‘Christ’ is a Greek word and ‘Messiah’ is a Hebrew word. They both mean the same thing, ‘the anointed one’.

High priests and kings were anointed with oil as a symbol that they had been chosen by God.

The Jews, God’s chosen people, believed that a Messiah would come to save them.

The land of Palestine was ruled by the Romans, and many Jews expected the Messiah to be a military figure who would fight the Romans and drive them out.

Other Jews were expecting a prophet like Moses.

The Jewish people wanted to return to the glory days under their greatest ruler, King David.

The messianic secret

Jesus wanted his identity as Messiah kept secret because:

  1. Some Jews were looking for a warrior Messiah to overthrow the Romans. Jesus was not this kind of Messiah. He didn’t fit this image because he was a suffering servant Messiah who would overcome sin by his death.
  2. Some Jews were looking for a king who would have great wealth and power and demand obedience. This was not Jesus’ aim. He had come to serve, not to be served.
  3. If Jesus had openly declared that he was the Messiah the Romans would probably have had him arrested as a revolutionary. This would have meant that Jesus would not have been able to complete his work.

Is the title ‘Messiah’ helpful to Christians today?

It reminds Christians that Jesus was an historical figure, a descendant of King David.Some think it is a Jewish title – few Christians today have a Jewish background to help them to fully understand it.
It shows Jesus as a person who fulfilled Old Testament predictions of a leader who would come to bring peace and justice.Some believe it can be misleading and confusing for people. To call Jesus the Messiah might make them compare him to an earthly king who uses his power in the world today.
It reminds some Christians that Jesus is their king.