The Gospel of the Messiah
This simple phrase, ‘The Gospel,’ would be one of the most misused and misunderstood phrases in the world. There are any number of assertions concerning what this phrase means. Everything from ‘believe in Jesus and you will go to heaven’ to ‘have faith and you will be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.’ However, with a little digging and review of the New Testament we discover that The Gospel is, in essence, the news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Messiah? What does that even mean? Firstly, the words ‘Messiah’ and ‘Christ’ are interchangeable ways of saying the same thing in two different languages. ‘Messiah’ or ‘Christ’ literally means “anointed one.” Kings in ancient Israel were not voted into position; they were ‘anointed’ by a priest or a prophet which was a sign that they had been chosen by God to be the king of the nation. Thus, the Messiah is the true King who has been chosen by God and not elected by people.
No doubt you are aware that kings of Israel were a motley collection of sometimes relatively good rulers, to oftentimes absolutely terrible despots. However, in the midst of all this, God promised that one day a king would arise from the line of king David who would be the truest and best king ever. He would rule, not only Israel, but all the nations with justice and mercy. Psalm 2 captures the intent of this powerfully. “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2: 6-8).
This king would be the king who would usher in the hoped-for purposes and aspirations of the covenants and the promises made to Abraham, that the blessing of the nations would come to pass and the righting of all the wrongs would be established. This is really what everybody and every nation has been hoping for all along and it is why we all get so invested in politics and religion. These things are connected. Everybody is hoping for a ‘messiah’ to lead humanity into the ‘promised land,’ so to speak.
Then Jesus emerges onto the stage of human history. A man who is humble and little-known but there is something about him. He fulfils the signs predicted by the prophets and is from the line of David: but he doesn’t have political backing, or armies, or religious connections that a would-be-messiah might be expected to have. How could he be the Messiah? Nevertheless, one-by-one people begin to suspect that Jesus is the one. He heals the sick, raises the dead, casts out demons and does other amazing miracles. He teaches and prophesies with authority and has a grass-roots following across the nation. Finally, he is welcomed into Jerusalem is precisely the way the prophets said the true Messiah would be. Maybe he could be the one?
But a week later he is crucified. His “antichrist” opponents made their move and silenced him once and for all. The disciples and the other hopeful followers are devastated. “We thought he was the one,” but clearly, he couldn’t be, not now that he is dead. The disappointment is palpable, and all hope is lost.
Then, amazingly; incredibly; astonishingly he rises from the dead! The disciples and many others witness the risen Jesus and now there is no doubt at all. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King we’ve all been waiting for! This is the good news that the first believers wanted to take to the world. The Gospel is this: that Jesus is the true messiah and the proof of it is his resurrection. If he can overcome death, then surely, he can overcome every evil and injustice. Jesus is the Lord of life and death and everything else as well.
Little wonder that John went on relay the words he heard from the mouth of Jesus, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1: 17-18).
This is The Gospel. It’s a grand and powerful word. The greatest word of all: Jesus is the true king, the one chosen by God to rule the nations and to rule you and me. This word is a word we must not ignore. It is not a mere invitation: it is a command. We cannot ignore the king, for as John has it elsewhere, “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2: 22). If we are not for the anointed king, then we are against him and apart from Christ (Messiah) we cannot know God the Father. There is nothing more significant than this.