The Meaning of “The Christ”
At the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel, he immediately, even abruptly, states that Jesus is the Christ: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Mark also begins downloading, as it were, the meaning of that statement by adding the explanatory phrase, “the Son of God.” This helps form our thinking about what it means that Jesus is the Christ. To declare Jesus as the Christ is to believe he is the Son of God, God’s one and only Son (see also John 3:16).
The title “Christ” invokes the weight of the entire Old Testament, indeed all Scripture. In fact, it’s one word that encapsulates all of the Bible’s teachings about God’s promised savior and everything that the Bible reveals about Jesus. Knowing this gives us insight into two truths. First, when we trace the meaning of the word “Christ” back to its origins, it takes us back to the Old Testament Hebrew word for “Messiah.” “Christ” comes from the Greek New Testament word that translates the Hebraic Old Testament word for “Messiah.” Both terms literally mean “the anointed one.” A king was understood to be the anointed one in ancient times. As such, to confess Jesus as “Christ” was to declare that he was God’s anointed one, the king of God’s kingdom. “Christ,” then, means God’s anointed king
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The second insight we receive from digging back into the Old Testament roots is from Mark 1:2-3, which reveals more of what Mark 1:1 means when Mark’s words declare Jesus to be the Christ. The next two verses repeat the words of two Old Testament prophets (Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3). Mark, the writer of this Gospel, is showing us, as his readers, that Jesus fulfills these Old Testament prophecies about the Christ. This truth is a game changer. It immediately awakens us to the reality that with the coming of Jesus, Old Testament prophecies and promises about the Christ had begun to be fulfilled by him. His fulfillment of these two prophecies in Mark 1:2-3 indicates that Jesus fulfills other prophecies about the Christ—indeed, all of them.
There are hundreds of prophecies and allusions to the Christ in the Old Testament. As they were inspired to write the New Testament, the apostles went to great pains to point out that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills all Old Testament prophecies about the Christ. For example, in Luke 24:44-49, Jesus explained his resurrection to his disciples by referencing how everything written in the Old Testament—“the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms”—showed that “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” To proclaim Jesus as the Christ, then, is to also understand that Jesus is the one about whom all Scripture is written and the one who fulfills all Scripture.