The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
At first glance, it might not catch our attention that Matthew says Jesus Christ. After all, those are both very common words we see in the Bible.
Jesus is his name. We’ll actually see him given that name at the end of this chapter in connection to his birth. Verse 21, the angel tells Joseph to name the child Jesus. It’s a name that means savior, or the Lord’s salvation.
Jesus is his name.
Christ – a title
And Christ is his…
Officially, Christ is a title.
Jesus is the Christ. Christ comes from the Greek Christos which means anointed.
Now in our day, Jesus and Christ are often said together, almost like a first and last name.
But something that’s interesting is the names Jesus and Christ together are actually very rare in the gospels. The gospel writers use Jesus. They use Christ.
But Jesus Christ?
For his entire gospel, Matthew does it only twice. This first verse and again in 1:18. We see Jesus Christ twice in John. Once in Mark, and never in Luke.
But then it becomes common in Acts – written by Luke, and we see it throughout Paul’s letters. Part of this seems to be a simple evolution that happened in the early years of the church where Jesus Christ increasingly became used of as the full name for Jesus.
And I point this out because one of the potential consequences of this is to lose sight of the significance of Christ as a title for Jesus.
As I said, Christ comes from the Greek word Christos which means anointed. The Latin word for anointed is where we get our word “Messiah.” So Christ and Messiah are saying the same thing.
And anointing refers to when people would be anointed with oil in the Old Testament. We would see this treatment for kings and priests, and sometimes prophets. Sometimes objects were even anointed with oil. The anointing was meant to symbolize purity, consecration to God, and the Holy Spirit.
So when Jesus is called the Christ, at heart, that’s pointing to his status as the anointed one.
And we see times in the gospels where Christ is clearly being used with as a title.
Examples of Jesus called the Christ
To briefly give a couple of texts which illustrate this idea.
In Luke 2, when Jesus is brought to the temple as a baby and a man name Simeon sees him. He’s an old man who’s waited years for this moment.
Luke 2:26: And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Matthew 16:16, Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And the idea of a Christ coming into the world was something that the Israelites were anticipating in the first century.
There had been others who had claimed to even be the Christ.
Before Jesus came into the world, there were various expectations of an anointed one and what he would be like. There were views of an anointed one, of a Christ who would come from the Davidic line to save the Jews.
To give a present day illustration.
It’s kind of like different views of end times theology today. There are all sorts of differing views for the second coming of Christ and what that will be like, when that will happen.
Well in the first century, there were lots of different ideas for what the first coming of the Christ would look like.
Some thought that the Christ would be a great king, others thought he would be a great general who would lead Israel in a military victory over Rome. Some thought of the Christ as a great moral figure of keeping and interpreting the law of Moses.
There’s some truth to all of those, but perhaps not in the ways people expected.
Some thought that there would actually be two anointed ones, that is to say, two Christs. Texts from Qumran, which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found indicate a belief in a Davidc Christ who would be a king of the Jews and a Priestly Christ from the line of Aaron.
And given the long-awaited for, long hoped for, Christ who was to come, Matthew opens his gospel by saying that this man Jesus is the Christ.
He’s the Messiah, he’s the anointed one.
And we’ll see in his ministry that Jesus will embody all of the offices who were anointed in the Old Testament. Prophet, priest, and king.
And so it’s fitting that Matthew begins his gospel by pointing to Jesus as the Christ. He is the long-awaited Messiah for whom Israel had hoped.
Jesus is a prophet in that he speaks the word of God.
He’s also a priest. Priests in the Old Testament were the ones who performed the sacrifices and served as the intermediaries between man and God. They had extensive moral requirements and religious rituals to be able to do this.
But Jesus is the perfect high priest, he’s the greater priest because by the nature of his moral righteousness and divine nature, he is able to serve as the true intermediary between us and God.
Jesus is a prophet, a priest, and as we’ll see in another post, he’s also a king.