Summary: The Jews expected a Messiah, was it Jesus?
Jesus Who? November 11, 12, & 15, 2007
Jesus The Christ
Jesus the Messiah
It may be surprising, but “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. It is a title, and a description. “Christ” is from the Greek word that translated the Hebrew word “Messiah:” They both mean “Anointed One.” In Jesus’ day, people were anointed with oil – it was poured on the tops of their head to signify that they were set apart and approved for leadership – usually this was done for kings and Priests.
But the title “Anointed One,” or “Messiah,” or “Christ” is different than just any king or priest being anointed. The title was reserved for “The One.” For centuries the Jews believed that God was going to send them a leader who would restore Israel’s relationship with God, renew the nation to it’s former glory and bring in the Kingdom or “reign” of God. The question is, “Is Jesus this Messiah?”
If you are looking for the Messiah that the Jews expected, the answer would have to be no. It could be argued that this is why he was killed – he looked enough like their Messiah to get them excited, but different enough to dash their hopes. But, along the lines that God often gives us what we need rather than what we want or expect; Jesus is the Christ.
NT Wright, in his book “The Challenge of Jesus,” argues that any Messiah would have to do two things to be considered the true Messiah: he would have to fight a great battle against the forces of evil, and he would have to rebuild or renew the temple. Wright says that you cannot be the Messiah without these two aspects. If you look at Jesus, he never took up arms against to oppressor, and when he died, the Temple was just as it was before he began his ministry. The closest he got to renewing the temple was to drive out the merchants, money changers, and chachka sellers from the courtyard of the nations. In A.D. 70 the temple was completely destroyed by the Romans, never to be built again.
Was he at best a failed Messiah?
When the John the Baptist first encountered Jesus in his ministry, he proclaimed loud and clear that Jesus is the Messiah. John is out in the wilderness preaching, and baptizing people who want to ready themselves for the coming Christ, he sees Jesus and in a prophetic outburst, proclaims "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ’A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
In a relatively short time, Herod has John arrested, John is languishing in prison and he is getting reports bout what Jesus is doing – he is not preparing for a great battle, and he has not paid much attention to the Temple. Instead he is walking around the countryside telling cryptic stories about God’s Kingdom and healing people. Instead of gathering an army, he sends his disciples out to tell the people that the Kingdom is here, and to heal those who are sick. This is not the way things were supposed to go. John sends some of his followers to Jesus to ask “"Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"