When someone says that Jesus is the Christ, what comes into your mind? Does it register like any statement of fact or does it flood your soul with emotional connections about who and what he was? I fear that I tend to hear those words, and they roll right past me like water off a duck’s back. In this lesson we’ll look closely at some of the defining characteristics of the Anointed One, the Christ.
Isaiah Bears Witness
In Isaiah 61:1 – 3 he bears witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. (All three of those terms mean the same thing, just in different languages. Christ is Greek, and Messiah is Aramaic.) In Luke 4:17 – 20 this same sentiment is read by Jesus in the synagogue at the beginning of his ministry. This was one of the first times we know of that he proclaimed his own identity publicly. Here are the verses.
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
Christ’s mission was so universal and all encompassing that we tend to only see small parts of it at a time. When we accomplish things, the lives we affect usually number in the dozens. If we accomplished something really big, we may affect upwards of a million people. But everything Christ did affected billions of people. His mission was for all of God’s children, wherever they are, and whenever they have lived in mortality. That scope is hard to imagine and take in. Let’s look at the three verses individually.
Verse 1 – Jesus was anointed in the pre-existence to preach the Father’s plan of salvation to us – the gospel. The blessings of the gospel are only available to those who humble themselves and accept Jesus as their savior. So the good tidings are preached to the meek. And to those who repent and obey Christ, he can heal their wounds and comfort those who sorrow and mourn. This is binding up the brokenhearted. During his three days in the spirit world after his death, he organized the missionary efforts to free those who had been kept in the spirit prison. This was proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison. He also offers freedom to those currently living in spiritual bondage.
Verse 2 – To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, according to Elder James E. Talmage, means that the Christ was declaring the beginning of his ministry to the people. The reference to the day of vengeance the comforting those that mourn summarizes the results of Christ’s preaching. The wicked among us will be punished, while those of us who sorrow for the sins we have committed will be comforted through the forgiveness Christ offers us.
Verse 3 – Under the Mosaic law repentance was shown by debasing oneself by dressing in sackcloth and covering your head with ashes from the fireplace. This was a sign of true mourning and sorrow. In this verse Christ promises that those who have been covered in ashes will be given beauty instead. Instead of mourning there will be joy, and in place of heaviness of heart there will be praise. The references to trees harks back to the many times the Lord refers to his people in terms of his vineyard or orchard. In his vineyard the Lord cares for and nourishes his plants as the Lord of the vineyard, and makes them fruitful.
Here is Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of John 1:1 – 14. Read through these verses. I’ll comment on them right afterward.
1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.
4 In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;
5 And the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came into the world for a witness, to bear witness of the light, to bear record of the gospel through the Son, unto all, that through him men might believe.
8 He was not that light, but came to bear witness of that light,
9 Which was the true light, which lighteth every man who cometh into the world;
10 Even the Son of God. He who was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; only to them who believe on his name.
13 He was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the same word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In verse one we are told that in the premortal world Jesus preached the gospel or the word of the Father to us, his brothers and sisters. I love verse four. “In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men …” In Christ are the words of the Father – the gospel. It is through the gospel, the words of the Father, that we gain life eternal. The gospel, the teachings of the Father, given to us through Christ, is our light or that by which we are guided through this life. It is the truth that helps us find our way back to God. This “light” is incomprehensible to those of the world because you have to believe in Christ first before it begins to make sense.
Testimony of Witnesses
In the mouth of two or more witnesses the Lord establishes all truth. Both Isaiah and John the Baptist preached the same doctrine of Christ. Both spoke boldly and plainly of the divinity of Jesus who was to come. Both recognized that everything Christ would do was for the whole human family. Everything he had ever done was for the whole of humanity. Our accomplishments in mortality are puny and frail when held up to the light of what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished.
The key to understanding Christ and what he accomplished for us all, is belief. Until we accept him as being divine, and the savior of all mankind, we will always put our will ahead of his. Once we choose to believe that he was and is the anointed one, sent to us from the Father to bring us back to God, we will begin to have a sense of appreciation for the sacrifices he made on our behalf. As you study the New Testament this year, try to see Christ in his bigger role of the only begotten of the Father, the savior of the world. If we only see him as a man, like other men, we will fail to grasp his overarching importance in the whole of creation.