Are there really two promised Messiahs?
What didn’t Jesus do?
For the rabbis the concept of Messiah has been re-evaluated and repackaged by them in the light of the rejection of Jesus. Here’s how it goes …
Life on Earth is a struggle and things will only get better when the World reaches a state of perfection. This will only happen when the Jewish nation reaches a state of perfection, which – let’s be frank – is not going to happen. This is where the Messiah comes in. Here will be a man, descended from King David, who will nudge the Jews to their destiny and bring peace to the World. He will bring the Jews back to Israel, rebuild the Holy Temple, abolish anti-Semitism and act as Israel’s teacher and spiritual mentor. The earthly model for this role was Moses, the first redeemer of the Jewish people.
The identity of the Messiah is an easy one. If someone comes along and does all the things that the Messiah was meant to do, then that’s who he is, he would be known by his works. If someone comes along and just does 99% of the right stuff, then he’s an imposter and the Jews go on looking and longing for Messiah. And this brings us nicely to the question of Jesus.
For the rabbis it’s a no-brainer. Did Jesus fulfill all of the things that the Messiah was meant to, in the eyes of the rabbis? The answer for them was definitely, “No!” Yet religious Jews give the simplest of instructions to those “targeted by missionaries”. They are told to just walk away and don’t get into “fruitless discussion” because no way can Jesus be the Messiah – he definitely hasn’t banished war (Christians have certainly started more than their fair share!), he didn’t return Jews to Israel (quite the reverse, they would say), he didn’t rebuild the Temple, he certainly didn’t eradicate anti-Semitism (again, the reverse is true) and was not generally accepted as Israel’s teacher. “Just walk away!”, they cry. “Walk away from these people. We know he’s not our Messiah. My rabbi told me so”.
My rabbi told me so? So where did he hear it from? Who gave him the authority? There are two answers to this. Firstly, and correctly, there’s the Word of God, in the Tenakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. Secondly, it’s other rabbis, ancient rabbis from the pages of Jewish history. It is worth now differentiating between these two answers and looking at how they apply the source material, especially when it is coming from the Word of God. They are waiting for the king, the Messiah ben David, or simply Messiah, or Moschiach in Hebrew. He is spoken of in Scripture:
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)
This promised one is called the Messiah ben David (Messiah, son of David), because he is expected to be descended from King David, as God promised the king through the words of Nathan the prophet:
“When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.' " (1 Chronicles 17:11-14)
More next week …
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp