Who is the Messiah? Part 2

This post is dedicated to Lynn Wright and Aaron Hyman.

My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, I think you know by now that I have an unshakable conviction that Yeshua, Jesus, is our Messiah. If I have this unshakable conviction, why is it that so many Jewish people refuse to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah? I practiced medicine for 46 years and my specialty was making the correct diagnosis in difficult cases. I was successful at it, and to be successful at it, I had to analyze data and weigh evidence constantly. Weighing evidence is a significant part of what we need to do when we approach a question such as “Is Yeshua the Messiah?” Nevertheless, there are reasons why most Jewish people do not believe Yeshua is The Messiah, and in attempting to find out why, I had to sift and weigh a great deal of evidence, both positive and negative. An important piece of negative evidence is something that is important in Judaism today. It is the 13 Articles of Faith formulated by a rabbi who has had a profound influence on Jewish thought and belief for the past approximately 900 years. His name is Maimonides, and there is no rabbi held in greater esteem today by Jewish people all over the world than Maimonides.

Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, was born in Spain, where his father was a prominent rabbi. The family was forced to leave Spain because of severe persecution from the Almohades Islamic Dynasty which ruled in Spain and in Western North Africa. The family relocated to Fez, Morocco, where persecution from the very same Islamic sect again forced the Rambam and his family to depart. After a brief stay in Palestine, Maimonides settled in Egypt where the Almohades Dynasty did not rule, and due to his brilliance, kindness, and love for his people, the Jewish people, he became head of the Jewish community in Egypt. It should also be noted that The Crusades started not long before Maimonides was born. So Maimonides lived at a very turbulent time and, in fact, things were so bad for the Jews that there was at that time great yearning for the coming of The Messiah so that peace would reign and persecution would cease. I think it would have been very hard for Maimonides to accept the belief that The Messiah, Yeshua, had already come and would come again at a later date. Maimonides had been taught that when the Son of David, The Messiah, came there would be world peace and that the Jews would never be persecuted again.

This brilliant young rabbi, Maimonides, codified Jewish Law from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud in his monumental work, the Mishneh Torah. It is from the Mishneh Torah that we get the 613 laws that we Jews know about today. The Mishneh Torah is revered by rabbis all over the world.

Maimonides also authored the 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith, mentioned above, which in his eyes every true Jew should know and believe. In fact, The Principles are recited in synagogues around the world today in the form of the Yigdal prayer found in the Siddur. I have it in my very own Artscroll Siddur1. Each of the 13 Principles begins with “I believe in perfect faith”. These Thirteen Principles are taken very seriously indeed. Although Maimonides lived about a thousand years after Yeshua’s time, understanding the Rambam’s 13 Principles can help to explain why many Jewish people today refuse to believe in Yeshua.

I want to talk with you now about one of The Thirteen Principles, namely the Third Principle. The Third Principle is the negation of corporeality. God cannot have a body. Since Jesus had a body and said that he was God the Third Principle makes Jesus a liar and a scoundrel. Jesus also said that he was the Messiah. How could a Jewish person accept a scoundrel and a liar as The Messiah? There is no way! Except for one thing: the Rambam, as great and good as he was, was dead wrong. Let me show you the evidence for this by looking at a portion of Scripture with you from the New Testament that shows us that Maimonides’s Third Principle is absolutely incorrect. This Scripture portion will show us two things: that Yeshua was, and is, God, and that God can be corporeal, meaning that God can have a body. Here is the Scripture portion:

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.” Matthew 9:1-7 (ESV)

So what happened here? A number of things:

  1. Yeshua said to a paralytic, who could not walk, “your sins are forgiven”.
  2. Because only God can forgive sins, Yeshua was saying that he is God.
  3. This was clearly recognized by some of the Jewish scribes because they said “This man is blaspheming”.
  4. When a person is forgiven of his or her sins there is no immediate way to know that that has occurred. There is no outward change in the person’s appearance that can be observed.
  5. Therefore, Yeshua offered proof to the scribes that he had authority on earth to forgive sins by doing a miracle which was much more difficult to do than proclaiming “Your sins are forgiven” to a person and which could be verified by an easily observable external change: Yeshua told the paralyzed man to pick up his bed and go home, and the man immediately did this. He was healed.

Please also note that Yeshua referred to Himself here as the Son of Man:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—

Yeshua did this to call attention to the fact that not only is he God, he is also human, and that would of course be obvious to anyone who saw him. He was and is a man. But because he could and can forgive sins, he is God. He is the God-Man. He has two natures: he is perfectly human in every way, except for the fact that there is no sin in him (unlike each and every one of us) and, he is God, the Son of God, with all the attributes of God. He had to have both natures, that of God and that of man in order to save us. Because to save us required the ultimate blood sacrifice and that means that Yeshua had to die, and as God he could not die. He had to have the nature of man in order to die and the nature of God in order to forgive sin by becoming the perfect blood sacrifice. Please remember that the Torah makes it clear that a blood sacrifice is required to make atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11) and please also note that the blood of animals could not provide permanent forgiveness of sins. That is why animals had to be sacrificed again and again. Yeshua’s one blood sacrifice provides permanent forgiveness of sins for anyone who will accept it by faith.

Please note one other thing. Jesus proved he is God. God does not lie. Jesus said he is the Messiah. Therefore, he is The Messiah..

So, my dear Jewish brothers and sisters, can you see how Maimonides’s Third Principle can seriously discourage a Jewish person from accepting Jesus as Messiah and God? And can you imagine the effect that this Third Principle could have on a modern Rabbi, who’s job it is to teach people the truth, but who may be unwittingly teaching his people an untruth embedded in this Third Principle? And do you know that because this Third Principle is so embedded in our prayerbooks, teachings, and culture, that you, as a Jew today, can be affected by it even if you have never heard of Maimonides or his 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith? Let me say it once more: The teaching that God can not have a body is incorrect (more about this another time; our Hebrew Scriptures spell this out clearly also). And saying, and believing, that God came to earth as The Messiah and God, as The God-Man (there is only One!), does not make you a heretic. On the contrary, it makes you a truer Jew than you could ever otherwise be!

We will talk about these things more in future posts because there is much more to say. But in the next post, we’ll switch gears and talk about something different. We will talk about something that Yeshua paid the price for us to escape from, if we have faith in Him. We will talk about something called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble and we will also talk about something called The Rapture.

Hope to see you next time!

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Who is The Messiah?

Why is it important to know who The Messiah is? Because he is the primary agent in the cure for death. He can bring a person from death to life. My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, that is important!

So, let’s talk about The Messiah. But first let’s get our terms straight. The word Messiah comes from the Greek word and the later Latin word Messias. Messiah is the word we use in the English language. The Hebrew word is Mashiach. Messiah means an anointed one, usually one anointed with oil, as the first High Priest, Aaron, was. But in this post I’m not talking about an anointed Old Testament Levitical priest or an anointed Old Testament king. Nor am I talking about any other Old Testament person whom the LORD had chosen to anoint and set apart for a particular purpose. I’m also not talking about a person who might be a “messiah” in a secular sense. For example, a military general who wins a great war and by doing so saves his nation from invasion and defeat by an enemy force, might be referred to as a messiah even though such a person would not generally be anointed with oil. We are not going to talk about that type of messiah. We are going to talk about The Messiah, of whom there is only one. It is he who brings peace, righteousness, and the Messianic Age. The Messiah essentially brings heaven to earth. This is The Messiah that Jews have been waiting for, for thousands of years.

If you try to look for the one source or the one text that specifies who The Messiah is or what his qualifications are you won’t find one source for this information. And there is no definite agreement even among Jewish scholars and Rabbis as to who The Messiah is or which ancient books or texts can be used to identify him. And it’s important to know how we might identify The Messiah because if we don’t have reliable criteria we could miss The Messiah when he comes or we could wrongly identify an individual who is not The Messiah as being The Messiah. So how do we begin our quest to find The Messiah? Did he already come or do we look for him yet to come? And where do we look for answers to these questions?

As noted above, Messiah, or Mashiach, means anointed one. But the Jewish people mainly used the word Mashiach to describe that person, a human being and not God, who would be the deliverer or liberator or saviour of the Jewish people and Jewish Nation. So The Messiah is someone who would deliver the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people from disaster or catastrophe or oppression and such a person in actuality would not necessarily be distinguishable by being anointed with oil. Certainly someone thought to be The Messiah could be anointed with oil by a person with the authority to declare an individual to be The Messiah. But there is a potential problem with that. If one of us, you or I, were a King, or Chief Priest, or Chief Rabbi, of Israel and had the authority to declare a person to be The Messiah, we could then anoint that person with oil and declare him to be The Messiah. But I wouldn’t be convinced by that. Would you be? For an office as important as that of Messiah, the anointing must be from an unbiased and unimpeachable source. It’s quite clear to me that the unimpeachable source has to be God. Does that make sense to you?

If there is no one source of information to tell us about The Messiah, where did the information that we have come from? Where did it originate? It originates from the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e., the Old Testament, or Tanach.

Now suppose that you or I decided to carefully look for information and evidence pointing to The Messiah. I would start my research in the Old Testament. There would be more than one way to do that. I could study the works of someone who has already carefully researched this question of The Messiah’s origin and who is also familiar with the Hebrew language. Such a person would be Jewish and would very likely be a Rabbi or other Jewish scholar renowned for his knowledge on this entire topic. I could simply accept the conclusions of such a person regarding who The Messiah must be and of equal importantance, who the Messiah cannot be. And that could be the end of my research.

Or I could do this a different way. I’m Jewish but I don’t read Hebrew well, but I could, myself, read through an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures looking for passages that seem to talk about a deliverer or liberator who will rescue the Jewish people, and possibly other people as well, from the consequences of disaster or oppression, from slavery or even from death. I could use dictionaries to help me understand particular Hebrew words, I could consult books written to give me the opinions of one or more authors on the subject, and I could directly question people who know more about this topic than I do. But I would put my own study of the Hebrew Scriptures first. I would want to avoid being biased and I would want to do my best to shed any presuppositions that I might have about The Messiah before beginning my study. I would not necessarily accept the opinion of an expert, particulary if it did not make sense to me and if it contradicted the plain meaning of the Tanach. And I would begin my study at the beginning of the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis.

So, we will take a look at the Book of Genesis regarding who The Messiah might be, but before we do that we must confront two difficult and very important questions.

The first question is as follows: Why do questions about the identity of The Messiah often cause contention? Could it be that there is a very strong motive for someone to cause confusion about The Messiah’s identity? Could the reason for causing this confusion be so that the Jewish people will not accept The Messiah when he comes?

The second question is this: Could there be someone who even wants to stop The Messiah from coming altogether?

If the answers to the above two questions is yes, why would that be the case and who would that someone be? And there is something else too. The Messiah is peculiarly related to the Jewish people and the Jewish Nation, Israel, and over the centuries there have been more attempts to destroy the Jewish people and Israel than there have been to destroy any other people or country. Why? Could these attempts be related to The Messiah?

When we talk about The Messiah and the name of Jesus comes up, especially with Jewish people, feelings can quickly rise to the level of extreme anger and people, Jewish people, can sometimes even become violent. The Apostle Paul, who started his career as a Jewish Rabbi, was one of those who became extremely angry and he lived many centuries ago. Why does the name of Jesus provoke this anger and contention even today? Could it be that he is the Messiah?

The Jewish people, The Chosen People, have been persecuted for thousands of years. That persecution began long before the time of Jesus Christ but not before the time that the first evidence for The Messiah made its appearance. Antisemitism today is not decreasing. It is increasing. That is positively frightening. Much of it comes from Islamic countries. What is the ultimate reason for this antisemitism?

What if these two things are connected? The two things I’m referring to are 1) extreme anger and rejection on the part of many Jewish people when the possibility of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is brought up, and 2) several thousand years of antisemitism and murder of Jews that finally escalated to the point of the attempted eradication of the Jewish people by Adolph Hitler and his Final Solution, and the current desire of radical Islam to eradicate the Jewish people and their Nation, Israel.

Could there be an evil mastermind behind these things directing this hatred and the consequences that follow from it? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes. I want to give you the evidence for my opinion and I propose to begin with a verse from the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” Genesis 3:1

At this point I’m asking you to please recall my first post (The Cause of Death) in which we talked about the ultimate cause of death. But here is a summary: Death occurs because sin entered the human race when Adam broke the one commandment that God gave him. Adam was commanded not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this commandment also applied to Eve, Adam’s wife. She ate of this forbidden fruit because the serpent tricked her into disobeying God’s commandment, and Adam followed Eve and ate of this fruit also. The serpent caused Eve to doubt the truth of what God said and to disobey the one commandment that God gave Adam, a commandment that applied to both Adam and Eve. In doubting the truth of this commandment Eve doubted God Himself and put the word of the serpent above the word of God. The serpent was very well aware of the one commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve. Here is how the serpent worked his deception:

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:5-6

And here is what God ordained for the serpent and clearly communicated to the serpent because of what he did:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15 1

Now something profoundly important has occurred here, in fact so profoundly important as to be beyond what we could even imagine. The woman, Eve, will give birth to a male descendant and either he, Eve’s son, or a male desendant of Eve’s further down the line, is going to bruise the serpent’s head. Many translators believe that crush is a more accurate translation than bruise. The male descendant will have only his heel injured. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his commentary on Genesis2 sees this verse as conveying a picture of Eve’s male descendant bringing his heel down on to the head of the serpent in a fatal crushing blow, and the serpent in a vain attempt to save itself, biting the descending heel. The bite inflicted by the serpent is non-fatal and comparatively minor.

Please remember that it is through what the serpent did, by tricking Eve into breaking God’s commandment, with Adam following Eve and doing the same thing, that Death entered the human race. When God spoke and pronounced sentence on the serpent, ultimately the sentence of death, God identified who would do this to the serpent. The person identified is a male descendant of Eve. Only here, and nowhere else in the Bible is someone described as being the descendant of a woman with no father mentioned. This is very significant. The fact that no father is mentioned fits well with the virgin birth of Jesus. This was prophesied by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah 700 years before it actually occurred.

Was the serpent acting on his own? No. Were any other animals in the garden said to have the ability to speak? No. Inhabiting this serpent was Satan, an evil angel, the archdeceiver, the father of lies, a murderer, and a hater of God. Satan, using the serpent as an instrument of evil, directly defied God and brought the curse of death on the entire human race. Would not this situation as described in Genesis warrant someone to reverse this curse of death? That someone would need to crush Satan’s head, utterly defeating Satan, and also pay the price for the sins committed by Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, including you and me. Only then could we be declared righteous, only then could this penalty of death be changed into eternal life.

Who could this descendant of Eve be? Would not this have to be The Messiah? That is what I believe. But more than that, a number of ancient Rabbis thought so too. They may not have known who The Messiah was to be but they did believe that he who would crush the serpent’s head was The Messiah.

Has there ever been a catastrophe so great that only a Messiah, The Messiah, could provide the remedy to liberate the human race from the bondage of sin and death that followed from the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden? Never! The consequences of this catastrophe are affecting you and me today. It is the reason for war, genocide, hatred among humans, and the evil pervading our world. This Messiah would need to be mighty powerful to reverse this curse! He’d have to be stronger than Satan, the chief of evil angels. It almost seems as if this Messiah would need to have the power of God.

But what about the two questions that I asked above? Why such anger when the name of Jesus is brought up and why anti-semitism, better called Jew hatred, and genocide? Is Satan responsible for these? Yes! He does not want his head eventually crushed. He knows the Bible and he is wily and powerful. But how will destroying belief in The Messiah benefit Satan? And how will eradicating the entire Jewish race benefit Satan? In order to understand the answer, I’m going to ask you to read several Bible verses with me, one from the New Testament and the others from the the Tanach:

““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”” Matthew 23:37-39

Jesus said this to the Jewish people, his people, in Jerusalem, shortly before his death. He was telling them that he would not return, he would not come back, until they, the Jewish people, called for him to return by saying:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Jesus was quoting part of a verse from the Tanach. It was from a messianic psalm, Psalm 118:26, recognized by Rabbis as referring to The Messiah. By quoting this verse, Jesus was once again affirming that he was The Messiah. Here is the whole verse, in Hebrew, in transliterated Hebrew, and in English:3.

כו. בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה בֵּרַכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָה

Baruch haba beshem Adonai. Berachnuchem mi’beit Adonai.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the House of the Lord

Jesus is telling the Jewish people, his people, that they will not see him again, that he will not return to deliver them, as a Nation, until they ask him to come back by blessing him in the Name of Adonai, God the Father.

Now, please look at these verses from the Tanach:

“On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:8-10

The Hebrew prophet Zechariah is speaking of The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, also known as The Great Tribulation. It will be a time of trouble like none ever before seen on this planet. The Son of David – The Messiah – will come to destroy all the nations attempting to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people. The Jewish people will look on him, Jesus, whom they have pierced, they will recognize him as their Messiah and mourn. He, Jesus, will then rescue them. He will destroy all nations coming against Jerusalem and he will bring in the Messianic Age.

In an attempt to prevent this from happening Satan will try to silence every last Jewish voice from crying out for Messiah’s return. He will try to do this by two means. He will decieve Jewish people so that many will not even consider that Jesus could be their Messiah and he will also attempt to destroy every single Jewish person. By means of this double plan he will attempt to silence the last possible Jewish voice so that not one Jew will cry out for deliverance. By so doing he believes that he can prevent The Messiah from returning and prevent his, Satan’s, head from eventually being crushed. Jesus came, for the Jewish people, in the first century AD as a suffering servant. He will return soon as a mighty King and Warrior.

My Jewish friend, as you ponder what I’ve written about in this post please remember that our God is a God of hope and blessing. He wants you to have eternal life. You can have that by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Messiah. Why not do that right now? No formula is needed. Just pray, out loud, and ask him to be your Lord and Savior today. He’ll do it.

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