I’ve become convinced that its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation.
You can find the previous posts here.
III. The Son
4. What Does ‘Christ’ Mean?
Christ is Jesus’ last name.
To the extent people hear ‘Christ’ as Jesus’ last name, they’re unable to decipher the Gospel story the way the evangelists intended it to be received.
‘Christós’ is the Greek for which the Hebrew is מָשִׁ֫יחַ (mashiach) for which the Latin is ‘Caesar’ for which our English is ‘King.’
To call Jesus ‘Christ’ therefore is to obey him over and against the kingdoms and nations of this world.
This is why the evangelists all in their way introduce their Gospel (itself a Roman political term) as the Gospel not of Augustus the Christ but of Jesus the Caesar, and this is why they all characterize their narratives as ones of inevitable conflict and confrontation.
Calling Jesus ‘Christ’ is shorthand for recalling how the Passion story depicts a clash of Kingdoms: Jesus the King versus Augustus the Christ- and Herod and Pilate who served him.
In addition, the title ‘King’ points out how the difference between Jesus and Caesar is not one of ends but of means.
After all, according to the heavenly host in Luke’s Gospel, the end signaled by Jesus’ birth is no different than the end won by Caesar: Peace on Earth.
‘Glory in the highest…peace on those whom his favor rests…’ Those words on the angels’ lips were originally an imperial announcement- a Gospel- about Caesar.
Caesar had established peace.
By the sword.
So, to call Jesus ‘Christ’ is to acknowledge that he brings what the nations of this world promise to bring but that Jesus brings it about through very different means.
Mercy not sacrifice. Forgiveness not fear. Enemy love not violence.
In other words, calling Jesus the ‘Christ’ should remind us of the Church’s very first Easter proclamation: that God had vindicated the executed Jesus by raising him from the dead and promoting him to the right hand of the Father.
To call Jesus ‘Christ’ today is to confess his Lordship.
To call Jesus ‘Christ’ is to profess that he is King over all of God’s world and demands from his disciples our pledge of allegiance.
Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting…For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to this King’s voice.’
– John 18.37