What difference does it make to say Jesus is the Christ? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
When we say Jesus is the Christ, we mean that He is the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. Christ is the Greek rendering of the word for Messiah after all. Yet what difference does this make to those of us who are not Jews? Does it really matter? Is this just a nice little add-on for the Christian faith?
Considering that it’s called “Christian” which includes Messiah in it then, we should be thinking it might be important that Jesus is the Messiah.
In the Old Testament, we see a story talking place. Things are good at the start, and then there’s a problem. Sin enters into the world through Adam and the rest of the Old Testament is dealing with this problem. God’s chosen means of dealing with it is to call out a people and He starts with a man named Abraham. From there, we really start seeing the prophecies of a future redeemer.
The Jewish people then were waiting for that ruler to come and many times might have tried to make such a ruler, but none could be that person. King Uzziah, for instance, though he could be a priest as well as a king. No can do. Only the Messiah can be a priest and a king. David was a righteous man, but never tried to be anything more than a king, though he was a prophet also.
As time went on, the wait grew more and more. In the intertestamental literature with the writings of Second Temple Judaism, we find even more hope for the coming Messiah. We see more and more about what the Messiah is predicted to be. Since there writings are not Scripture, naturally some things get wrong, but not all of them.
When Jesus shows up and claims to be the Messiah, it means that God has come to His people in His person. It means that God is going to reign as king and Jesus will be the king through whom He reigns. It means that the problem of sin is finally being taken care of and that Jesus is ruling once and for all.
To remove Jesus as Messiah is to remove the connection with the promises of Israel and to have Jesus be a figure who just seems to show up suddenly and happens to be God. Too many Christians are really unfamiliar with their Old Testament and think only the New Testament is important. This is a grave mistake. The Old Testament was in fact the Bible of the early church. From Paul’s repeated references to it as authoritative even in Gentile churches, we should understand that Gentiles were quickly learning the Old Testament. From the obscure references that Paul makes at times, we should understand that they understood it well. We should sadly understand that they likely paid more attention to it than we do.
This should also remind us that anti-semitism has no place in a Christian lifestyle. Christians are not to hate Jews at all and sadly, many times in church history they have. Jews and Gentiles alike need a redeemer, but it would be tragically wrong to label Jews as Christ-killers. Only one generation killed Christ. Unless the Jew you’re talking to is around 2,000 years old and lived in Israel at the time and participated in the desire to kill Christ and has not repented, avoid the Christ-killer claim.
Instead, Christians should love the Jews. They gave us the Old Testament that we use today and they gave us our Messiah as well. Many readers know that I do not support Israel today for theological reasons but rather for political and economic reasons, but that does not mean that I do not care for the Jewish people over there. They are our friends against the onslaught of Islam over there and I have no problem with missionaries reaching out to the Jewish people. (Or the Muslim people, or any other people, for that matter.)
When we see Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, we see what He came to do and why that it matters. We see an emphasis then on His being the current king. We often talk about what a friend we have in Jesus, but we dare not treat Jesus like any other relationship. Too often I think we have crept into a kind of “Buddy Jesus” mindset. Jesus is the sovereign Lord of the universe and you are to treat Him with respect and awe.
The word Gospel is meant to convey good news, and indeed we do have good news. It’s not just that you can be forgiven of your sins, which is good news enough in itself, but it’s also that Jesus is king of the universe right now and based on His resurrection, we can be sure that one day He will deal with evil once and for all.
Messiah is not an add-on for Jesus. It is an essential.