Messiah and Christ, are respectively Hebrew and Greek titles that mean Anointed One. The entire Old Testament predicted the ultimate anointed one, the ultimate appointee chosen by God for the ultimate work of God. How central to prophetic Scripture did certain Rabbis perceive the Messiah to be? They agreed, “The prophets prophesied not but of the days of the Messiah.” (Sanhedrin 99 a.) How important was the Messiah believed to be in relation to the world? Learned Jewish teachers declared, “The world was not created but only for the Messiah.” (Sanhedrin 98 b.). Of course the New Testament reflects these lofty Christ-related realities as well.
The Messiah actually spoke in the first person in certain passages of the Old Testament. Perhaps one of the most striking of such first-person-speaking prophecies is found in Isaiah 61:1 wherein the Messiah speaks words of kindness and salvation to the poor, to the lowly and to those who mourn: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” the Christ declares, “because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to comfort all who mourn…” Notice the clear identification of the speaker as the Christ: “The Lord has anointed me…”
At His baptism Jesus was openly identified as the Christ as He was anointed with John’s baptism, and of likely greater importance as He was endowed with the Holy Spirit. Being invisible, the Spirit normally would not be seen in His descent upon the Christ. But the Spirit, desiring to be seen, descended in the form of a dove so there would be no doubt…this is the Christ: This the One who had declared through Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.”
Soon after His baptism the Christ entered the synagogue of His hometown, the synagogue where He had already been given the lofty privilege of preaching. Being geographically distant from the location of Jesus’ baptism, this synagogue almost certainly had no member who had been present to witness the dove-descending Spirit identifying Jesus as the Christ. As Jesus stands to read from Scripture, He finds and reads the first person prophecy in Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.” It was no doubt realized by many of those in attendance that this reading presented the Christ speaking through Isaiah.
The custom in a synagogue was for the preacher to sit down to preach. Thus Jesus sits down and He begins to preach with both disturbing and profound words, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What was Jesus conveying? Jesus was explaining that He, Jesus, as He read this passage, was on that very day identifying himself as the individual who had spoken these words through Isaiah! The Spirit of the Lord is UPON ME, because he has ANOINTED ME. Jesus is claiming to be the long-awaited Christ, the one endowed with the Spirit, the one anointed (chosen) by God. He is claiming to be the one who is at the heart of Jewish Scripture as well as the ultimate reality of the entire creation.
The subsequent violent rejection by those in the synagogue was symptomatic of the ministry and the mission that God had appointed the Christ to accomplish. He would in an even greater way be despised and rejected of men. The Christ was appointed to have a sickening sin-soiled death at the hand of sinners. Only by thus paying for sin through His death and by conquering death by His resurrection could the Christ then and now “bring good news to the poor” and “bind up the brokenhearted” and “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” and “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” and “comfort all who mourn.”