Who is the messiah? Jesus in the Older Testament
This is usually delivered as a public address
Introduction: Comments from text
May you understand more about our Redeemer and Messiah Yeshua. May you have more confidence in His Holy Word, the Bible. And may you care about witnessing to the Jewish people, my people, even more than you do now.
"And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Yeshua Himself approached and began traveling with them. (verse 16) But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad.
One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. (verse 21) But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
(verse 25) And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24.13-27)
We see from the text a picture of the situation in Jerusalem that first Easter day. There were no lilies or trumpets. There were no Hallelujahs from the people of God. Rather the situation was bleak. Cleopas and his travelling companion (maybe even his wife?) were despondent. They were sad, the Bible says, almost depressed. (In verse 21) They had hoped Jesus would redeem Israel. By redeem, don't think about blood and forgiveness; they meant physical and political redemption. Think Passover and the national deliverance of the Jewish people at once from an oppressor. They believed that Messiah would remove Rome from the Temple area and allow Jews to worship freely again. Back in the 1980s the same could have been said about the Russians. Then there were three million Jewish people living in the Former Soviet Union. And when Messiah came, he would help Jewish people be free. Not that we wanted to win a war against Russia or in Bible days to beat up Rome, but that we wanted to be free to live a life without political oppression and with religious freedom. And well, this Jesus, he had not accomplished that political redemption. Hence, their disappointment.
The situation grew worse as it was now (again in verse 21) “the third day.” According to Jewish folklore, when a person dies, his spirit hovers around his corpse for 3 days, then on 4th day his spirit leaves... the person is officially dead. Maybe that helps you understand why Jesus waited two extra days to heal his friend Lazarus. Or the quote from Psalm 16 in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost.
You might know of the ultra Orthodox Jewish men with sidecurls and hats and long coats. Their rabbi/leader died in 1994 in Brooklyn, New York. He was a rabbi of over 90 years of age. His name was Menachem Schneerson. Some of his followers claimed him to be the messiah-- a claim he never denied. So when he died, tens of thousands of his followers-- from Israel, Australia, South America, all over--gathered and waited by his grave, fully expecting him to rise from the dead. That is, they waited until the 4th day. When he stayed dead, the crowds dissipated.
Those Jewish people in 1994 were right. Messiah would die. They were right that Messiah would rise from the dead. They were wrong though; Messiah was not from Brooklyn. We’ll talk about what they should have known in a few moments.
Finally Yeshua can take it no longer. (verse 25) He interrupts them, calls them "fools" (not Raca or empty-head, but rather 'not seeing things from God's point of view), and he conducts a Bible class with them. This would be an amazing sermon I want to see when I get to heaven. Imagine Jesus gave his great sermon here, to two people. And only two people. I need to always remember that, to teach well, to the many or to the few. And most of my ministry is to the few. I teach Jewish people in Sydney one by one.
The verse tells us “Beginning with Moses” which means “the five books of Moses” or the first five books of the Bible. “And all the prophets” meaning the rest of the Older Testament. “He explained to them the things concerning Himself.” (verse 27) What might have been included in that sermon? The Bible doesn’t tell us directly, but there was a list of messianic prophecies that were known as the testimonia and later found in recent days in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Using the three recognized sections of Jewish Bible: Law, Prophets, and Writings, let's look at three passages today. First please turn to Genesis chapter 3.
Now while you turn, let me ask if you enjoy jigsaw puzzles? If I understand it correctly, the way to do them is to open the box, dump the pieces onto the table, put all the pieces right-side-up, and then put the box top away. You look finally one last time, and put the box top away. The way to do a puzzle is to put the pieces together one-by-one and watch a picture emerge. I'm going to ask you to do what I ask Jewish people I meet with, to do. Put the box top of your own convictions, what you already believe about Messiah, put it away. And let's let the Bible puzzle pieces come together, and let's be honest with what we see. Is that fair enough?
First we look at Genesis 3, in the story the Garden of Eden, we read a curse on the Serpent, whom we later know to be Satan, the enemy of God. That curse on him is actually a blessing to the woman and the people who will come. This is found in verse 15. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
We see 3 puzzle pieces here.
1) The child who will come is the child of the woman.
No big deal right, everyone who is born is born of a woman, right? Not in Judaism. Abraham begat Isaac, (Where was Sarah?). Isaac begat Jacob (Thank you Rebecca). Men have children in Judaism, obviously not biologically, but genealogically. So the Bible could comment on biology by calling the messiah ‘son of man and woman’ or genealogy (‘son of man’), but it doesn't. It starts with an exception. The text doesn't say "virgin birth," but it anticipates it.
2) “Bruise the head of the serpent.” This is a picture of conquest. This is certainly consistent with what I learned about Messiah, when I was a boy in the US. As an Orthodox Jew I always knew the Messiah would conquer. There were two enemies for us when I was a young man. (Russia and Russia). It was after all, the time of the Cold War and Russia was the enemy for US people, and also there were 3 million Jewish people who were not allowed to practice our religion in the Former Soviet Union. Thus Russia was the enemy twice.
When Messiah comes, we learned, Messiah will conquer. Remember the image of taking land, planting the flag for the conquering King. And in Romans 16.20, God will crush Satan under your feet soon.
3) “Bruised in heel.” Wait a minute! What kind of messiah gets wounded? I always thought the Messiah would conquer. Now the text says he will be wounded.
No wonder Yeshua in Luke 24 tells Cleopas, “ought not the Messiah to have suffered and then entered into his glory?” (verse 26)
Cleopas, didn’t you ever read that? Bob, didn’t you ever read that? Yes, we Jewish people read this passage every September or so in synagogue. But don’t you ever see things that you just don’t see? We’ll talk more about that later.
I was the third of three children in my father’s house. As a result I rarely received new things, but rather ‘hand me downs’ or used items. So when I asked my father when would I receive a new bicycle, he would say, "Yeah, yeah, when messiah comes". So I really hoped for the coming of Messiah.
If I’d read the sources, like Genesis Rabbah, a Talmudic rabbinical interpretation of this passage, I would have seen them quoting Isaiah 53 and the one who would take our punishment, but I didn’t really learn that particularly.
Needless to say, to read here that Messiah would be wounded, that was a surprise.
Do we have enough to conclude what our photo/puzzle is?
So let’s turn to Micah 5.
Mic. 5.1 “Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.
Mic. 5.2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephratah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
Here we see three more puzzle pieces.
First, a repeat of the last. The text tells us that the Judge of Israel will be beaten on the face with a rod. Cleopas, didn’t you ever read that before? Bob, didn’t you ever read that one either? Again I say, we often see things, but don’t really see them. So here again, this wounding of the Messiah was a very big surprise to me, but it’s right there in the text. Ought not the Messiah to suffer?
What if I mention to you the “Fed Ex arrow.” Do you know what I am referencing? Some of you will understand but many will look unsure. Let me show you this.
You’ve seen this truck hundreds of times, but do you see the arrow? Now do you see it? All over the sanctuary people are pointing this out to each other. Let’s look even closer.
See the white arrow between the orange E and orange X?
Do you see what I mean? You have seen this over and over again, but you never saw it. How is that? In the same way, Jewish people have read and re-read these passages in the Hebrew Scriptures and still haven’t seen the One about whom they speak. It takes someone like me to point out the arrow on the FedEx logo to you, and it takes someone like you to point out the Messiah to your Jewish friend. Once you see it, you will never not see it again. I can almost guarantee that some of you will become proselytizers about the arrow to all your friends next time and every time you see the truck go by. And that’s the essence of evangelism, but more on that in a few minutes.
2) Birthplace of Messiah. Bethlehem. How strange a place. It’s too little to be among the Where's Where in Israel. Not significant.
We know it from the Christmas carols that this is the birthplace of
Messiah, but the ancients didn’t know that. Remember the wise men from the east (Matthew 2:1) came to find the one born under the star. They followed the star and found the baby. But on their journey they asked for help in finding him. They came to Jerusalem to ask for the king. Of course, kings are born in capital cities, not in the back woods, like Bethlehem, but in proper main cities. That’s why they traveled to Jerusalem.
So what a surprise it must have been to the magi to hear “go to Bethlehem” because that’s what Micah the prophet declared.
The third puzzle piece is even more of a surprise. The text uses the phrase "from long ago" (Mikedem...which could be translated ‘from the East’). This is not so much geographical east as it is chronological east. And what happens in the east? The sun rises. So this phrase has the meaning of ‘before the sun rises’ in the east, or what we commonly would say “Way back when.” Or in theological terms: ‘eternity past’. And so the question has to be asked, “Who is an eternal being?” Only God. So somehow God takes on flesh and is born in Bethlehem. Any candidates?
Do we have enough info to conclude what our puzzle looks like... not yet.
Writings: The Psalms
Turn with me to Daniel chapter 9.
Dan. 9.24 ¶ “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.
Dan. 9.25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
Dan. 9.26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
35 years ago I was a teacher of high school mathematics in Kansas. I tell you that not to seek for tutoring duties, but to tell you that numbers don’t bother me. I understand however, that numbers and math might bother you. But don’t worry, when we discuss the math in this chapter, you will understand very well. Trust me.
Here we see three more puzzle pieces.
First, Messiah will die. That’s what the expression "Cut off and have nothing" means. Messiah is wounded, then wounded again, now dead. I never learned that as an Orthodox Jew in my youth. If I'd really read the sources, I would have found Maimonides who said, "messiah will die and his son or grandson will take over." No wonder the Lubavitchers were not surprised when their rabbi Menachem Schneerson died back in New York in 1994. Some rabbis don’t let their students read this section until they are 30 years old.
Ought not the Messiah to suffer?
2) Time of the death of Messiah. This is when the numbers might get a bit confusing to some. The Hebrew word for ‘weeks’ is a variant of the usual word and thus some versions of the Bible translate the word as ‘sevens’ or ‘units of 7.” Thus 69 'weeks' is really 69 'units of 7 things'. So just think 70 x 7 or about 500 things. I don’t mean to make light of the precision of the Bible, in fact, it’s very precise. But I’m trying to help you using approximations and without a blackboard.
Then the text tells us what those things are. They are years. Note the beginning date is 'issue of decree to restore Jerusalem" (v. 25) which happened about 450 BC. Then the closing date is when the 'people of the prince who is to come will “destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (v 26) (Temple)” which is 70 AD. So we have about 500 years. And near the end of the period we see the death of Messiah.
If you want the precision of the dating pick up this book Y’shua by Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus. There we see that Messiah died on a Friday in 30 AD using the dates in this section, but if you miss it, note the big picture, as Messiah died in what we call “The First Century.”
3) Finally, the purpose of the death of Messiah. Verse 24. "to bring in everlasting righteousness ...to forgive...to take away iniquity..." The purpose of the death of messiah was not to give me a bicycle; it was to forgive us our sins, and to make us clean before God.
So, let's look at our puzzle pieces.
We have a messiah, son of a woman not of man and woman, born in Bethlehem, wounded and beaten and dead, who died near the end of the 2nd Temple period, actually in 30 AD, who was eternal, and died for our sins and by that conquered the works of Satan.
Any candidates? Honestly, is your box top away? What picture of Messiah do you see in our texts?
I think there is only one answer. His name is Jesus.
Let's return to Luke and share some final thoughts.
You may ask me, why are you here telling the church all this good information? Why aren’t you telling Jewish people all this?
My answer? I do! This is one of the methods we use in sharing the Good News of Messiah with our Jewish people.
I came here to give you this lesson for several reasons.
First, I want you to trust the Bible that much more. We only looked at a few Bible passages and it’s true and clear. The Bible also tells you about you, about how you and God are to get along together and how you and your life should work. You can trust the Book!
2) Jesus was a great teacher, but Cleopas and mate didn't 'get it' not until 'then their eyes were opened' (.16 'eyes were prevented'. .31 'eyes were opened'). And you didn’t see the FedEx arrow until I showed it to you. So I want you to know that you have to pray for Jewish people to ‘get it’, as mere words cannot convince anyone.
I believe that as the community of faith prays for Jewish people that God listens and answers. I hope our partnership in the Gospel includes this important prayer partnership.
Thirdly. In verse 44 Jesus uses all three sections of Tenach to teach them that he was Messiah (just like we did in our lesson tonight)
You might ask me, if God is responsible for opening the eyes of people, then what role do we have in helping people find God? To that I say that we have to preach the Gospel to people. Look at the biblical injunction from Jesus himself: (verses 46-47) “AND that repentance'... If you believe in the death of Christ (.46) and the resurrection of Christ (.46), then you have to believe in the proclamation of Christ. (.47) And that message has to go to all people, to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles.
This may be the simplest way to explain our role. God wants us to do the mouth thing; he will do the eye thing. He opens eyes and we open our mouth. We preach and God opens the eyes of Jewish people and all people to his message.