John 4:25-26 (NIV): The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
One of the things that the Samaritans had inherited from the Jews was the understanding that God would send the Messiah, and that He was coming soon. As John explains in his brief aside, Messiah was the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word “Christos” (which gives us the English form “Christ”).
Both of these words literally mean “anointed,” and had a wide range of generic meanings. The kings of Israel and Judah were anointed with oil at their coronation, as were the priests at their ordination, giving both of them the title of messiah (lower-case m). Prophets were seen to be anointed by God’s Spirit for their work, bestowing on them power and wisdom, so they, too, were lower-case messiahs.
But the Messiah to come was different. He was expected to be anointed by God Himself as a prophet, a priest, and a king. In the minds of the people, the figure of Messiah had grown to mythic proportions. Some believed He would suddenly appear out of nowhere, and that on one would know where He had come from (cf. John 7:27). It was also believed that the Messiah would be immortal and invincible – that He would never die or be able to be killed (cf. John 12:34).
But Jesus was in fact the Messiah. He fulfilled every one of the prophecies that God had caused to be written about the Messiah, including where He was born (Bethlehem, Micah 5:2), and how He would die and rise again (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
The people were not entirely wrong. Their information had just been tainted by human thinking.
- Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at the time of His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17).
- He was anointed as a prophet who spoke the very words of God to the people (Hebrews 1:2).
- He was anointed as a priest, who brought the ideal sacrifice of His own blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies (Hebrews 7:23-28).
- He was anointed as the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose throne will last forever (Revelation 19:11-16).
- Jesus did in a sense appear “out of nowhere,” having spent the first 30 years living anonymously in a small town in Galilee. And, even though His birthplace could be traced to Bethlehem and His childhood to Egypt and Nazareth, the people didn’t know or realize where He had really come from: the right hand of God the Father; the place to which He would return when His work here was done (John 1:1-2, 17:5, 20:17; Acts 1:9-11).
- And Jesus was very much the immortal leader that the people were looking for. Even though He allowed Himself to be taken and killed by the Jewish leaders (Matthew 26:52-54), He rose from the dead and lives and rules forever (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus had already startled the woman by His knowledge of her personal history. But when she asked Him about the proper place to worship the true God, His answer was not as black and white as she had hoped. She found Jesus to be a puzzling man, and so she pushed back her hope of an easy to understand answer to that question to the time of the coming of the Messiah. Surely when HE came, He would just say that either Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem was the correct place to worship, without all of this hard to understand stuff about worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
But then Jesus told her, in as clear, as black-and-white terms as she could possibly want, “I am the Messiah.” The wait was over! The time had come! The long awaited Messiah was not only here, He was standing right in front of her, smiling!
Father, sometimes we find ourselves waiting for the next big thing, when the biggest possible thing is right in front of us! We want flashing lights and stereo surround sound to announce Your presence and Your word, when all the time You are right in front of us, speaking quietly into our lives and hearts. Lord, please give us ears to hear Your voice, eyes that see Your hand at work, and hearts eager to move at Your command. Amen.