The Hebrew word “Mashiach,” meaning Messiah, means “the one anointed with oil.” The custom of anointing with oil is a ritual act designed to elevate those designated for priestly, royal or sometimes even prophetic roles. In Judaism Messiah was originally used in connection with a divinely appointed king, such as David. Later, the figure of the Jewish messiah was one who would deliver the Jews from oppression and usher in an Olam Haba (“world to come”) or Messianic Age.
In our passage today, Jesus is warning his disciples about the future rise of false Messiahs and false teachers. Without doubt, Jesus is referring to this being a particular problem at the fall of Jerusalem in a few years but also certainly in connection with the end of the age. There are going to be people throughout history who will claim that Christ has already arrived and may even point to a place where he landed or appeared. Pseudo Christs will pretend to be Christ and pseudo prophets will point to false Christs. As we read in the Message translation; ‘Their impressive credentials and bewitching performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better’. (v24) Some will perform great miracles and wonders. Jesus says “be careful, do not be deceived or deluded”.
From the first century to the present-day scores of people have claimed to be Christ. In recent years former sports broadcaster David Icke claimed to be ‘A Son of the Godhead’. This was met with ridicule by most people but others who have claimed to be Christ have ‘deceived’ many with tragic consequences for the duped followers.
Jesus says team this is important, so important, ‘I have told you beforehand’ or as the Message puts it ‘I am giving you fair warning’. This wasn’t the first time that Jesus took time to warn about events in the future. He told his disciples in advance that one of their number would betray him. (John 13:19) This is echoed when he told his followers about a time when the Holy Spirit would come after his departure. (John 14:29). Jesus loved his followers and wanted to prepare them for the future. As we stick close to listening to his voice by reading his word and talking and listening to him in prayer God prepares our hearts and lives for everything we will encounter in our future.
As a young adult, I went to see my pastor to say that I felt God wanted me to become a pastor and I was going to Bible College. He sent me away to be 100% sure that God had called me as life in ‘ministry’ was hard and often I would feel like walking away. The only thing that had kept him and would be the sure and certain knowledge that God had ‘called’ me to pursue this path. After a few months of praying and reading God’s word I read a passage that leapt off the page for me. That settled it. My moment of crisis came a lot earlier than I expected. I hadn’t even completed Bible College and I was ready to bail. Cutting a long story short, in a moment of desperation I did something I would not recommend to anyone. I gave God an ultimatum I was going to open this hymn book at a random page and if he didn’t speak to me I was off. (Please don’t do that) I opened the page and there in front of my eyes were the words of the passage God had used to confirm his calling to me just a few years earlier. Someone had converted the passage into a hymn. Listen for God’s voice in the calm so you will remember it in the crisis when everything is going crazy!
But back to Messiahs and false Christs. Jesus is saying don’t worry the whole world will know when I have returned:
Father, help me to stay close to as I dwell on your word and talk to you in prayer and give me wisdom and discernment when listening to the voice of others. Protect me from those who would look to distort your truth and manipulate people for their own gain. Help to hear and recognise your voice directing my path and preparing me for the unknown future. Amen!
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series