THE JEWISH MESSIAH
By Juan Baixeras
Most Jews think that to believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah is to turn away from their Jewish faith. This could not be farther from the truth. The Jewish people for the most part (there are Messianic Jews) have rejected Jesus as the awaited Messiah. One might ask, why? One of the reasons that the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah is that they are expecting a warrior king who will restore Israel to her former glory in the kingdom of God. Since Jesus obviously did not accomplish this, he must therefore not be the one. The problem with this view is only that it is out of sequence. Jesus will accomplish this at his Second Coming. The Messiah according to the Old Testament is first supposed to suffer and die for the atonement of the worlds sin. This is a necessity for entrance into the kingdom of God.
So, why then do the Jews not know this? This question will be addressed in the following pages.
I grew up thinking that the Jews as a people rejected Jesus as the Messiah. I do not believe that to be the case anymore. I think that the majority of the Jewish population in and around Jerusalem accepted him as the Messiah. It was mostly the Jewish religious hierarchy (the Sanhedrin) that rejected him, and even among them, many believed in him but were afraid to admit it publicly for fear of being thrown out of the synagogue.
John 12:42: "Nevertheless, many even among the authorities (Sanhedrin), believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not acknowledge it openly in order not to be expelled from the synagogue.
John 3:1-2: "Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him."
Matthew 8:19: "A scribe approached and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
John 19:38: "After this, Joseph of Arimathea,(another member of the Sanhedrin) secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus... Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh."
Nicodemus came at night because he did not want to be seen with Jesus. But take a close look at Nicodemus statement, he says WE KNOW, this means that there were more members of the Sanhedrin that agreed with Nicodemus but were afraid of acknowledging it publicly for fear of being cast out of the synagogue. John 12:42 above confirms this.
Before continuing any farther, an understanding of the Sanhedrin and the political structure in Judea will help to shed some light on this subject.
In the time of Jesus ministry, the Romans ruled Judea indirectly. That is, they allowed the Sanhedrin to rule Judea in day to day matters, but the Sanhedrin was of course accountable to the Romans (in Judea it was the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate).
The Sanhedrin was the Jewish high court in Jerusalem. It consisted of the high priest and others who had held the office of high priest (the office had become an appointed one under Roman rule). It also included members of the high priestly families, the heads of the tribes and families (aristocracy), and scribes (lawyers) and elders. The full membership consisted of seventy-two men, representing equally the three groups of priests, scribes, and elders. These men were members of the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
The Sanhedrin was more than just a religious institution. It constituted the highest Jewish authority in Palestine. It was responsible for every part of daily life that had a religious aspect. This meant just about everything. It was as far ranged as from weddings, to the enforcement of the Mosaic Law such as, do not kill, do not steal, etc. They provided law enforcement, collected their own taxes, and were in effect the controlling authority in Judea. The Roman government allowed the Sanhedrin a great measure of independence, granting it civil and administrative authority. It had officers at its disposal as well as the power of arrest and imprisonment. However, under the Roman rule the Sanhedrin in time lost the legal authority to execute the death penalty (as in the case of Jesus), unless they got the permission of the Roman governor (procurator).
Why did the Sanhedrin reject Jesus as the Messiah?
Imagine, if Jesus instead of coming in the first century, came today. If he started correcting the teachings of the Protestant and Catholic Churches, telling them that they have misunderstood what God has said. If he started preaching that the trinity is man made, and that it is not from God. That when you die you do not go to heaven, but instead wait for the resurrection of the dead and the kingdom of God. If he said that you shouldnt pray to Mary or the saints. How do you think he would be treated today? Probably not much better.
The Sanhedrin was faced with similar problems. Jesus was in effect telling them that they had not understood Gods word the way God had intended it. They had replaced the word of God with their traditions.
Matthew 15:6: (speaking to the scribes and Pharisees) "You have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
Matthew 16:11-12: "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
Matthew 23:23: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity."
Jesus is basically telling the people that the Sanhedrin, the ruling authority, are hypocrites. And he is correct. The Sanhedrin wanted the people to follow their traditions that they themselves did not even keep. This is why Jesus refers to them as hypocrites in numerous verses.
Luke 11:46: "You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourself do not lift one finger to touch them."
As the people started to believe in the teachings of Jesus, they started to see the hypocrisy and corruption of the Sanhedrin. You must realize what this means politically. Please understand the magnitude of the situation. When Jesus challenges the Sanhedrin, he is not just challenging a bunch of priests, he is challenging the Jewish ruling authority of Judea. The Sanhedrin over time had become an institution that used Judaism as a means to control the population for its own benefit. They were afraid that if Jesus kept preaching about the coming of the kingdom of God, and of being the Messiah, that the Romans would come and take away their land and nation. In other words, if the Romans believed that there was an uprising in the making, they would probably come in and abolish the Sanhedrin and assume direct and full control in all matters in Judea, which after the uprising in AD 70 is exactly what they did.
John 11:47-53: "So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him (as Messiah) and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation...So from that day on they planned to kill him."
Why would the Romans come and take away the Jews land and nation if the Jews believed in Jesus as the Messiah? The reason is because of what the Messiah means to the Jews. The Messiah is supposed to restore Israel to its glory. Among other things, he is supposed to be a warrior king who establishes the kingdom of God on earth and represents God to the people. To the Romans, talk of restoring Israel to its former glory, a Jewish king, and a kingdom, all sounds like an insurrection against Rome. The Sanhedrin was unfortunately more concerned with the things of this world, than with the things of God.
John 8:23: Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees:
"I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world."
Merchants and traders have always been the lifeline of a city. This is because they bring in a lot of the money that is then taxed by the government. Because of that relationship, this group has always been very influential in the affairs of government. We can still see that today as big business influences our government through lobbying and other means. An examination of what happened when Jesus entered the temple area will reveal another group of Jesus adversaries.
Matthew 21:12-13: "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. And said to them, "It is written:
My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves."
The merchants and traders had turned the temple area into what we would call today, "an outdoor mall." Jesus rightfully reclaimed it for God. I can guarantee you that all the merchants and traders were furious with Jesus for overturning their tables and chasing them out of what they perceived to be their market area. They went straight to the local authorities, the Sanhedrin to complain and press charges. The Sanhedrin, which were no admirers of Jesus, now has the added pressure of the most influential and economically important section of the population. And they are most definitely asking for some kind of swift punishment. Probably death. Mark 11:18 states just that:
"The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death."
The majority of the Jewish population in and around Jerusalem believed Jesus to be the Messiah. I have always asked myself, "How can the same people in Jerusalem who welcomed him in as the Messiah crucify him a few days later?" The answer is, they didnt! The Sanhedrin and a very influential section of the population (the merchants and traders) did.
Mark 11: 1-10: This is when Jesus enters Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion. The people welcome him in as they would a king (which the Messiah is), by spreading their cloaks and leafy branches on the road. This was customary when receiving kings or victorious generals.
"Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!"
Luke 19:38: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest."
This to me does not sound like a crowd that wants to have him killed. On the contrary, they believed in him. They believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah.
Jesus was usually followed by large crowds who wanted to hear him speak and perform signs. In Mark 6:34 there is a crowd of five thousand. In Mark 8:1 there is a crowd of four thousand. Luke 21:38 says,
"And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the temple area."
This is the primary reason that the Sanhedrin took so long to arrest him. They were afraid of the crowds reaction if they arrested him. Logic demands that if the majority of the people were against him, there would be no reason to fear the crowds. But that is not the case, the majority of the people were for him.
Luke 19:47-48: "The chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people, meanwhile were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words."
Mark 14:1-2: "So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, "not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people."
Mark 12:12: "They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away."
Mark 14:11: "When they heard him (Judas) they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over."
Notice that he needed an opportunity to hand him over.
Luke 13:17: "When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him."
His adversaries were humiliated (the Jewish religious leaders), but the crowd rejoiced.
Luke 22:6: "He (Judas) accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd."
According to John 18:3 the arrest of Jesus was done at night and away from the crowds in a garden (Gethsemane).
So what about the crowd that called for him to be crucified? They were probably the same crowd that arrested him who were from the chief priests, the scribes, the elders and the leaders of the people (who were probably the merchants and traders).
Mark 14:43: "Accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders."
Luke 19:47: "The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile were seeking to put him to death..."
Mark 15:11: "But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead."
Matthew 27:20: "The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus."
Even after Jesus death and resurrection many Jews in Jerusalem were becoming Christians.
Acts 3:4: "But many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand."
Jews as well as Christians have been led to believe that the Jews rejected Jesus. But that is not the proof that history offers us. History shows us that the Jewish population did believe in Jesus, but that he was opposed, persecuted, and finally crucified by the Sanhedrin and other leaders of the people.
SO WHY DONT THE JEWS TODAY BELIEVE JESUS TO BE THE MESSIAH?
After Jesus resurrection a lot of Jews did become Christians, The early church was comprised mostly of Jews at first, until the Apostles started taking the message to the Gentiles. But the Sanhedrin viciously persecuted any Jew who professed Jesus as the Messiah. If you accepted Jesus as the Messiah, you were thrown out of the synagogue, your family disowned you, you would lose your job, and any Jew who did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah considered you an outcast. You also faced imprisonment. Imprisoning Jewish Christians is what the Apostle Paul as a Pharisee was doing before his conversion. It was socially and economically devastating to declare Jesus as the Messiah. This social pressure turned away many Jews who had followed Jesus while he was alive and deterred a lot of Jews from becoming Christians. The Sanhedrin also lied about the resurrection of Jesus, saying that it had been a trick. They also claimed that the Messiah was supposed to usher in a New Kingdom, and that since Jesus had not, he could not be the Messiah. What they failed to see in the Scriptures is that first, the Messiah is supposed to suffer and die for the atonement of the world’s sin. I have always wondered how did they miss that? It is so clear. Here is a possible explanation.
The Jews throughout history have always been persecuted. To a Jew, it is not a question of, "if I will be persecuted," but when? You can skim history and see a trail of persecution, from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Spanish, Germans, etc.
A reason for this is that they were chosen by God to bring salvation to the world. A lot of peoples and nations have harbored ill will toward the Jews because of this claim. But it is true.
After Christianity became popular, the Jews as a people were blamed for the crucifixion of Jesus, although I think we have shown that this is not the case. Also, anywhere the Jews have emigrated, they have always put God first and the nation second. The secular world is very nationalistic and places the state first. This has also been a cause for resentment toward the Jews. Because of this resentment I do not think that the world would have embraced a religion (no matter what kind of evidence it produced) had it come from the Jews. This is why I believe that it was Gods plan that the Jews as a nation reject Christianity. Because of the Jews rejection, Christianity was no longer a Jewish religion, and it became acceptable to the rest of the world.
I believe God hardened the Jews so that Christianity could reach the Gentile world. I cannot exactly define what "hardened" means. Whether God actually hardens their hearts or whether he confirms their already hardened condition is not certain. According to the New Testament, Israel as a nation will be saved when the full of the Gentiles comes in, until then, only a part will see the truth.
Romans 11:25-26: "I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not become wise in your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved."
Romans 11:7: "What then? What Israel was seeking it did not attain, but the elect attained it; the rest were hardened, as it was written:
"God gave them a spirit of deep sleep,
eyes that should not see
and ears that should not hear,
down to this very day." (Paul is quoting Isaiah 29:10)
John 12:36-40: "After he had said this, Jesus left and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him, in order that the word which Isaiah the prophet spoke might be fulfilled...
"He blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not see with their eyes
and understand with their heart and be converted,
and I would heal them." (Paul is quoting Isaiah 6:9-10)
Matthew 21:42: "Jesus said to them,"Did you ever read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders (Israel) rejected
has become the cornerstone; (for the gentiles)
By the Lord has this been done." (Matthew is quoting Psalms 118:22-23)
Luke 19:41-42: "As he drew near, he saw the city (Jerusalem) and wept over it, saying, "If you only knew what makes for peace, but for now it is hidden from your eyes."
Another great obstacle for the Jews is the mainstream Christian concept of God. The majority of Christianity believes in a God that is three in one, and one in three. It sounds like something out of a Musketeer movie. They claim that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is also a separate person in the Godhead. This unfortunately is not what Jesus nor the Apostles believed or taught. This belief comes out of the influence of Greek philosophy such as Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Stoicism, and Gnosticism on the early Christian church in the first few centuries. For an excellent article on the influence of Greek philosophy on the early Christian church, I would suggest looking up "Platonism" in the Encyclopedia Britannica under the subtitle "Platonism and its influence on the Early Christianity." True Christianity believes in the oneness of God, and in His son Jesus, the Messiah of Gods kingdom (who is a man anointed by God), and the kingdom of God which is to begin upon the return of Jesus. When asked by a scribe, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied by quoting the Shema, Israels creed; "Hear, O Israel! The Lord (YHWH) our God, the Lord is one" (Mark 12:29). Jesus is in complete agreement with the Jewish belief in God.
I can imagine how it must look to a Jew. You can show him that Jesus is the Messiah Scripturally, and he might see the truth in it, but then you tell him that God is now three in one and one in three, and all your credibility is gone. If he did believe in Jesus, he will not anymore. Well, do not let this be a stumbling block anymore, because this is not a true Christian belief. It is a false teaching that has been perpetuated by Satan to mislead people away from the truth. Search for the truth, look to the Scriptures.
Christianity is the continuation of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament gives us detailed evidence of who the Messiah is supposed to be. It is like the address on a letter. If as a Jew you would like to see Scriptural proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah, here it is.
Jesus fulfilled over 300 Jewish prophecies. We can only cover a few of the more important ones, but you can easily verify the rest. The evidence is incredible!
Isaiah 53 is the cornerstone of all Messianic prophecies. It clearly predicts the coming of the Messiah and how he must suffer and die for our sins. Some Jewish rabbis say that Isaiah is talking about the nation of Israel, but I invite you to read it and judge for yourself if he is referring to the nation of Israel or to a personal Messiah. Isaiah makes fifty-one references to a personal Messiah. Compare this chapter with Isaiah 54 in which he is speaking about Israel and see the difference. The reason Isaiah 53 is ignored in the haftarah reading in connection with the Pentateuchal lesson is because Isaiah 53 cannot be explained away. You can read it and not see the truth in it, just like Isaiah 6: 9-10 predicted, but it is there. Most Jews have never even read it. In order to make a well thought out decision, one has to read and come to terms with Isaiah 53.
Let’s now look at some prophecies which accurately pinpoint from which descendants the Messiah must come from, from what tribe, in what city he must be born, and the most specific prophecy of all tells us when the Messiah will die. You will get a much clearer picture if you read the whole passage, I will just list the main point.
Genesis 12:1-3: "All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you."
The Messiah will come from the lineage of Abraham. Jesus is from the line of Abraham. The communities will be blessed because the Messiah will provide atonement for sins. This is known as the Abrahamic Covenant.
Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the peoples homage."
The Messiah will come out of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is from the tribe of Judah.
Isaiah 9:6: "From Davids throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains."
The Messiah must be a "Son of David," which Jesus is.
Isaiah 16:5: "A throne shall be set up in mercy, and on it shall sit in fidelity in Davids tent a judge upholding right and prompt to do justice."
The Messiah comes from the line of David. Jesus is from the line of David.
Isaiah 11:1: "But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him."
The Messiah will be from the line of David. Jesse is the father of David. Jesus is a descendant of David.
Isaiah 11:10: "On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out."
The Messiah, a descendant of Jesse, will be a signal for all nations. Jesus is a descendant of Jesse, and there are followers of Jesus in all nations.
Micah 5:2: "But you Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from old" (ancient Davidic Dynasty).
The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Daniel 9:24-26: "This prophecy predicts when the Messiah will die. Daniel says, "After the sixty two sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off." This is a reference to the crucifixion of the Messiah (see Psalms 22:17-19). Here Daniel gives us a very specific prophecy. The Messiah must die 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. This decree was given March 14, 445 BC (see Nehemiah 2:1-8). In explanation of the "Seventy Weeks" of Daniel 9: 24-26: Seventy Weeks refers not to seventy weeks of days, but weeks of years, then seventy weeks equals seventy units of seven. It is a reference to the Jewish Sabbatical year. Once each seven years the land was to be left to rest for a year. Seventy weeks equals 70 times 7, which equals 490 years. Daniel 9:24-26 says there will be 7 weeks and 62 weeks from the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the time the Messiah will be cut off. Thats 69 weeks, which equals 483 years. Note: A Jewish year is 360 days, or 12 months of 30 days each; 483 years equals 173,880 days. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the week of his death on the tenth day of Nissan in Passion Week, which was April 6, 32 AD. The conclusion is that the 69 weeks
(483 years) started with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, March 14, 445 BC and ended the week that Jesus entered Jerusalem, April 6, 32 AD. It is incredible! You cannot be more specific than this. The only person that could fit this very specific prophecy is Jesus of Nazareth. The odds of one person just fulfilling eight of the 300 prophecies are 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That is, 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. What do you think the odds are in one person fulfilling all 300 prophecies as Jesus has done? The facts are there if one wants to see them.
The people of Israel did not reject Jesus as the Messiah, the Jewish power structure did for their own gain. Christianity is just the fulfillment of Judaism. By accepting Jesus as the Messiah you will not be any less of a Jew, on the contrary, you will be in complete accordance with your own Scriptures.