Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed Son of God. From the start, his life was characterized by the empowering presence of the Spirit – Matthew 1:20.
In Matthew, an angel informed Joseph that the child carried by Mary was “conceived of the Holy Spirit.” This indicated more than just the miraculous birth of the child or the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. From start to finish, the activity of the life-giving Spirit characterized the life and ministry of Jesus. He was “Jesus, who is called Christ,” the long-awaited Messiah.
In the Hebrew Bible, the verb rendered “anointed” is mashakh, meaning “smear, daub; to anoint” (Strong’s – #H4899), the word from which the corresponding English term ‘messiah’ is derived. The Greek noun used for ‘messiah’ in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament is christos (Strong’s – #G5547). ‘Christ’ is the anglicized spelling of the Greek noun. Both mashakh and christos denote someone or something that is “anointed” – (Leviticus 4:3, Daniel 9:25, Mathew 1:16).
In the Levitical system, the substance used to “anoint” was olive oil, which was daubed on things and persons to set them apart for sacred or royal service. In the Tabernacle, the altar, the tent itself, the table of showbread, and the vessels used in rituals were all “anointed,” along with priests and high priests. The kings of Israel were anointed at their enthronement, which is why they were called “Yahweh’s Anointed” – (1 Samuel 12:3, 26:11, Psalm 2:2, 45:7).
The key messianic prophecy applied to Jesus in the New Testament is from the second Psalm – (e.g., Matthew 3:17, Hebrews 1:1-5, Revelation 12:5):
- (Psalm 2:1-9) – “The kings of earth take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together, against Yahweh and against his Anointed One… My Lord will mock at them: Then will he speak to them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them: Yet I have installed my king, on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree, Yahweh has said to me: You are my son. This day, I have begotten you.
The Psalm is about the ideal king of Israel who was destined to sit on David’s throne. He was called “Yahweh’s anointed,” as well as “My king” and “son.” The Psalm was a prophecy about Jesus Christ, the “anointed one,” the “son” and king whom God would appoint to reign over all the nations – from “Mount Zion.”
However, unlike kings and priests, Jesus was anointed with God’s Spirit, not olive oil. The presence of the Spirit is what set him apart from all his predecessors.
All four gospels record that the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism. In each account, his anointing was confirmed by a visual effect (“descended like a dove”) and an audible voice from heaven (“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”):
- (John 1:32-34) – “And John testified, saying, I beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it remained upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said to me: Upon whomsoever you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizes in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and have borne witness, that this is the Son of God. ”
When the voice declared, “this is my beloved Son,” it was echoing the clause from the second Psalm – “You are my Son.” The descent of the Spirit meant that Jesus was “anointed” directly by God Himself. In the Old Testament, when necessary, certain men were endowed temporarily by God’s Spirit, but with Jesus, the Spirit descended and “remained on him.” Moreover, he had the fullness of the Spirit, “not by measure,” as was the case with all preceding cases – (John 3:34).
Following his baptism, Jesus was driven “by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tested. The Gospel of Luke records that, after defeating Satan, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.” Shortly thereafter, while preaching in a synagogue, he declared:
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” – (Luke 4:13-18).
Thus, it was the Spirit that equipped Jesus for ministry. He himself attributed his miracles and deeds to the Spirit of God. For example, when accused of exorcising demons “by the power of Satan,” he retorted, “But if I, by the Spirit of God, cast out demons” – (Matthew 12:28). This was also the understanding of the early church:
- (Acts 10:38) – “How God anointed him with Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the adversary, because God, was with him.”
Thus, the Spirit was integral to the identity, mission, and the goal of the Messiah. But Jesus also became the one who possesses and dispenses the Spirit. He promised to send the Spirit to his disciples after his glorification:
- (John 7:37-39) – “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes on me, just as said the Scripture, Rivers from within him shall flow of living water. Now, this he spoke concerning the Spirit which they who believed on him were about to receive; for, not yet was the Spirit, because not yet was Jesus glorified.”
- (John 15:26) – “Whensoever the Advocate shall come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which from the Father comes forth, He will bear witness concerning me.”
After his ascension, Jesus “sent the promise of his Father,” the gift of the Spirit, upon his disciples, and thus empowering them to proclaim the gospel “to the uttermost ends of the earth.” When he began to reign following his ascension, he “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit.” As Paul wrote, “having ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
Thus, the possession of the Spirit and the authority to distribute its gifts belongs to Jesus, Yahweh’s Anointed King and Messiah, and the “Son of God” – (Luke 24:45-49, Acts 2:33–38, Ephesians 4:8-12).
Jesus is the quintessential man of the Spirit. Neither his messianic mission nor his present reign can be understood apart from the presence, activity, and the gift of the Spirit, which, like him, now sets his people apart for service to the kingdom of God.