What Does Christ Mean?
The Hebrew word meaning the same thing is Mashiach, or as we know it—Messiah. So Christ is really more a title than it is a name, although the Bible uses it both ways. For example, the Bible often refers to Jesus by name as “Jesus Christ,” just as we do in modern usage (see Matthew 1:1, 18; Mark 1:1; John 1:17; 17:3; Acts 3:6; Romans 3:24, etc.).
But it also speaks of Jesus as “the Christ,” meaning “the anointed one,” the Messiah. When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). At Jesus’ interrogation by the Jews just before His crucifixion, the high priest demanded, “Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63). And Luke records that on one occasion when Jesus cast demons out of individuals, the demons cried out, “ ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God!’ and He [Jesus] rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ” (Luke 4:41).
Jesus Christ: The Anointed One
So Jesus Christ combines His name (Jesus) with His title (Christ), meaning Jesus, the anointed One, or Jesus, the chosen One. Jesus is His human name as announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31), and Christ is His title, as the chosen, anointed Son of God.
The Old Testament predicted that God would send a chosen one—the Messiah—to save the world from sin. As early as the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that a “seed” of the woman (a descendant) would come someday and destroy Satan and sin (Genesis 3:15). The psalms of David and the prophecies of Daniel described the work and coming of the Messiah whom God would send to save His people from their sins (Psalm 16; 22; 45; 110; Daniel 9).
The Jewish people knew the Messiah was coming, but they misunderstood what He was coming to do. They believed the Messiah—the Christ—would come to set up a kingdom on earth and deliver them from their Roman masters. But Jesus Christ came to deliver them from a bondage much worse than their bondage to Rome. Jesus came to deliver them—and us—from the terrible bondage to sin.
Anointed to Set Captives Free
At the beginning of His ministry on earth, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and read the Scripture for the day.
Luke says, “And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:17-21).
Jesus read these words from Isaiah 61, a prophecy of the coming Messiah, and then He said that He was the One to whom this prophecy referred. That He had been anointed to preach the gospel of salvation. That He was the Christ, the anointed One.
Anointed with Oil and the Holy Spirit
In the Old Testament, those who were set apart by God for positions of spiritual or political leadership were anointed with oil as a symbol of their authority. Oil was poured on the heads of priests, kings, and prophets to indicate that God had chosen them and consecrated them for the work He had given them to do.
The Bible records two times that Jesus was anointed with oil (Matthew 26:6, 7; Luke 7:37, 38). But more importantly, Jesus was anointed by God for His role as “the Christ.” The Bible says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
As “the Christ,” Jesus was God’s anointed One who fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, the chosen One who came to save us from sin, and the One who has promised to come again to usher in His everlasting kingdom.