17-20). This was an entirely new concept for the disciples.
In verse 20, Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. Jesus would make an open and public statement to the Jewish religious authority (Matthew 26:63-64: But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son God.” Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest interpreted this as blasphemy (v.65)! Jesus was equating Himself with God! Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah was a claim to have majesty and authority belonging only to God. Such was the case in Matthew 9 when Jesus healed the paralytic and forgave him. Forgiveness belongs only to God as Judge. The teachers knew Jesus was claiming equality with God. Jesus healed people on any day including the Sabbath. The spiritual leaders were horrified that Jesus did not keep the Sabbath according to their interpretation of Sabbath keeping (Matthew 12:1-12). They reasoned: the true messiah would not break the Sabbath!
Returning to Matthew 16 we find Peter, and I suspect all the disciples, revolting at the teaching that Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God would suffer, be tried before men as an ordinary criminal, judged guilty, be crucified, and rise from the dead (16:21-22). Peter rebuked Jesus! Jesus’ response: your rebuke goes back to the Garden of Eden and is a reflection of satanic reasoning. Jesus turned and rebuked Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (verse 23).
Peter just a short time ago acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. His rebuke of Jesus and Jesus’ rebuke of him showed that the disciples had ears and eyes but they did not hear and see as wise people and as they would after Pentecost.
Next, Matthew records Jesus interacting with the religious leaders in Matthew 22:41-44 (also Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44). This is an instructive interchange. Jesus is still probing hearts by asking questions. Questions generally prick the conscience and force people to declare themselves. The Pharisees were gathered together at the site were Jesus was teaching – the temple courts (Mark 12:35-37). He asked them a similar question as recorded in Matthew 16: what do you think about/what is your opinion about the Christ (the Messiah – the Anointed One)? Whose son is he? Jesus drew on Psalm 2:2 and Daniel 9:25. His answer reflects Psalm 110.
The question approached the issue of the Messiah as did the question addressed to the disciples in Mathew 16. Both questions lead to the same truth: who is the Messiah? Do you believe that Jesus is both God and man, one person and two natures. This is the crux of the gospel message. It is the crux of life: now and eternally.
Jesus did not let the spiritual leaders say one of the prophets. They answered as if it was simple: he is the son of David. This phrase, son of David, is a messianic title: Isaiah 11:1-3; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Matthew 1:1, 19; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9 = Ps 118; 22:41-45). However, they understood the meaning to be only political, physical, material, and national. Their yes meant: the messiah is the son of David. He is an earthly king and he will restore Israel to its former glory.
Jesus asked another question moving to the heart of the matter, their hearts: How is it that David speaking by the Spirit calls him Lord (Matthew 22:42). He quotes Psalm 110:1 and then asks: If David calls him Lord, how can he be his son (Mathew 22:45). Verse 46 says it well: no one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. The seemingly easy-to-answer first question took a different turn. It was now profound and startling.
David held a high place in the eyes of Israel. It was generally agreed that the Messiah, Israel’s anointed deliverer, would be a son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). David is the ancestor of the Messiah. Since David is calling the Messiah his Lord, then the Messiah is more than merely the son of David. He is his master.
Since David called his son – his natural physical descendant (the Messiah) – his Lord, it meant at least two things: the One to come would be greater than David was – the greater David; and the first would be possible only if the Messiah was more than a mere man – He would be God!
The answer to Jesus’ question can only be: He is both God and man! Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for finding fault with Him for accepting praises of those who call Him Son of David. Yet Jesus said that David called Him “my Lord.” Therefore the logical conclusion is this: whoever rejects Me is rejecting David’s Lord! Still Jesus does not openly tell the enemies that He is indeed the Christ. He reserved that statement for the high priest at His trial (Mathew 26:63-64) – see the third paragraph in this section.
1. There are many phrases: messiah, Son of David, Son of God, Jesus, and Christ. These meant different things to different people depending on their reference. How does Jesus’ use of Psalm 110:1-4 help explain the truth that Jesus is God Incarnate?
2. What was required to hear and believe Jesus?
3. How would you respond to Jesus’ teaching method of asking questions?
Jesus, the Christ and Messiah: What is in a Name: Part V
This is the fifth in the series: Jesus the Christ and Messiah: What is in a Name. There was much ignorant confusion regarding Jesus as well as arrogance. Terms and phrases were common such as Jesus; Christ (Jesus seldom used this term because of the misunderstanding of its meaning among the Jews); Messiah, Son of Man, and Son of David.
As I have discussed the name Jesus related to His Person and humanity; the official name Christ and Messiah, the Anointed One, referred to His mission and ministry as God’s appointee; the Son of Man was Jesus’ favorite self-designation occurring about 81 times in the gospels and only once the speaker was not Jesus (John 12:34); and the Son of David – the term is considered a messianic title for the coming one – the new David. The phrase Son of David and Messiah were considered to be referring to the same person.
In pre-Christian literature, the designation “Son of David” occurs as a title for the Messiah only in the non-canonical Psalm of Solomon 17:21. It is clear that during Jesus’ ministry, the phrase “Son of David” and the term Messiah were synonyms.
Those facts help explain why the spiritual leaders were indignant when children honored Jesus with the title “Son of David” (Matthew 21:15-16). At that time, Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 as the explanation of the children’s actions.
In Matthew 18:1-4 and 19:12-15, Jesus praised the children’s response to Him as a guide (Matthew 18:1-4; 19:12-15). He called the people: be as these little children! The action of the children contrasted sharply with that of the adults. The children were more theologically correct than the spiritual leaders!
The first century Jew had the understanding of the messiah as king. This followed on the heels of King David who was one of Israel’s favorite sons. The Jews of Jesus’ day looked for a physical messiah in the line of David. They longed for the glory days of King David. The common conception of Israel centered on relief from physical bondage; they had no spiritual bondage.
They had their religion, their position, their laws, and their law-keeping. Israel wanted relief but not from the bondage of sin, self, and Satan (Luke 4:18-22). They did not need the type of freedom that the true Messiah offered them.
Jesus’s unique Person, position, and work as given in the Gospels were contrary to all Jewish views. The Gospels presented a far different Messiah than what was portrayed in Israelite tradition. That God made Jesus both Lord and Christ was a challenge not only to the Jewish people but to the whole world (Acts 2:36).
The gospels presented a much different picture of the true Messiah than understood and believed by Israel. Moreover, Jesus was not only the Messiah of Israel, He was to be the Savior of the world – not simply Israel (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14).
Moreover, Luke in 2:11 refers to Christ as Savior which explains Isaiah 43:3, 10-11(v.3: For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… v.10-11: You are my witness declares the Lord and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord and apart from me there is no savior: but also see Isaiah 44:6-8).The Father and Jesus are one – Jesus is God! The Messiah is God! God is Savior!
Moreover, Paul equates the Savior with God the Father and Jesus in several places (Titus 1:3-4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6). A Messiah who looked like any other Jew and who would and did suffer and die the ignominious death of a cross could not be God let alone Israel’s deliverer (Isaiah 53:3-6). They were wrong and groups who deny the deity of Christ and His divine messiahship are no friends of Jehovah.
The term Messiah appears only twice in the New Testament as an explanation of the Greek word “Christ” and both refer to Jesus (John 1:41; 4:25). By the time Jesus was born, however, a number of passages in the Hebrew Bible were understood to refer to a specific anointed person who would bring about the redemption of Israel, and that person was called “the Christ” (Acts 2: 24-36 especially verses 27, 31). There were messianic expectations among the Jews and the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were looking for the messiah (John 4:24). The Jews looked for him and expected him to perform great miracles (John 7:31). He was to be the son of David (Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 20:30; 21:9; 22:42). And like David, he was to come from Bethlehem (John 7:41-42) (John 7:41-42 ). Even criminals condemned to death on a cross knew about a Christ and asked Jesus if He was that person Luke 23:39).
1. Review the concept of the Messiah. Who is he throughout history?
2. Christ is the Anointed One of God who fulfills the Triune God’s redemptive purpose of saving a people for God. How do you explain the fact that Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King? Start by explaining the meaning of each term.
3. The Messiah is the Son of Man and the Son of God. This fact brings together Jesus’ humanity and deity and highlights His triumphant power and authority. How do these truths help you understand and appreciate God’s work of redemption and life as a saved person?
Matthew 12:15-21: Part VI
This is the conclusion of the series: Jesus, the Christ and the Messiah. In the series, I have reviewed the terms Jesus, Christ, messiah, Son of man, and Son of David. Each of these terms carry their own weight but there is much confusion regarding their meaning. What should be clear is the fact that the terms are embedded in the whole of redemptive history. The New gives clarity to the Old and the Old points toward the New.
Within Israel as well as outside of it, there was still an obstinate unwillingness to accept and declare that Jesus is truly God and truly man. Jesus came into the world to accomplish the redemptive task established in eternity past by the Triune God (John 6:37-43). Just as king David was God’s man to establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness, so Jesus was the greater David. He established not only a kingdom and family of God but He reigns as the final Prophet, Priest, and King.
The word “Christ” is used to identify Jesus of Nazareth as that person whom God anointed to be the redeemer of humanity. Thus it often appears as a title in the phrase “Jesus the Christ” (Acts 5:42; 9:22; 17:3) or “the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28). Peter referred to Him as “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)
What was Jesus, the Messiah, like? One place to consult is the Old Testament especially the book of Isaiah. We find that Matthew 12:18-21 quotes from Isaiah 42:1-4:
v.18: Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will proclaim justice to the nations;
v.19: He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
v.20: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out till he leads justice to victory;
v.21: In his name the nations will put their hope.
Matthew’s gospel was primarily to a Jewish audience with the purpose of presenting Jesus as the Kingly promised Messiah who was the fulfillment of numerous prophecies. He wrote as a Jew to Jews. He quotes the Old Testament again and again and his book properly follows the book of Malachi. Matthew’s book is firmly rooted in the Old Testament as he brings God’s redemptive purpose and fulfillment to the forefront.
Earlier in the chapter Jesus withdrew from the synagogue where He had healed the man with a shriveled hand. But many followed Him and He healed all their sick (12:15). In verses 16-17, Jesus warned them not to make Him known and gave the reason: so that the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah would be fulfilled. Matthew 8:4 addresses the issue as well. Jesus did not want to be known simply as miracle worker or a political, national, and physical deliverer.
What was the prophecy? It testified to the present and future reality and character of the Messiah and His redemptive inside-out work (see Matthew 11:28-30). Isaiah described Jesus as the one fully and intimately qualified to save his people! He was the One in whom God the Father delights and rejoices in (see Matthew 3:16-17; 17:5). Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Isaiah and Matthew describe the Messiah by way of contrast with the religious leaders. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 where He compares Himself as meek and humble (see the blog series: Come to Jesus). Isaiah and Matthew describe Jesus as full of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-4) and beloved of the Father. What a contrast to the Pharisees!
As a result, Jesus conducted Himself in an entirely different manner than the religious leaders. In contrast to the self-serving and self-righteous religious leaders, Jesus, the true Servant-King, acted in a way contrary to the usual perception of a king by Israel. Israel wanted physical action to remove the country from physical bondage.
However, Israel’s bondage was far greater and deeper than the nation imagined or wanted to imagine. Jesus humbled Himself and came to serve rather than to be served (see Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:34-45; 1 Peter 5:1-4). He gave truth in His Person and in His thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. Giving truth was a wonderful and compassionate activity.
The gospel of Matthew, written primarily to Jews, emphasized another contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders. Matthew quotes Isaiah to indicate that one of Jesus’ purposes for His coming was to bring salvation to Jew and Gentile. Jesus had a mission to the Gentiles and kingdom inclusion as given in verses 18 and 21. God’s people included Gentiles (Matthew 2:10-11, 4:17ff; 12:15-21; 28:16-20). The Pharisees would not recognize Jesus’ mission to the hated Gentiles as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies.
Jesus functioned the way He did because He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was more concerned with pleasing His Father and ministering to the sheep than having glory during His time on earth (John 4:31-34; 10:11-20). He had sheep other than Israel. Jesus was a Burden-lifter in so many ways.
Verse 20 of Matthew 12 describes the sheep and Christ’s response to them – the manner of His Messianic ministry. Isaiah and Matthew used figurative language to describe the sheep (people) as bruised reeds and smoldering flax. They were miserable, burdened, and heavy-laden as a by-product of the teaching and the accepting of a false gospel (again see Matthew 11:28-30).
The teaching of the Pharisees and its acceptance had “yoked” the people as they tried in vain to present themselves as their own lawkeepers par excellence. Personal law-keeping, especially perfect and perpetual law-keeping, was a burden that no mere man could carry and gain victory. The sheep were oppressed by the teaching of obtaining self-righteousness through personal law-keeping.
All who move along this path fail miserably and are miserable as a result. They attempt to deceive the Lord as did the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. They only deceive themselves! Paul and Peter pick up this picture of down-trodden people and the Messiah’s type of ministry in 1 Thessalonians.5:14 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
Love of the brethren – one another – is a distinctive mark of the Messiah and His followers. It was a new but old command (John 13:34-35). Its newness rested in the Person of Jesus Christ. We must be careful here. Many believe that love is allowing the sheep to do their own thing. Saying no and whoa are often the most loving thing the Church and believers can do!
In essence, Jesus had a real concern for people that we might call compassion and tender concern. One can sum up the teaching as described above in one word – love: Matthew 22:37-40.
1. Review the context of Matthew 12:15-21.What do you learn by contrast regarding Jesus, the Christ and Messiah?
2. What are your thoughts of Christ, God’s Chosen Servant? What are your thoughts of the Pharisees as given in the passages?
3. Read Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45 and answer how they help define God’s picture of the Messiah.
4. What must you do to consider people bruised reeds and smoldering flax? How will you apply 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and Galatians 6:1-5?