Over the years I have talked to many Jewish people about whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Whenever I bring up the resurrection of Jesus as an attempt to show that Jesus is most certainly the Messiah, I usually get the response that a resurrected Jesus is not really anything that special. While there have been a variety of messianic expectations, the main reason many Jews say this is because in their mind they are adhering to Rabbinic Judaism’s messianic criteria which generally entails the following:
1. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.
2. The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).
3. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).
Or, with many Jewish people, the Maimonides view of Messiah is what matters. Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:
1. The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David
2. He helps Israel follow Torah
3. He builds the Temple in its place
4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel
The Resurrection of Jesus and the New Covenant
So in relation to the qualifications of the Messiah, how might we show the importance of the resurrection? There is something that can be overlooked here. If we look at the Torah, we see God promised Moses something that would happen in the future for the Jewish people:
“These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb. And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. And when you came to this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan came out against us to battle, but we defeated them. We took their land and gave it for an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites. Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosperin all that you do.” (Deut 29: 1-9)-ESV
Here we see that God gave Moses the informing theology in vs 4, ” But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”
God repeats it to Moses in Deut:30:6 when he says, ” The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
Let’s now look at a couple of New Covenant Passages:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”-Jeremiah 31: 31-34-ESV
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.”- Ezekiel 36: 22-32:ESV
So here we see the Promises of the New Covenant:
1. God promises regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26).
2. God promises the forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25)
3. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27).
4. God promises the knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:34).
5. God promises His people would obey Him (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23-24; Jeremiah 32:39-40).
6. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek. 36:24-25; 37:11-14).
Each of these promises has a historic, partial fulfillment beginning in the 530’s BC when the first wave of the exiles returned home and when Jerusalem was initially rebuilt and each of these promises has a future, ultimate fulfillment which waits the end of the age. At that time- at the eshcahton- there will be a final, supernatural regathering of Israel’s remaining exiles, a Jewish return to God of national proportions, the Messiah’s second coming, the establishing of God’s kingdom on the earth, and the final, glorious rebuilding of Jerusalem (See Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 4, pgs 286-292).
Remember, the people of Israel were again forced out of their land again (by the Romans in 135 AD) and scattered to countries throughout the world. But, during the past few centuries, millions of exiled Jewish people around the world have returned to their ancient homeland.
Why the Resurrection Matters
Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise that was related to the New Covenant passages:
Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. As Jesus says:
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17
Also, after Jesus rose from the dead, he promised something related to the New Covenant passages:
After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 3-7)
Also, it could not be more evident that the New Covenant passages were written to both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. So what about the Gentiles? Given the Church is made up of predominately Gentiles, how do we fit into the picture? In response, we probably can note that the word “mystery’ (μυστήριον) plays a key role here. It does not mean “mysterious” as in “strange.” It means “secret”–something kept hidden. The mystery that Paul talks about (e.g., Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7-8; Eph. 3:4-9; Col. 1:26) was that regenerated Jews and Gentiles being united in one body was not known in the Tanakh. Gentiles had now become fellow heirs and members of the body of Messiah with the Jewish people. While Paul knew Israel held priority in God’s program, he realized that the prophets had revealed that Gentiles would be blessed–but after Israel had been blessed–and through Israel’s blessing.
So we can conclude with following syllogism:
1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant.
I understand that this argument might not be very relevant for skeptics. But for whether Jesus really is the Jewish Messiah, one of the most important criteria to meet this requirement is have the ability to inaugurate the New Covenant. Only a resurrected Messiah could fulfill such a task.