Jesus, the Promised Messiah

Chapter 13: Jesus, The Promised Messiah

Among Muslims and many others Jesus is generally known by the title Messiah. In the Qur'an Jesus alone is called the Messiah - Al-Masih. Eleven times He is given this title and occasionally He is referred to by this title without His name. However, the Qur'an does not give an explanation as to why Jesus was called the Messiah.

The title 'Messiah' is extremely important to Christians and Jews; and we think it should be important also to Muslims because of the references to it in the Qur'an. The English word 'Christ' comes from the Greek word 'Christos'. The word 'Messiah' comes from Hebrew. Both words mean the same, - "the Anointed One" or "the One set apart for a special purpose".

In the Old Testament this word is sometimes applied in a subordinate sense and thus could refer to an anointed priest or leader.[1] It was also given to the prophets of God.[2] In addition it was given to the Persian king Cyrus who was anointed by God to prepare the way for the rebuilding of the city and the temple of Jerusalem after its destruction by an earlier king, Nebuchadnezzar. [3] This title became more important when it was revealed to Daniel that the Messiah would come after the rebuilding of Jerusalem.[4] Evidently, it became the accepted title of the one who was to be the mighty deliverer and the ruler of God's kingdom. Not only Daniel, but also prophets like Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah and several others spoke frequently of His coming.[5]

Jesus, the promised Messiah

Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus testified that He was the Messiah. The Jews were expecting a military leader who would drive out all foreign powers from their land and set up the kingdom of Israel, whereas Jesus told them that he came not "to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many".[6]

The testimony of the angel

When an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was going to give birth to a son, he said, "You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins"[7]. It was no accident that Jesus received this name which means, 'the Lord saves'. After Jesus' birth an angel appeared to some shepherds looking after their flocks near Bethlehem. They were terrified, but the angel said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."[8]

The testimony of one disciple

One day Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say I am?" One of them, Peter, replied that He was indeed the Messiah of God. Jesus told him that this recognition was from God, but warned him not to tell anyone.[9] This was because Jesus knew many people misunderstood the role of the Messiah. Immediately after Peter's declaration, Jesus began to talk of how He would suffer and give up His life. He was underlining the fact that the Messiah was to be a suffering Messiah and not one with a sword in His hand and ruling a worldly kingdom.[10]

The testimony of Jesus

One day, far away from the big towns and cities, at the side of a well in the despised area of Samaria, Jesus chose to reveal that He was the Messiah to a person who was an outcast in the eyes of the Jews - a Samaritan woman. After Jesus had told her that God was looking for people who would worship Him in spirit and truth, the woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us". Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am He."[11]

After Jesus had fulfilled His mission and ascended to heaven, the apostles understood the whole plan and did not hesitate to tell others, using this title for Jesus. For example, Peter told the Jews at Pentecost, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ".[12]

Both the Messiah and the Son of God

It is very significant to see that in the Christian Scriptures the title 'Christ' or 'Messiah' (Masih) is used in parallel with the title 'Son of God'. Very often these two titles are found together.

Jewish believers called Jesus both the Messiah and the Son of God. Peter, mentioned both titles together He said, "You are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God."[13] Martha, the sister of Lazarus, the man whom Jesus raised from the dead, used the two titles together in her expression of belief in Jesus. Her words were, "I believe that you are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, He who was to come into the world".[14]

In Mark we read, "The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God".[15] In John we also read, "...Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, ... "[16]

We also see that during Jesus' trial, the Jewish high priest used both titles when asking Jesus if He was the Messiah. "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God". In confirming the claim, Jesus added, "In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."[17]

In saying this, Jesus was referring to his second coming. The Jews were right in their belief that the Messiah was to come from heaven and would establish the kingdom of God, but they failed to distinguish between the two comings of the Messiah. At His first advent Jesus was to be a suffering Messiah and at his second coming He is to be the victorious Mighty King and Judge.


  1. Leviticus 4:3; 2 Samuel 1:14
  2. Psalm 105:15
  3. Isaiah 45:1
  4. Daniel 9:25
  5. Isaiah 11:1-5; 42:1; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 6:12-13
  6. John 4:26; Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 20:28; John 13:15-16
  7. Matthew 1:21
  8. Luke 2:8-14
  9. Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:20-21
  10. Matthew 16:21-28
  11. John 4:25-26
  12. Acts 2:36; I Cor 1:1-3; Heb 3:6; I Peter 4:1
  13. Matthew 16:16
  14. John 11:27
  15. Mark 1:1
  16. John 20:31
  17. Matthew 26:63-64