“You know of Yeshua of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)
Most people know the man from Galilee as Jesus Christ. Others call Him Jesus the Messiah.
But what exactly does it mean that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah?
He wasn’t the only messiah in the Bible.
Who were these other messiahs, and how do they help us identify Jesus as the prophesied Messiah who would come to save the world from their sins?
What Is a Messiah (Mashiach in Hebrew)?
In Hebrew, mashach means to anoint. It can also mean to rub, to smear, or even to paint (Jeremiah 22:14).
By itself, mashach is not a very special word.
But by adding the smallest of the Hebrew letters, yud – י —, we get the Hebrew word, mashiach — מָשִׁיחַ, which means anointed one.
The Hebrew word mashiach transliterates into English as messiah.
But why do we rarely see this word “Messiah” in most English New Testaments?
Because the Greek word for Mashiach is Christos and when transliterated into English, it is Christ.
Some people think that Jesus’ last name is Christ, and that his mother Miriam (Mary) and father Yosef (Joseph) are Mr. and Mrs. Christ.
This may sound funny to you, but there really are many Christians who think that Christ is His family name.
So, when we read the words “Jesus Christ” in Scripture, we are really reading Jesus the Messiah.
The Messianic Jews in Israel call Him by His Hebrew name and title, Yeshua haMashiach (ha in Hebrew means the).
What Does the Word “Messiah” Really Mean?
A mashiach (Hebrew) or messiah (English) in the Bible was an anointed one.
Every king from the line of David, for example, was considered a mashiach.
A king went through a symbolic anointing (pouring on his head) of purified olive oil mixed with four spices or fragrances: pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh bosm, and cassia.
God said, “This will be My sacred anointing oil for the generations to come.” (Exodus 30:31)
This precious oil could not be used to anoint anyone in the greater Israelite community. It could only be applied to people specially chosen by God for His service. (Exodus 30:32–33)
This is likely because the act of anointing kings in the line of David with holy oil often preceded the actual presence of God’s Spirit.
We see this when the Prophet Samuel anointed the shepherd boy David, and “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” (1 Samuel 16:13)
Mashiach is not a word reserved solely for the expected Savior of the world.
It appears 39 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament), primarily referring to priests, prophets, and kings.
These persons were often anointed in public ceremonies, such as when Moses convened the congregation of Israelites to witness the anointing of Aaron as the High Priest (Kohen haGadol), so that the community would know that he was specifically chosen by God to be set apart for His service. (Exodus 8:1–13)
Yeshua, likewise, was anointed in a very public ceremony at the start of His ministry as the High Priest, Prophet, and King of Kings, not symbolically by oil but by the Spirit of God Himself:
“As soon as Yeshua was baptized [immersed in the Jordan River], He went up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him.
“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’” (Matthew 3:16–17)
Let’s see how the anointed offices in Israel of priest, prophet, and king were ultimately fulfilled in Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
The Anointed Prophet as God’s Spokesperson: Navi haMashiach
Hebrew Prophets spoke on behalf of God, so they needed to be set apart as holy.
Not all prophets were symbolically anointed by someone, but each one was chosen by God to receive the presence of His Ruach (Spirit):
“[The Israelites] made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets. So, the Lord Almighty was very angry.” (Zechariah 7:12)
Because God’s Spirit was with His chosen prophets, He called them His anointed ones (also written as מָשִׁיחַ (mashiach), since there is no plural form of this word in Hebrew):
“Do not touch My anointed ones; do My prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15; 1 Chronicles 16:22)
A Jewish Person could identify who were God’s anointed prophets because they accurately spoke the words of God into the present situation of the day.
Many also foretold future events (prophesied) and performed miracles.
Moses did all three, but we’ll focus on speaking forth the words of God.
On Mount Sinai, Moses received the Word of God (Torah) and shared it with all the Israelites, who heard and obeyed it.
God established earthly consequences of curses for anyone who disobeyed His Instructions (Torah) and blessings for those who obeyed them.
However, for the past two thousand years, God established eternal life for everyone who would obey a future prophet.
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites,” God told Moses.
“And I will put My words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command Him. I Myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name.” (Deuteronomy 18:18–19; Acts 3:22–23)
To clear up any doubt about who this prophet is — the one in whom we must listen and obey — God Himself (YHVH) said on the Mount of Transfiguration:
“This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)
Often, Yeshua (Jesus) said He only spoke what the Father told Him. And He warned the People:
“There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on My own, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me to say all that I have spoken.
“I know that His command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is what the Father has told Me to say.” (John 12:48–50)
Yeshua could make such a bold statement about Himself because He is more than a prophet: in the beginning He was the Word (Memra in Aramaic) that was with God and was God (John 1:1).
The Anointed Priest as God’s Intercessor: haKohen haMashiach
The first people in the Tanakh (Old Testament) whom God appoints to be anointed are the kohanim or priests — beginning with Aaron, the first High Priest (Kohen haGadol). (Exodus 40:12–15)
The priests needed to be set apart as holy, anointed men because they interceded between God and the people by performing the sacrifices that atoned for their sins.
However, these priests were human and subject to sin like everyone else.
“If the anointed priest [Kohen haMashiach] sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.” (Leviticus 4:3)
This sin offering by the High Priest had to be performed year after year.
But when the Spirit of God descended on Yeshua as a dove, God Himself anointed Yeshua as His Divine High Priest who became the final sacrifice which was spotless (without sin) to atone for the sins of the Jewish People and the whole world.
The Book of Hebrews says:
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Messiah [Christos in Greek] was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:27–28)
The Anointed King as God’s Sovereign Ruler: Melech haMashiach
When Yeshua arose from the water of the Jordan River, YHVH Himself anointed Him to become King of all kings on earth.
In Samuel 19:21, King David is called the Lord’s Anointed — Mashiach YHVH — מְשִׁ֥יחַ יְהוָֽה, and as we’ll see, so is Yeshua.
There is a clear sense of both David and Yeshua belonging to YHVH, as seen in this Messianic psalm:
“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed [Mashiach].” (Psalm 2:2)
This beautiful connection to Yeshua is written in the last book of the Bible:
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah [Christos in Greek], and He will reign for ever and ever.’” (Revelation 11:15)
One day every person will bow their knee and every king will submit his kingdom to the sovereign reign of Messiah Yeshua as their King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We have only shown a brief glimpse into each of Yeshua’s prophetic roles as the Anointed One, the Messiah.
Each one, however, will be addressed in greater depth in future articles and in the Jewish and Christian Exploration Bible that we are developing.
Our prayer is that Jewish readers will cry out as the disciple Andrew did: “We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ).” (John 1:41)