Is Jesus the Messiah? A Look at the Messianic T.A.S.K.

Introduction

Over the years I have been asked why Jewish people don’t think Jesus is the Messiah. From my own experience, when I have talked to Jewish people about the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah, there is a wide range of thought. For some Jewish people a personal Messiah is irrelevant. For others, it is said that in every generation there is a potential messiah or a time when there will be a Messianic Age. One thing for sure: To assert that there has always been one view of the Messiah is total nonsense.

In this post I would like to give a  simple acronym that will help explain why Jesus is the Messiah. It is called T.A.S.K.

T: TITLES

The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures records how “messiah” is a description of those anointed  with oil such as priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and even prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special task within  the Jewish community. Hence, they could be viewed as “a messiah.” However, this does not mean they are “the Messiah.” Also, just as a king could be viewed as “a son of God,” it does not mean the king is “The Son of God.” The term “messiah,” meaning “anointed one,” is taken from the Hebrew word “masiah” which appears thirty-nine times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term Messiah is translated as “christos” which was one of the official titles for Jesus within the New Testament.

To ask whether Jesus is the Messiah needs a bit of clarification. A better questions to ask is whether we can apply messianic titles to Jesus.  In  other words,  names were used to describe the messianic person other than “Messiah.” The messianic concept also has a much wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.  So the pressing issue is whether we can we apply messianic titles such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One to Jesus? In this case, the answer is yes.  I have written more about that here:

A: APPEARANCE

One of the most pivotal texts that speak to a time frame about the first appearance of the Messiah is Gen. 49:8-12:

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB

In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:

1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.

2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.

3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).

4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.

5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.

We see the following about this passage:

1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)

2. His decent is now limited to being a son of Judah

3. He is going to be a King

4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.

5. The nations of the earth shall benefit (i.e., on the idea of a beneficial rule see comments on v. 11, 12) is in keeping with the author’s view of God’s covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

David Baron (1857 – 1926) a Jewish believer and scholar was author of “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah”, “ Types Psalms and Prophecies,” and “The Servant of Jehovah” says the following about Gen. 49:8-12:

“With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh come,that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom.” (see Israel and the Plan of God (Oxford, England, Kregal Classics, 2000).

It is also worth noting that The Dead Sea Scrolls help shed some light on this text as well: In 4Q Patriarchal Blessings, the interpretation of the Genesis text reads:

“A ruler shall not depart from the tribe of Judah while Israel has dominion. There will not be cut off a king in it belonging to David. For the staff is the covenant of the kingship; the thousands of Israel are the feet, until the coming of the Messiah of Righteousness, the branch of David, for to him and his seed has been given the covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations.”

The precise meaning of “Shiloh” is challenging. It is either a reference to a place, as it is elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 18:1,8,9; 19;51; I Samuel 1:13, etc.), or  it may refer to the person of the Messiah. In Judaism, Names describe the nature of the Messiah’s mission.

In the Midrash on Proverbs 19:21 (c 200-500 AD) it says: Rabbi Hunah said, “Eight names are given to the Messiah which are: Yinnon, Shiloh, David, Menachem, Jehovah, Justi de Nostra, Tzemmach, and Shiloh.”

In his book The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? author Michael Rydelnik notes that the NIV may have the best translation which says  “until he comes to whom it belongs.” In this case, “Shiloh” is taken as a possessive pronoun. This translation favors the LXX (Greek Septuagint) reading. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 21: 25-27. We see that Ezekiel uses the Shiloh text as part of a judgment oracle directed against Zedekiah to declare the Lord’s intention not to put a ruler on David’s throne ‘until he comes to whom it belongs.’ Since both Genesis 40:10 and Ezekiel 21:27 deal with Judah and the government or ownership of that tribe, the argument becomes quite compelling.

What Are the Strengths of Prophecy?

1. This verse indicates that He (The Messiah) will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

2. Tribal identities were kept in the Jewish Temple. All of these records were lost in with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.

3. The rabbis passed laws which would preserve the identity of the tribe of Levi, but Jews from other tribes lost their identity.

4. Therefore, the Messiah will have to come before 70 A.D.

5. If someone comes into the word today and claims to be the Jewish Messiah, there is no way to objectively verify they are from the tribe of Judah.

6. The “Scepter” did depart in the sense that at the coming of Jesus we see the Jewish people lost their power to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment.

To read more, see here:

S: SERVANT OF THE LORD

A good study of the Abrahamic Covenant shows the Messianic blessing for all the world. Hence, all peoples on all the earth – 70 nations at the time – would be beneficiaries of the promise (Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). The Abrahamic promise of blessing of the nations is repeated in Ps. 72:17; Isa.19:24-25; Jer. 4:2; Zech 8:13.

Keeping this in mind, within the book of Isaiah there are several Servant of the Lord passages. Some of the passages about the Servant of the Lord are about the nation of Israel (Is.41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:21; 45:4; 48:20), while there are other passages where the Servant of the Lord is seen as a righteous individual (Is.42:1-4;50:10; 52:13-53:12). One passage that stands out is Isaiah 49: 1-7:

“Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar, The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.” And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him. For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength, He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”

In this passage, the servant is called “Israel,” while this figure is also distinguished from Israel as the one who will bring the nation of Israel back to God. This figure will bring “salvation to the ends of the earth.” How might Jesus be the literal fulfillment of such a passage?

In order for the prophecy of Isa. 49:1-7 to be successful, we must take some things into consideration. Remember, Isaiah 49:1-7 predicts that that the Servant will be powerful, bringing God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth,” and yet he will be “despised and abhorred by the nation” of Israel, although rulers of the gentiles will “bow down” to him. So let us ask the following questions:

1. Has there ever been any Jewish person who fits these words, having begun a world religion of gentiles?

2. There are only a handful of major world religions, about five, so the search among the possibilities is rather manageable (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism Christianity/Messianic Judaism). Before the first century A.D. only the Jewish people and a few Greek philosophers were believers in one God, and only a small percentage of the world’s population had any awareness of the Hebrew Scriptures.

3. But now, 1.4 to 2 billion people profess to be followers of Jesus. And these are mostly if not all Gentiles. So while we are not saying large numbers makes a religion true, we do see a specific prophecy here that lays out the criteria for what God wants to do with Israel, the Messiah, and the nations.

4. How does one calculate the probability that a Jewish person would found a world religion? A reasonable assumption is that a founder belongs to some people group.

5. Since the world has produced about five founders of major religions and since about one in 300 persons are Jews, a guesstimate for the antecedent odds of this prophecy coming true is highly improbable.

6. This expected Messiah would be despised by his own nation certainly gives him a tough start on becoming a world leader, and Jesus in particular is reliably reported to have been executed as a criminal.

7. Despised and executed criminals are not likely candidates for becoming major figures in world history, so the antecedent odds for this particular candidate, Jesus, to overcome these severe handicaps and still become a worldwide religious leader would be awfully difficult. [1]

Also, Isaiah 53:2–12 predicts twelve aspects of  the Servant of the Lord all fulfilled: The Messiah

1. was rejected

2. was a man of sorrow

3. lived a life of suffering

4. was despised by others

5. carried our sorrow

6. was smitten and afflicted by God

7. was pierced for our transgressions

8. was wounded for our sins

9. suffered like a lamb

10. died with the wicked

11. was sinless

12. prayed for others.[2]

K: KEY

The Messiah is the one who unlocks the key to understand the entire Bible. As Jesus said to his disciples:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,  that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then  he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus  it is written,  that the Christ should suffer and on the third day  rise from the dead, and that  repentance andforgiveness of sins should be proclaimed  in his name  to all nations,  beginning from Jerusalem.

Remember the dual aspect of Messiah’s work as actually two comings of Messiah (the first time to suffer and the second time to reign). In the end,  fulfilled prophecy does show that certain events that come to pass are evidence of God’s special activity in the world.


[1] Hugh G. Gauch, Jr., John A. Bloom, and Robert C. Newman, “Public Theology and Scientific Method: Formulating Reasons That Count Across Worldviews” {accessed May 10, 2012) at http://www.drjbloom.com/public%20files/PubTheoMethod.pdf.

[2] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Books, 1999), 611.

About these ads

Occasionally, some

Advertisements