Biblical Christianity emphasizes the principle of solus Christus, that Christ alone saves His people for the sake of His glory, which is the glory of the triune Godhead. Thus, people who are truly Christian never tire of hearing about who Christ is and what He has done in salvation. And one of the best ways to understand the person and work of Christ is to consider one of His chief titles, Messiah.
“Messiah” is the English translation of the Hebrew word mashiach, which means “anointed one.” The Hebrew word for Messiah comes into the Greek as christos, from which we get the English word Christ. So, when we speak of Jesus Christ, we are actually speaking of Jesus the Anointed One or Jesus the Messiah.We will see in coming days that the title Messiah points to the threefold office of Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King. Today we will consider one of the most important appearances of the title in Scripture. Interestingly, the title “messiah” in Scripture is applied to the Persian King Cyrus, for Isaiah 45:1 refers to Cyrus as God’s “anointed,” as God’s messiah.
Cyrus is celebrated in Scripture because he conquered the Babylonian Empire and issued the decree that allowed the Jews to leave exile and go back to the Promised Land in 538 BC (2 Chron. 36:22–23). For that reason, the concept of the messianic office includes the work of deliverance as a primary focus. God, through Cyrus, delivered His people from captivity in Babylon and by that deliverance announced to the world that He—Yahweh, the Lord of Israel—is the only God and the only source of salvation (Isa. 45:22–23). Cyrus, though he did not know the Lord, was God’s instrument for rescuing His people and revealing to the world that He alone is God, the Sovereign over all creation (vv. 5–7).
If this was true for Cyrus, how much more is it true for Jesus? Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, and like Cyrus, He was commissioned to deliver God’s people. Unlike Cyrus, however, Jesus knew the one true God; in fact, Jesus is the incarnation of the one true God. The deliverance Jesus brings, therefore, is far greater. It is a deliverance that rescues us from estrangement from God. It is a deliverance that frees us from the root cause of all discord, namely, sin. Jesus is the Christ, the One in whom God directly acts to save us from our wickedness (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11).
In his lecture on Isaiah 45, Martin Luther draws another parallel between Jesus and Cyrus: “Just as Cyrus would by his power and his expense set them free, so Christ would redeem us by His Word and grace, without cost.” Luther affirms that there is no cost that we pay for our salvation, for Jesus paid it all. Because God’s deliverance through Christ is perfect, there is no price we pay for eternal life. All we must do is believe in Jesus and we will be saved.