Identifying the Christ
MORE than 1,900 years ago a fisherman by the name of Simon Peter confessed to Jesus of Nazareth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) Was Jesus indeed the Christ? A great many people of all walks of life have believed that to be so. But why? Is it not reasonable to conclude that there is evidence of this that convinced them and that convinced Peter?
It was over 500 years before Peter’s day that a man by the name of Daniel was inspired by God to foretell the coming of the Christ. What he wrote is some of the evidence that proves Jesus to be the Christ. He said: “You should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.”—Dan. 9:25.
These sixty-nine weeks were not literal. If they were they would have ended 483 days after the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls in 455 B.C.E. But Christ did not appear at that time. So they would have to represent a longer period of time. If we substitute a year for each day, according to God’s direction at Ezekiel 4:6 regarding prophetic time, we have a period of 483 year.
According to Daniel’s prophecy, then, the Christ would be due to arrive 483 years after 455 B.C.E., which would be 29 C.E. Now, when we look back to that year, we find Jesus of Nazareth came to John the Baptist at the Jordan River and was baptized.
When John raised Jesus from under the water the heavens were opened and God’s spirit, like a dove, came upon Jesus. John heard a voice identifying Jesus as the Christ, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17) A similar expression was used prophetically regarding the promised Messiah, or Christ, at Isaiah 42:1.
Here, then, was a testimony by God to the fact that Jesus was the Christ, and it was at the exact time when Daniel’s prophecy said that the Christ would appear. Knowing this, would not Peter have good reason to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ?
AT THE TIME OF HIS BIRTH
It was thirty years before his baptism that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. At that time an angel announced to shepherds: “There was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Before he was born another angelic announcement said: “You must call his name Jesus.” (Matt. 1:21) With angels thus identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, did not Peter have strong reason to recognize him as such?
But someone might ask how a baby could carry the title “Christ,” because it means “Anointed One” and there is no record that Jesus as a baby was anointed by God. Actually the title was not given to him at that time. It comes from the Greek word Khristos, which means “Anointed One.” Messiah means the same thing. In view of this meaning, Jesus could not bear the title “Christ” until he was anointed by Jehovah’s spirit at the time of his baptism in 29 C.E.
But why did the angel at the time of Jesus’ birth speak of him as Christ if he did not become such until thirty years later? The announcement apparently meant that Jesus was the one who was to become Christ the Lord.
When speaking with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s fountain, Jesus, for the first time, admitted that he was the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Usually he let people conclude this for themselves from the evidence they could see.
The woman knew from the prophecies that the Messiah, called Christ, was foretold to come. So she said: “I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one arrives, he will declare all things to us openly.” Then Jesus replied: “I who am speaking to you am he.” (John 4:25, 26) His admission was confirmed by prophecies that he fulfilled.
As such prophecies foretold regarding the Messiah, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a virgin. (Mic. 5:2; Isa. 7:14) He was of the tribe of Judah and the family line of King David, the son of Jesse. (Gen. 49:10; Isa. 11:10) He was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. (Zech. 11:12) To the house of Israel he became a stone of stumbling. (Isa. 8:14, 15) He was pierced, died a sacrificial death to carry away our sins and was buried with the rich. (Isa. 53:5, 8, 9, 11, 12) These are only a few of the many prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus.
HOW THE TITLE WAS USED
The apostle Paul was a Bible writer who placed the title “Christ” ahead of the name “Jesus.” In older manuscripts Luke uses it, once, in Acts 24:24 (NW; RS), when speaking about Paul. This focused attention primarily on the office and secondarily on the office holder. The title “Christ” emphasizes the official position Jesus holds as the Anointed One of Jehovah God, an honored position not shared by those of his followers who also were anointed by God’s spirit.
Unlike religious leaders of Christendom who like a series of titles before their name, Jesus never had titles multiplied before his. The Bible never uses a combination of titles such as Lord Christ Jesus or the King Christ Jesus. When more than one title is used they are separated, as in “Lord Jesus Christ” and “Christ Jesus our Savior.” It may appear to some that 2 Timothy 1:10 is an exception to this, because it reads: “our Savior, Christ Jesus.” But in the Greek text the titles “Savior” and “Christ” are separated by the pronoun meaning “of us.”
The overwhelming evidence in the Bible proving that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Christ, supports Peter’s confession of him as such. Furthermore, Peter was an eyewitness of what Jesus did and said and of what happened to him in fulfillment of the prophecies. So he said: “No, it was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we acquainted you with the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it was by having become eyewitnesses of his magnificence.”—2 Pet. 1:16.