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The Messiah, Missed!

Jesus had come and gone and, for the Jewish authorities, life would not be the same again. In fact, their own writings, the Talmud, speaks of a most interesting situation concerning the Temple in Jerusalem. Once a year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) a scarlet cord would be tied to the horn of the scapegoat as the High Priest enters the Temple to make his annual sacrifice for the sins of the people. Every year this cord would miraculously turn white, indicating God's acceptance of this sacrifice.

This is an allusion to Isaiah 1:18:

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Yet, something strange happened one Yom Kippur, according to the Talmud.

 "Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white".

The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Forty years before this would be 30 AD. So, from 30 AD, God showed his displeasure by not accepting the annual Temple sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the Jewish people. So what could have happened around 30 AD to incur divine annoyance? What single event did away the need for further sacrifices, so much so, that any attempt at doing so would be rejected?

"Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:11-12)

It's remarkable that this situation should be described in the Jewish writings as it adds such authenticity to the Christian position.

If proof was needed that the Jewish authorities had got it wildly wrong in their rejection of Jesus, then this was it. And in their own writings too. Surely this was the biggest mistake ever made! But it didn't stop them from continuing to look for their Messiah.

According to Josephus, the prominent Jewish historian of that day, a number of "Messiahs" appeared in the land in that period. "Another body of wicked men also sprung up, cleaner in their hands, but more wicked in their intentions, who destroyed the peace of the city no less than did these murderers [the Sicarii]. For they were deceivers and deluders of the people, and, under pretense of divine illumination, were for innovations and changes, and prevailed on the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them in the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them signs of liberty".

One such deluder was Theudas, said to be even more popular than Jesus in his day, arriving on the scene about ten years after the crucifixion. He managed to gather together around four hundred followers, who he led to the River Jordan, which was fine if they were just there for a good wash, or even a mass baptism. But, no. Theudas saw himself as a second Moses and attempted to command the waters to part. They didn't and the only thing that did part was his head from his body after the Romans captured him and beheaded him and many of his followers.

Another, an Egyptian, is said to have gathered around 30,000 followers. He brought them to the Mount of Olives, opposite Jerusalem, promising that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, and that he and his followers would enter and possess the city. But the Roman procurator saw them off. The "Messiah" escaped but the rest were done to death.

Steve Maltz
December 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Jesus Man of Many Names)

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