The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." (Matt. 26:63)Jesus affirmed this identification. So let's get clear on what he affirmed:
Please see this verse and commentary regarding the meaning of "son of God".
The word "Christ" is being translated from the Greek work Χριστός (Christos). According to the lexicon and according to Biblical scholars, this word can be translated to either mean "Anointed," "Messiah" or "Christ."
But we also find within this word, a deeper connection to the Supreme Being.
We must first question why the Jewish priests had such an interest in questioning Jesus about this identification. It is because being "anointed" has a long and cherished meaning in Jewish history. All of the great saints and prophets of the Old Testament, indeed, were anointed. This includes Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, Saul and many others. Just see this clear statement by God to the Israelites about what this meant:
"Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve Me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue for all generations to come." (Exodus 40:15)In fact, an "anointed one" as confirmed in the scripture, is God's representative. His loving servant, who served as a priest to teach others about Him. Here is a clear statement by God about His anointed:
Those were the names of Aaron's sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. (Numbers 3:3)
"I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in My heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before My anointed one always." (1 Samuel 2:10)Notice that God also says "he will minister before My anointed one" here. This means that not only does God's anointed worship Him, but His anointed also serves His anointed. This refers to the service relationship between the teacher and the student.
We find that Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon and so many others were anointed. They also each "ministered before" (served or subjected themselves to) their predecessor. While we do find anointing ceremonies among these, we also find that the sacred anointment was actually a confirmation of their growing relationship with God:
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over His inheritance?" (1 Samuel 10:1)While some of the translations and interpretations of the Old Testament make it seem as though an anointing was specific to becoming the king of Israel as a governor, this is an oversight by ecclesiastical (professional) translators. While some of God's anointed were also kings, being a "king of Israel" more precisely means being God's representative within the Jewish nation. Jesus was also from time to time referred to as a king of Israel, for example. And Jesus confirmed this definition regarding his particular service to God:
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matt. 15:24)Many other scriptural texts clarify that the anointing ceremony is a formalization of an appointment by God to represent Him. In the above verse (1 Samuel 10:1) for example, Samuel follows with these clear statements to Saul:
"The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person." (1 Samuel 10:6)The verses afterward confirm Saul's relationship with God:
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. (1 Samuel 10:9)So we can see that while there was a ceremony, the actual change of consciousness came from God, as He changed Saul's heart.
What does it mean to change Saul's heart? Love. Saul became one of God's loving, devoted servants. From that point forward, he sought to please God, and teach on behalf of God:
When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, "What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:10-11)Biblical translators and interpreters like to downplay what "prophesying" means. They have made it out like it was simply predicting the future.
This is not the case. The Hebrew word נבא (naba') might be translated to "prophesize," but it means, according to the lexicon, to come "under influence of divine spirit." In other words, it means to begin speaking on behalf of God. It means to represent God in ones teachings. This is also the same as being a Messiah (or Christ - 'savior'): God's messenger and representative.
This is confirmed in scripture:
Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, "Come, let us go to the seer," because the prophet of today used to be called a seer. (1 Samuel 9:9)And the meaning of being anointed? It is a ceremony that expresses a commitment by a person to God, and the teachings of the teacher representing God: It is disciple-ship. It is a commitment to the teachings of God's representative.
We can see this relationship between Samuel and Saul:
As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us"--and the servant did so--"but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God." (1 Samuel 9:27)Samuel was teaching Saul about God. To give "a message from God" means to 1) be teaching on behalf of God; and 2) be teaching about God.
We also see that Samuel knew from God that God had chosen Saul to represent Him:
When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about..." (1 Samuel 9:17)We see similar events between Jesus and John the Baptist. We also see in Jesus' life, a ceremony that was by all tense and purpose an anointing: His baptism by John the Baptist. Remember again that Samuel knew Saul's greatness and that God chose Saul at that time:
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over His inheritance?" (1 Samuel 10:1)We also see that John the Baptist represented God:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)And John, like Samuel, saw that Jesus was being sent by God, as he ascribed (humbly, as loving servants of God will do) about Jesus:
"I would not have known him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'" (John 1:33)After his baptism (or anointing), Jesus then went out and preached the very same teaching that John taught:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)
And Jesus later instructed his disciples to go out and teach the very same thing:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)While this phrase does not encompass all of Jesus' teachings, it represents the reality of a lineage of teachings descending from John, Jesus and Jesus' disciples - which descended from the prophets.
And what does this "message" mean: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'? As we discussed with the Matt. 10:7 verse, the word "near" has been misinterpreted by ecclesiastical teachers who have taken it to mean the end of the world is almost upon us.
Rather, "near" is not a word indicating time: It is a word indicating distance. It means close by. The message is that God and His kingdom are close by, and all we have to do is submit ourselves to God and commit our lives to Him and we can enter the kingdom of God.
The sum and substance of this teaching, in other words, is that the Supreme Being wants us back. He is trying to give us a clear message, sent through those who have already committed their lives to Him and loving Him that we do not need to go through some complex rituals. We don't need to join a particular sect or church. We don't need to become a monk or take a vow of silence. And we don't need to argue about which religion is right. All we need to do is turn to God, and accept His message carried through His representatives. All we need to do is reach out to Him from within our hearts. Because God is truly near.
This very same message from God has also been taught by all of the ancient teachers like Samuel, Saul, Moses, Abraham, David, Job and so many others. They were all messengers of God, just as Jesus admitted he was:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)and
"My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent me." (John 7:16)So we can see from scripture that by accepting himself as "Messiah," "Christ" or "Anointed," Jesus was not claiming to be anything other than God's loving servant and messenger. He came to give us God's message. Because God wants us back. He wants us to come home to Him. God knows that we will only be happy when we are back in His loving arms. This is why Jesus clarified His message:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)