The Names of Jesus: Christ

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-18).

Contrary to pop-culture’s belief, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is a title that means “anointed one,” and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah.” It is a title with historical, political, and theological significance.

To be anointed means to have oil rubbed on one’s head, and it signifies being set-apart for divine use. David was anointed by the prophet Samuel to show that he was chosen by God to be king. Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests in Exodus by being anointed. Jesus being called the Christ means that he was chosen and set apart by God to be our king and our priest, to do a specific task.

The Christ/Messiah is a central theme throughout the Old Testament. God promises his people that he will send a savior, a king, a sacrifice to atone for their sins once and for all. Jesus fulfills all of these promises. It wasn’t in the way they expected, but Jesus frees God’s people from the clutches of sin and death. He bridges the gap between God and man. He brings peace, justice, mercy, and life to our broken world.

In the passage above, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of all these promises. Peter is the first one to acknowledge this outloud, and it is a significant turning point for Jesus and his disciples, and their ministry. It is upon this confession, the one that we join in confessing today, that Christ builds his church.

Jesus being the Christ is the most important truth of our lives. If we really believe that he is set apart by God to be our mediator, our savior, and our king, it changes the way we exist. We don’t need to be afraid of man-created power structures or our own imperfections. We can rest in Christ’s sovereignty and share in goodness and life.