Have you ever wondered why Jesus is called the Messiah or Christ? These titles refer to the fact that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power, marking him as the chosen one. But what does it mean that Jesus was "anointed" and why was this significant? Let's explore the biblical basis for the anointing of Jesus and how this established him as the Messiah.
The Old Testament Basis for a Coming "Anointed One"
To understand the significance of Jesus' anointing, we first need to go back to some Old Testament prophecies. The term "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word mashiach, which means "anointed one." Throughout the Old Testament, prophets spoke of a coming day when God would send a very special mashiach to deliver and rule over his people Israel.
This figure is first hinted at in Genesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the serpent and foretold that one of Eve's male descendants would crush the serpent's head. Over time, the Jews came to see this as a prophecy about the "seed of the woman," a future anointed savior who would defeat evil.
Later prophecies get more specific. God promises King David that one of his descendants will establish an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Isaiah 9:6-7 reveals this ruler's titles: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Other prophecies give more details about the Messiah's ministry, such as bringing justice (Isaiah 42:1-4), atoning for sins (Isaiah 53:5-6), and ruling in power (Psalm 2:6-9).
So the long-awaited "anointed one" would be a king like David but far greater. He would have a divine nature as Mighty God and Everlasting Father. He would bring salvation from sin, deliverance from enemies, and just leadership over God's people. That was the Messianic hope of the Old Testament.
Jesus Uniquely Fulfilled the Old Testament Prophecies
After over 400 years of prophetic silence, Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene. But what qualified him as the long-expected Messiah? In what sense was Jesus "anointed" by God? The New Testament declares that Jesus alone fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Christ or Messiah. Let's see how Scripture describes Jesus' anointing.
The Anointing Marked Jesus as the Promised Messiah
All four Gospels reveal that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit, inaugurating his ministry. John the Baptist testified that he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove (John 1:32). God then declared from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Peter later preached that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38).
This anointing with the Holy Spirit was the public commissioning and empowering of Jesus for his ministry. It paralleled the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament. But Jesus' anointing surpassed theirs. He was the ultimate Prophet who would speak God's final word (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Hebrews 1:1-2). He was the great High Priest who offered the perfect sacrifice for sins (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 7:26-28). And he was the King of Israel who would reign forever over God's kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Luke 1:31-33).
So Jesus' anointing with the Spirit showed he was the Messiah, the "Anointed One" that God had promised to send. As Peter declared, "God has made this Jesus...both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Messiah." The anointing proved Jesus was the chosen Messianic King.
Jesus' Baptism Signified His Anointing by God
The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus occurred at a pivotal moment - his baptism. All four Gospels record the Spirit coming upon Jesus immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9-10, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34). God had promised the Messiah would be filled and empowered by the Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-2, Isaiah 61:1). Jesus' baptism was the dramatic fulfillment of that prophecy.
The Gospel writers take care to emphasize that this was a major turning point in Jesus' ministry. Mark describes the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove as the climactic sign that he was God's beloved Son and the anointed Messiah (Mark 1:11). Matthew highlights the Spirit's descent as the long-awaited fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy about God's Servant, the chosen Messiah (Matthew 3:16-17, Isaiah 42:1).
Luke lists Jesus' baptism and the Spirit's descent before any account of Jesus' ministry, implying this event qualified him for his work (Luke 3:21-23). John the Baptist said the divine anointing at Jesus' baptism was the unmistakable sign that Jesus was the Son of God and Lamb of God who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:29-34).
So the Gospel writers present Jesus' baptism, along with the Spirit's descent on him, as the key event marking him as God's Anointed One. This explains why Jesus' title "the Christ" means "the Anointed One." His baptism was the anointing ceremony where God consecrated him as the Messiah by pouring out the Spirit on him.
After His Anointing, Jesus Went About Doing Good
The New Testament links Jesus' anointing with the power of the Spirit to his ministry of good works. Isaiah 61:1-2 prophesied that God's Anointed One would be filled with the Spirit to proclaim good news, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and bring comfort to those who mourn.
Luke 4:18-19 records Jesus reading this passage and declaring "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Peter also testified that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38).
So the accounts of Jesus' Spirit-empowered ministry perfectly match the prophecies about what the Messiah would do. His miraculous works demonstrated the Spirit's power on him. He went about teaching, preaching, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. He brought salvation, deliverance, justice, and comfort to many.
In this way, Jesus fulfilled God's promise to anoint the coming Messiah with the Spirit to carry out His redemptive work. Jesus' entire ministry flowed from the Holy Spirit's descent on him at his baptism when God declared him the beloved Son and Anointed One.
The Anointing Set Jesus Apart as the Promised Messiah
The anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit marked him as the long-expected Messiah. Jesus did not inherit this status. He was not born the Christ. Rather, his anointing was God's dramatic commissioning of Jesus as the Prophet, Priest, and King foretold in the Old Testament.
While Jesus possessed a divine nature as the Son of God, the anointing confirmed his messianic identity and empowered him for ministry. His baptism was the key event where the Spirit visibly descended on him as God's chosen Messiah.
After this divine anointing, Jesus perfectly fulfilled what the prophets foretold about the Messiah's redeeming work. So the anointing set Jesus apart as the one man who uniquely accomplished God's mission of salvation. That is why Peter could declare in Acts 4:12, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Jesus alone is the Anointed One - the Christ who fulfilled God's promises. Have you received the salvation and new life he offers? If you confess Jesus as Lord and believe God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). You too can receive the Spirit's anointing and participate in Christ's mission to do the good works God prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10). The same Spirit who empowered Jesus wants to fill you today!