The New Testament provides many titles for Jesus of Nazareth. He is Emmanuel, Lord, Rabbi, and Son of God among others. However, Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Christ, the most frequent and arguably the most significant designation given to Jesus, in Matthew and Mark’s gospel accounts.
Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Mark 8:27-30 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Christ, meaning anointed one, refers to one who is set apart by God. God promised the ancient Israelites a Messiah (the English translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, derived from masach, which means to anoint, hence the New Testament Greek word Christos) who would deliver them from their sins. In the Old Testament, God’s anointing was given to three distinct offices: prophets, priests, and kings. Prophets spoke the Word of God, priests made intercession for God’s people, and kings ruled over God’s chosen nation.
These three offices, commonly known as munus triplex in Latin, help us understand what Scripture means when it refers to Jesus as the Christ. This Holy Week, we honor and remember how Jesus fulfills and unifies these three offices through His precious death and glorious resurrection. For in Christ, the Perfect Prophet, the Great High Priest, and the King of Kings, by grace through faith, we have been made partakers of His reward which is everlasting life.
The Perfect Prophet
In the Old Testament, a prophet was the mouthpiece of God. The prophets of old called God’s people to turn away from wickedness and repent of their sins. Prophets were simply bearers of the Word of God, ultimately pointing to another who would fulfill those promises, the Perfect Prophet, Jesus Christ.
As the Perfect Prophet, Jesus came not only to proclaim the Word of God, but He is the Word of God as we famously read in John 1:1. He is both the Messenger and the Message itself. Christ is the One who embodies all of the Old Testament prophesies – they all point to Him. Jesus Himself says that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but rather, he came to fulfill them.
Matthew 5:17-18 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Jesus is the true and final prophet because He has the authority to not only proclaim the Word, but to accomplish it. While the Old Testament prophets brought truth to God’s people, Jesus brought the whole truth, the good news of the gospel. Jesus reveals to us that He is the only way to a restored relationship with the Father.
The Great High Priest
Under the old covenant, the high priest served as a mediator between God and His people. We see the high priest’s work most clearly on the annual Day of Atonement when he would sprinkle the blood of sacrifice on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. There in the Temple, he would confess the sins of Israel and plead for the Lord’s pardon.
But, the blood of bulls and goats could never truly take away sin. Rather, God used the office of priest to foreshadow the coming of the Great High Priest, His Son. Jesus Christ as our Mediator and High Priest, not only offered the once-and-for-all sacrifice, but He is the once-and-for-all sacrifice. When Christ entered the Holy Place to lay down His own body and blood, the wrath of God was satisfied. Jesus provides complete salvation and perfect atonement because He is utterly holy, blameless, and pure. In Christ alone, there is true and lasting forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
The King of Kings
The kings of Israel were ceremoniously anointed with oil to demonstrate their endowment by God. Old Testament monarchs were established to maintain peace, prosperity, and welfare for the Jewish nation. Despite his shortcomings, the prototype for such a king was the beloved King David. David was consecrated by God and by His grace ruled with righteousness and strength on the throne. The Scriptures tell us that an everlasting throne in an everlasting kingdom would be filled by one of David’s descendants.
Just as the Lord promised, a king greater than David has come! Jesus Christ, a descendant from the line of David, is the sovereign King of Kings, ruling over all of creation. And though He was mocked and murdered at Golgotha wearing a crown of thorns and bearing a cross that read “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” death could not keep its hold on Him. Jesus was king long before the Crucifixion and will remain for eternity. In Revelation, John describes the king humanity has always yearned for; the majestic, victorious, warrior Word of God riding out of heaven on a glorious white steed.
Revelation 19:11-16 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
Through his death and resurrection, Christ has already inaugurated the kingdom of God. However, we pray “thy kingdom come” in anticipation of the day when Christ’s mighty rule stands revealed and the kingdom is fully recognized by all of creation. We look for the perfect consummation of Christ’s reign, when the King of Kings will wipe away every tear from our eyes and sin and death shall be no more. Behold, Jesus is alive and He is making all things new!
Christ as Mediator: The Offices of Christ – The Gospel Coalition
Jesus Christ: Our Prophet, Priest, and King – Ligonier Ministries
Jesus Christ, Anointed One – R.C. Sproul