Everyday life was very much the same as it was in Old Testament days, including the normal use of oil as an emollient (unguent) in a dry climate (Mt 6.17). It was used to anoint the sick for medicinal purposes (Mk 6.13; James 5.14), sometimes with special prayer (Rev 3.18), receiving guests (Lk 7.38,46), and anointing corpses for burial, as in the case of the Lord Jesus (Mk 14.8; 16.1; Lk 23.56; 24.1; Jn 12.3; 19.40). Some of these anointing oils were very expensive, being compounded from costly spices. An example is the "very precious" (Mt 26.7), "very costly" (Jn 12.3) anointing oil (or ointment) stored in the alabaster box (flask) mentioned as being worth three hundred pence or more, a whole years wages of a working man. The odour of this was so strong and persistent that it filled the house (Mt 26.7; Mk 14.3; Jn 12.3) and, as some have suggested, may even have lingered on the body of the Lord Jesus to the grave, it being very substantive.
The spiritual use of the word has to do with the Lord Jesus as Messiah, the Anointed One, and the believer. As we have noted, the Lord Jesus said that "The Spirit of the Lord hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor" (Lk 4.18). Then Peter prayed about Him as "thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed (Acts 4.27) and we read that "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness" (Heb 1.9). Both thoughts, the work of the Holy Spirit and God the Father in anointing, are brought together in the statement that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 10.38). From this latter use we see clearly the important truth that anointing oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus was the true Anointed One, the Messiah or Messias, "which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (Jn 1.41)!
The word "Christ" is found over 500 times in the New Testament, about half these occurrences in association with the name "Jesus". This shows how vast this subject is in itself. We shall deal only with some salient features.
Expressions such as "Christ, the chosen of God" (Lk 23.35), and "Christ the King of Israel" (Mk 15.32) would be well understood in those days. However, the personal identification of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah was obviously a hotly debated subject. The Lord Jesus was very careful not to force people into confession of this fact, and only on a few occasions did He actually say that He was the Messiah, as for instance to the woman of Samaria (Jn 4.25-26). Even when adjured by the high priest at His trial, "Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God" (Mt 26.63; Mk 14.61). His answer was "thou hast said" (Mt 26.64). However, the demons that the Lord Jesus cast out of people cried out that "Thou art Christ the Son of God for they knew that he was Christ" (Lk 4.41). Nevertheless, although the scribes might accept "that Christ is the Son of David" (Mk 12.35), they could not accept that Christ was the (supposed) son of Joseph (Jn 6.42).
The witness of the Gospels is clear as to His claims, as the shepherds heard, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2.11). Later to the "just and devout" Simeon "it was revealed by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lords Christ" (Lk 2.26). The reaction to John the Baptists hearers was that "all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he (John) were the Christ, or not" (Lk 3.15).
Accepting Jesus as the Christ was the essence of becoming a Christian. The Gospels in general, and Johns Gospel in particular, were written "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (Jn 20.31). Peters faith in the Lord Jesus was expressed in his confessions: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16.16; Jn 6.69), and "the Christ of God" (Lk 9.20). However, the Lord Jesus "charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ" (Mt 16.20), wanting real personal faith and not apparent collective sentiment (Jn 2.24). In answer to questions such as, "Art thou the Christ? tell us", He replied, "If I tell you, ye will not believe" (Lk 22.67).
On the other hand, people had expectations of the Messiah that they found to be true in the Lord Jesus. For instance, the woman of Samaria said, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (Jn 4.29). Soon afterwards the men of Samaria said to her, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (Jn 4.42). While some of the Jews said, "This is the Christ", some said, "Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" (Jn 7.41; cp. Mt 4.15,16; Jn 7.42). Martha said, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world" (Jn 11.27). The problem that they all had to face was that of a suffering Messiah, and the Lord Jesus was careful to teach them this truth (Lk 24.26,46), and thereafter this became a major topic in Christian preaching and teaching, especially to Jews (eg. Acts 3.18; 1 Pet 1.11).
To be continued.