The Crucial Question About Messiah
It is a strong, straight forward argument. Jews in the first century were not anticipating a Messiah who would suffer and die. They were expecting a new David—a king who would defeat the Romans and reinstall the glory of God’s Kingdom on earth through the Jews. The consensus of contemporary biblical scholars agrees. And this is the same argument against Jesus’ claim used by Maimonides, the dean of orthodox Jewish rabbis in the 12th century.
Jesus suffered and died. He did not emancipate Israel and bring in a Kingdom based on Torah. Instead, Jerusalem was destroyed. The Jews were scattered, and a dominant Christian culture that has persecuted Jews was established.
Before buying this argument, however, we need to ask— does the fact that many Jewish leaders in the first century missed the theme of the suffering Messiah in their Torah mean that it is not there?
According to Luke, a first century document, it wasn’t only the Torah experts in Jerusalem who didn’t get it. Jesus’ own disciples didn’t anticipate a suffering Messiah, and two of them actually presented the orthodox belief about the anticipated conquering Messiah to Jesus Himself on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus started responding, He put His finger on what caused them to walk away from Jerusalem and the women’s report that He was alive.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘You’re certainly foolish, slow to believe all that the Prophets said. Are not these things true that the Messiah had to suffer and then come into His glory?’ And beginning from Moses and then all the Prophets he explained for them all the things written about himself.”
Jesus called the rejection of the Messiah’s suffering a foolish act due to a hard heart of unbelief. He then started at the beginning with the writings of Moses and proceeded all the way to the end of the Jewish Scriptures declaring that the Story was about Himself.
When it comes to this crucial issue of a suffering Messiah, why not begin right at the beginning with God telling the Serpent that a great Seed of the Woman would be “struck” in the heel by God’s adversary, but this Male Child would respond and crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). What is this strike that the Promised Son receives?
In the Abraham story why after years of delay did God finally give Sarah a son and then ask Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice his son (Genesis 22)? Why did God command Moses to place a bronze serpent on a pole and why did God heal them of snake bite when they simply looked at the cursed on the pole (Numbers 21)? Who was David himself talking about when in Psalm 16 when he wrote about a Son of David who would die but not decay in the grave?
We need to answer these questions not by simply running to our Jewish or Christian beliefs but by actually tracking together the Story being told from beginning to end. Truth Encounter’s purpose is to help us enterinto this kind of discussion about the essence of the Story.
LORD, protect me from being foolish and immediately hardening my heart against another’s point of view. Help me to listen as You explain things. Use Truth Encounter to help others discern how the Jewish Scriptures do have Jesus at the center of the Story.
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