The OFFICES of JESUS: How did Christ come to serve?
The term “Christ” is an English transliteration of the Greek title Christos; which, in turn, comes from the Greek Chrio (“to anoint”). It means, “anointed one.” This Greek title, Christos, was designated as the translation for the Old Testament Hebrew word with the same meaning. And in the Hebrew, the term “anointed one” is literally, Mashiah (which is, in turn, where we get the title “Messiah”). To put it another way, the term “Messiah” is actually a Hebrew word (Mashiah), which means “anointed one”; and “Christ” is the Greek translation. So, both “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “anointed one”. It's just that the Hebrew term is Mashiah and the Greek translation for the Hebrew word is Christos.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, particular individuals were to be anointed with oil for one of three distinct purposes: God was commissioning this individual to service as either a prophet, a priest, or a king. God had made clear in the Law that priests were to be consecrated with oil at the beginning of their service (Exodus 29:7; 30:30). And though it wasn't explicitly commanded in the Law, the Lord later makes it clear that kings and prophets were to be anointed in the same way(1 Samuel 9:16;10:1; 16:13; 1 Kings 19:15-16; 2 Kings 9:1-3). This anointing served as a testimony of God's calling to the particular office an individual was being commissioned, and it symbolically represented the provision of God's Spirit for the wisdom and power needed for faithful service to the Lord. In many ways, this is exactly the function that ordination serves now in the new covenant. But though there were many priests or prophets who were ordained at any given time, the term Mashiah—or “anointed one”—was reserved for one person in particular. The Mashiah-priest was the High Priest (cf. Leviticus 4:3, 5,16; with 21:10); just as the Mashiah-king was the only king (cf. 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 1:16). The term Mashiah, “anointed one,” was very specific, and it was reserved for The Priest among priests, and for the only and rightful King of God's people. And it's for this reason that this same term, Mashiah, also came to describe the unique, divinely commissioned Anointed One still to come (Psalm 2:2; 132:17). This coming Mashiah was the hope of God's people from the very beginning. They knew One was coming who was anointed above all the rest by God himself (Psalm 45:6-7). For though many served as prophets, priests, and kings in Israel—they all looked forward to the Anointed One yet to come.1
When Jesus began His public ministry and was given the opportunity to preach in the synagogue, He took the scroll that was given to Him, found the place that He wanted, and began to read these words from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Isaiah 61:1-2). Luke then tells us: “And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'” (Luke 4:17-21). In Jesus' first recorded sermon, He's telling us exactly who He is. How could He have made it any clearer? Jesus was declaring that He is God's Anointed One.
Indeed, Christ had been freshly anointed just prior to this; at the baptism of John. But it wasn't John who anointed Jesus. For Scripture had to be fulfilled, and as the passage in Isaiah reminds us, God's true Mashiah was to be anointed—not by another man—but by God himself (cf. Psalm 45:6-7). In the same way, the High Priests and kings who had served as pictures and types of God's true and coming Mashiah were anointed with oil; a symbol of God's Spirit. But in Matthew 3:16, we're told that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit himself, when “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him” (cf. Acts 10:38). Jesus is God's Anointed One. He is the Mashiah. And He is the One whom God has anointed prophet, priest, and king of His people.2
A) JESUS is God's PROPHET: Most of the passages in the Hebrew Bible that refer to Mashiah are speaking of either the High Priest or the Anointed King. But Mashiah was associated with the office of prophet as well (Psalm 105:15). And the role of a prophet was to speak the Word of God. This is why we find the prophets constantly declaring: “Thus says the Lord. . .” (Isaiah 43:1). The prophets expounded the true meaning of the Law and called God's people to live accordingly, submitting their lives to His revealed will. Their message was one of salvation and judgment—salvation for those who demonstrated true faith and repentance, but judgment for those who refused to listen to the voice of the Lord. There were many prophets in the old covenant, but we're told that the greatest of them was Moses. At the end of his ministry, Deuteronomy 34:10 tells us: “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses. . .” God would speak His Word to Moses up on the mountain, and he, in turn, would come down to deliver God's Word to His people. But Moses himself prophesied of another prophet yet to come who would be greater than him. In Deuteronomy 18, he said: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” And again, “The Lord said to me. . .'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.'” (vv15-19). Who is this prophet God would raise up, who would speak God's words, and to whom we must listen? God himself tells us at the Mount of Transfiguration. For when Peter offers to make booths for Moses and Elijah, who had appeared to them, a cloud formed and a voice thundered from heaven, declaring of Jesus: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35). Jesus is God's Anointed Prophet, who, like Moses, came down in order to speak God's Word, in His name, to His people (John 5:43); performing also signs and wonders to testify He had come from God (John 5:36). His teaching wasn't His, but the One who sent Him; for He spoke only the words that were given to Him by the Father (John 7:16; 12:48ff). And Jesus didn't only proclaim the word of God, He himself was and is the Word of God; for in Him the Word of God has put on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Moses foretold that our eternal destiny hinges entirely on our response to God's Prophet. And Jesus tells us, Moses was speaking of Him (John 5:46; Acts 3:22ff).3
B) JESUS is God's PRIEST: As God's Anointed One, Jesus isn't only commissioned to the office of Prophet—He's also consecrated as the Lord's Great High Priest. But Jesus' role as Priest would take on a unique function that was distinct from his role as Prophet. For indeed, if the Lord Jesus fulfilled His work as Prophet primarily in His life—then He accomplished His role as Priest predominately in His death. The High Priest was the only one who had access to the holy of holies, and even he could enter only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, in order to atone for the sins of God's people. He brought the blood of the sacrifice with him and sprinkled it seven times on the mercy seat (which was a slab of gold that rested on the ark of the covenant). It was at the mercy seat that God met with the High Priest (Exodus 25:22), and it was in and through the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat that the sins of God's people were atoned for (Leviticus 16:15ff, 30). Jesus is both the sacrifice and the priest. As the lamb of God, He offered up His body once for all as a propitiation through His blood; and as our High Priest, He has ascended into heaven—the true holy of holies—in order to present himself to God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:23-24). And Jesus is both the priest and the mercy seat. For not only did He present His own blood to God as our High Priest, but He himself is the sprinkled mercy seat through whom we now have free access to God. Indeed, it was only the High Priests who were able to enter the holy of holies under the old covenant; but we are now beckoned to come boldly into the very presence of God, because God meets with us in and through Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). In the former times, the High Priests entered into the holy place year after year; but Jesus dealt with our sins once for all when He offered up himself (Hebrews 7:27; 9:26). And having ascended to heaven, He has taken His blood within the veil (Hebrews 6:19), where it now perpetually cries out to God on our behalf (Hebrews 12:24). And even Jesus himself cries out to God on our behalf. For having finished His work of atonement, He now engages in His priestly work of intercession (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). In the old covenant, the High Priests were taken only from Aaron's descendants, and they all eventually died. But as David looked ahead and spoke of the Christ, he prophesied that it would be different for God's Anointed One. In Psalm 110:4 he says, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'” Unlike the other priests, Christ's priesthood wouldn't come from Aaron; indeed, like Melchizedek, His priesthood began long before Aaron existed. And Christ's priesthood will never end, for He serves as God's Priest forever.4
C) JESUS is God's KING: In His life and ministry, Christ served as God's Prophet. In His suffering and death, He engaged as God's Priest. But it was after Jesus' birth that magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-2). The magi's question reminds us that God's Anointed One would not only serve as a prophet and priest, but also as a king. Many years before, the Lord had told David that He would raise up one of his descendants after him and that He would establish his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). God was announcing that His Anointed King would come forth from David's line. The prophets later used the imagery of a garden to declare the same truth: “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1). But though Isaiah describes this King here as “the stem of Jesse,” he goes on to later describe this King as “the root of Jesse” (v10). God's Anointed would come forth from David, but He would also exist before David. And in Psalm 110:1, we learn that this Anointed King wouldn't only be David's son—but that He was also very much David's Lord. When Samuel was sent, as the last of the judges, to anoint God's chosen king, the one whom the Lord instructed him to anoint was different than he had expected (1 Samuel 16:6-7). In the same way, when John was sent, as the last of the prophets, to bear witness to God's Anointed One, he testified of Jesus, saying: “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33-34). John's testimony here that Jesus is “the Son of God” brings everything together for us. He's referring back to Psalm 2, where we learn that God's Anointed wouldn't only be David's son—He was and is the very Son of God (vv1-7). This is how the Christ is both the stem of Jesse and the root of Jesse. And it's how He would come from David's line, and yet, at the same time, be David's Lord. And so, when John testifies that Jesus is the Son of God, he's declaring that Jesus is the Son of David—who is the Son of God—who is God's Anointed King. Jesus is the Lord's Anointed. It's He who is “the Son of the Most High”; it's to Him that the Lord has given “the throne of His father David”; and it's He that “will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” whose “kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Jesus is the Christ; and as such, He demands our allegiance. As the closing words of Psalm 2 exhort us: “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way. . .How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”5
As Jesus stood before His accusers, on the night before His sufferings, there's a starling exchange that takes place between the high priest and himself. We read of it in Mark 14:61-62: “the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, 'Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' And Jesus said, 'I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.'” Jesus was finishing His earthly ministry the very same way He began it. For at the beginning of His public ministry, He had testified He was the Lord's Anointed (Luke4:16-21). Now, as He makes His final public appearance to Israel, He testifies to the same truth. Jesus is the Christ. He is the Lord's Anointed Prophet, whom God raised up like Moses, who spoke God's Word in His name to His people. He is the Lord's great High Priest, who offered up His own body once for all as a sacrifice for sin, and has taken His blood within the veil, where it ever pleads to God on our behalf. He is the Lord's Anointed King, the son of David and the Son of God, who will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and whose kingdom will have no end. But as Scripture tells us, it was “necessary for the Christ to suffer” before entering His glory (Luke 24:26). And so, Jesus suffered as a priest, when false witnesses rose up and accused Him in His priestly work, wherein the temple of His body would be destroyed and rebuilt after three days (Mark 14:57-58). And Jesus suffered as a prophet, when the men who were holding Him in custody beat Him and were saying,“Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” (Luke 22:64). And Jesus suffered as a king, when the soldiers put a purple robe on Him, and “after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head. . .and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:29). Indeed, it was necessary for the Christ to suffer. For just like Moses, God's Anointed Prophet would be rejected when He first came to His people (Acts 7:25); and just like Aaron, many of the leaders of the congregation would gather themselves together against the Lord and His Anointed Priest (Numbers 16:11); and just like David, God's Anointed King would be hated and hunted before ascending the throne. But having ascended to heaven, Christ has now taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God; where He continues to serve as God's Anointed until the day that He comes again in His glory. For as our Prophet, Jesus continues to be our teacher, revealing to us the whole will of God; as our Priest, though He's finished His work of atonement, He yet continues to intercede for us before the Father; and as our King, He governs and protects us from all our enemies, until the day that we too will reign together with Him.6