Read: Luke 2
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! Luke 2: 10 – 11
There is a lot wrapped up in today’s reading. We’re going to look at two terms in the focus verses that are sometimes lumped together – Savior and Messiah. Both of these are rightly used to describe Jesus, but they have different meanings and provide us great hope because through them, Jesus fulfills different promises from God.
Let’s look first at Messiah. The Hebrew for Messiah is mashiach; since today’s reading is from the New Testament, the word used for Messiah in Luke was the Greek word Christos, or the Christ (Christ is a title for Jesus, not His last name). The Messiah or Christ can be seen as a political function; Jews regularly pray for the elements that the masiach is prophesized to bring to His people: return of the exiles, restoration of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy, reward to the righteous, rebuilding of Jerusalem, and restoration of the line of King David. Old Testament prophecies pointing to God lifting up a Messiah include (among others):
Jeremiah 23:5: “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”
Jeremiah 33:15: “In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land.”
Isaiah 11:2 – 5: “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He will delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by appearance
nor make a decision based on hearsay.
He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
He will wear righteousness like a belt
and truth like an undergarment.”
As you can see these verses deal with prophecies concerning the coming of a political leader for God’s people; a wise descendant of King David, who will bring in a reign of justice, mercy, etc and a restoration of the Jewish people. During Jesus’ time (and today as well), the Jewish people were looking for their Messiah. Many had difficulty seeing Jesus, the Suffering Servant as Isaiah prophesized Him to be, in this role; they missed the prophecies concerning Jesus as a savior or assumed that the messiah would need to fill both roles simultaneously. We don’t see Jesus’ complete fulfillment of the prophecies of Him as Messiah until the Book of Revelation (which means many of the events through which He will take His rightful throne won’t happen until some point in the future).
The Old Testament prophets also prophesied about Jesus as the Savior. The Hebrew noun (moshiah) means one whom saves or a deliverer. The Hebrew verb also used in prophecies pointing to Jesus (yasha) means to save, to deliver, and to liberate and properly place into freedom. For instance, these verses point prophetically to Jesus as our spiritual Savior:
Isaiah 43:11: “I, yes I, am the LORD, and there is no other Savior.”
Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
Jeremiah 23:6: “In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”
I don’t think it was a coincidence that the angel in Luke 2 identified Jesus as both the Savior and Messiah when announcing the Good News that all of Israel had been anxiously waiting for (if you read both Jeremiah and Isaiah, we will see that the prophets did the same – for example see Jer 23: 5 and 6 above). I see these two concepts as fitting together hand in hand. Jesus as both the Savior and the Messiah is critical to His being the fulfillment of the many promises God has made to His people; this ties together so much of the Old Testament and brings not just the Old testament Jews, but also believers and followers of Jesus under the umbrella of “God’s people”. As modern-day Christians, we sometimes focus solely on Jesus’ role as Savior and forget his role as the Messiah. While Messiah may have more culture relevance to the Jewish faith, it’s important to us too. Jesus as Messiah is important because when Jesus assumes the physical reign of His kingdom as the Messiah, it shows God’s fulfillment of the many promises He has made to believers concerning our eternity. For example, this amazing promise in Revelation 21:4 given to believers saved by Jesus is only possible with Jesus the Savior sitting on the throne as Messiah: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Lord, thank You that You have provided Jesus as my Savior whose death on the cross has canceled out my sin debt and whose resurrection has conquered death and as my Messiah who is my wise King and will reign forever on the throne from New Jerusalem when you re-establish Your eternal kingdom. I put my faith entirely in You that You will remember Your promises to wipe away every tear and take away death, sorrow, and pain forever. In Jesus’ name I pray… Amen.