Names are an interesting thing. I really enjoy a good name, not that I have ever been all that great at remembering them. Recently I had the privilege to go to my nephew's college graduation and I found myself really enjoying the guy reading the names. I even started to play a little game in my head where I would try to pronounce the names before he got to them to see if I was getting the right. I was even really disappointed when one of the names, a real tongue twister, didn't get read. I wonder if you share my fascination with names. Have you ever thought about where different names come from or what they mean? If you are a parent you have at least put some thought into naming your child. Perhaps it was a family name. Our son Denver, for instance, is named for my great grandfather, and our daughter Anna is both named for family members and for the prophets in Luke's gospel account. No, she is not named after the frozen character. Names today, at least in the west, rarely carry anything more than sentimental weight. But this has not always been the case. For instance, many of our last names come from the professions that our ancestors had, such as Smith or Cobbler. But what about the name of our Lord and Savior?
The Name That Is Not A Name
A couple of weeks ago we also talked about names and specifically about the significance of the name Jesus. This week we are going to take about the title that is often thought of as a name. That is the title of Christ. To be clear at this point Christ is not Jesus's last name, it is one of his titles he is Jesus the Christ. Our question today asks;
"Why is he called "Christ", that is anointed?" (Heidelberg Catechims Q.31)
In the question itself, we get the meaning of the title Christ. It means anointed, or the anointed one. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Massiah. They both mean the same thing. It may surprise you to know that Jesus is not the only one referred to as christ in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 24:6, you will find David refers to Saul as the Lord's christ. But there is a difference between using the title to refer to Saul and using it to refer to Jesus. Can you think of why that might be? Simply put there are many who are anointed, but not everyone is anointed to the same thing. Zacharias Ursinus, the author of the Heidelberg Catechism, understood this difference. In the answer to the question, we are to understand what Jesus was anointed to.
"Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in that salvation, he has purchased for us." (A. 31)
The difference between Saul and Jesus is the role and extent. Saul was anointed a king, but a king only and of only one nation. Jesus is the anointed King of Kings. He is the anointed High Priest who makes intersections for his people continually before the Father. More than that he is also the anointed Prophet and teacher who finally, once and for all, fully revealed to us the will of God, that is the scriptures. Jesus is called Christ because he is the most exalted and highest anointed of all. He who made all of creation came into that creation to save a people for himself from their sin.
Why We Are Called Christians
Sadly today the word Christ carries little weight, even when it is attached to the name Jesus. It is used as a curse and a byword. It is attached to all kinds of ungodly ideas, to the point that saying you believe in Jesus almost carries no meaning because, Muslims, Hindus, and many others who claim no religion at all say they believe in Jesus. It is not enough to say you believe in Jesus. We must understand who we are talking about and for that, we need to understand the importance of the title Christ. That is why we are called Christians and not Jesusians. We follow the Christ. Not just any Christ but the Christ who is our Prophet, Priest, and King. The Catechism tells us that we are called Christians;
"Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of his anointing; that so I may confess his name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him: and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life and afterwards I reign with him eternally, over all creatures." (A. 32)
We called ourselves Christians not only because we followed Jesus the Christ, but because when we are made new creations, we are made new in Christ and are his eternally. He has claimed us by his blood and created us anew so that we might one day live with him forever.
There are many today who will say things like, I don't need all that theology, just give me Jesus, or it's not a religion, it's a relationship. All of these cliches demonstrate a fundamental ignorance of what it means to be a Christian. You cannot have Jesus without theology, because you have to say who Jesus is. It is not enough to worship any Jesus, there is only one who is worthy of worship. Same thing with religion and relationship. Yes being a Christian is about a relationship with God, but it is also about worshiping the one we are in a relationship with. Religion describes the practice of that worship. If you have a relationship with Jesus without religion, you do not have a good relationship with Jesus. So, understand the meaning of Christ and know what a privilege it is to be known as a Christian. But also seek to grow in that. Grow in the knowledge and understanding of who Christ is and what he has commanded us. Trust in the one who is our perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.
Soli Deo Gloria