A Historical Disparity
Here is a VERY stereotypical statement that may offend a lot of people, but I’m going to go ahead and put it out there:
“The average Jew understands the prophecies of Messiah better than the average Christian.”
Now – is that true? What would make me say such a thing? After all – Christians believe in “Jesus,” and many Jews would rather NOT believe in a Messiah AT ALL than believe that Jesus Christ was it. So where are we even possibly going with this?
Stick around. Keep reading. I promise: this is all going to make sense shortly!
2,000 Years Ago
If we go back in time to the first century, and would happen to find ourselves in Israel, we would have found a culture where “religion” was a MUCH more prominent aspect of people’s lives. And as such, so was religious study. Scholars and religious leaders were actually positions of honor in society as opposed to the victims of scorn and disregard that they often are today in common society.
And of the topics religious that most captivated the hearts and minds of the Jewish people, prophecies of the coming Messiah were very prevalent. According to how you interpret the Book of Daniel, it seemed like they were living right around the time that the Messiah’s coming was foretold. So there was a bit of Messiah-it is going around, and as such, there was a different man nearly every week trying to “be” the Messiah. It was an epidemic.
Now, in the Scriptures of the Tanakh, there are two categories of Messianic prophecies, and they seem to be in direct contradiction of one another. One set portrays the Messiah as suffering and being rejected. The other side of the prophetic coin portrays a conquering King liberating the people of Israel from oppression and gathering them back from all around the world.
Now let’s suppose YOU were a Jew living in the 1st century Roman occupation. There were foreign soldiers on the streets of YOUR holy city and home. They imposed their law on you and you paid taxes to them. Naturally, the Romans had very little regard for the Jews or their customs, and it was humiliating even to walk down the streets at times.
Now, here you are reading all of these conflicted prophecies of a Messiah. Which ones fill YOU with hope? Do you want to see a suffering servant or a conquering king? What the Jewish people felt they needed most was a conquering king to free them from the Roman Empire. They wanted a revolutionary who was going to rally the troops and march on Caesar.
In Walked a Lowly Man
Then, from humble beginnings, came a man born in Bethlehem. He was son to a carpenter and one himself for most of his life. He lived in obscurity. He was a nobody of society.
That was true until one day, he started challenging the religious status quo. Without going into the accounts of hos he got started, miracles attributed to his birth or ‘ministry,’ I’ll just focus on the doctrine he taught, and the circumstances of his death.
The core of this carpenter’s teaching was simply this: The Jews had strayed too far from Torah by following instead after their own oral traditions / commandments. As such, he posited that they were actually DISOBEYING their god by obeying their religious leaders (who told them that following their leadership was actually the ONLY way TO serve their god). So that’s what this man taught – religious reform.
As certain historical accounts record, the religious leaders of his day were unimpressed. Above that, they were worried. This man was attracting crowds which could upset the fragile peace between them and the Romans. This man energized the people and may actually have been able to raise an army eventually is left unchecked. There was another small problem as well: this man openly rejected the authority of these spiritual leaders.
So, motivated by these two factors, we are told that this man was put to death. And that in and of itself is no remarkable thing. Dissidents are put to death every day even still. But what is remarkable are the TIMES associated with his death. This man was put to death on Passover, in the ground for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then (miraculously?) disappeared from his tomb on First Fruits!
Now, from a prophetic perspective, this is very interesting. And that wasn’t even where the story ended. Just a few weeks later, something happened in Jerusalem which was perceived as an outpouring of the Spirit on the Feast of Weeks. This event was something a student of such prophecies might just recognize as being the transposition of the Law from stone to the heart of men (as foretold by Jeremiah and Ezekiel).
Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, says YHWH. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says YHWH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their god, and they shall be my people.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their god.
A Once Great Jewish Following
Our would-be suffering servant Messiah actually built himself quite a following – somewhat in life, but much more so posthumously. And I’m not talking about over the centuries, but rather within just a couple of decades. And interestingly, for the first 15 years after his untimely death, all of his masses of followers were Jews. It wasn’t until then that the first Gentile (named Cornelius) actually converted to the faith of this man’s followers and paved the way for others not of the circumcision from birth.
Today, Jews reflect on this man with far greater disdain than their ancestors once held. The odds of a Jew in the 21st century accepting this man as a Messiah are considerably lower. Practically infinitesimal. So why is that? Has the Jewish culture / religion changed so greatly?
Of course ALL cultures DO change and evolve over time, but that is NOT why Jews today refuse the man from Bethlehem today more than before. What HAS changed dramatically over the centuries is the carpenter himself. To be more precise, it’s not the man who changed, but the PRESENTATION of the man.
Yahshua / Yeshua the Man vs Jesus the Image
Once upon a time, Jews were presented a man with a Hebrew or Aramaic name (perhaps Yahshua). And we’ve discussed this guy already. He was just a man who argued that Israel had strayed too far from the Law of Moses by forging their own religion. His actions and very existence were no slight against Moses, and much less an outright contradiction. In other words, back then, a respectable case could be made for him as the suffering servant manifestation of Messiah.
But three centuries later, this man got a Roman makeover. A new religion was created inspired by this man the same way a true story inspires a Hollywood movie. The end product bore some resemblances to the original, but most of the details were completely different.
About the third century is when Christianity was born and morphed this man into what could only be called in light of Torah: an abomination. Here was created an IMAGE of a man, rather than a real historical figure. This new image was a pig-eating, man-god (demigod) whose very being was a violation of the Shema (YHWH is One) by himself proposing to be equal with the Almighty. This alleged ‘god robed in flesh’ claims to have abolished Moses and all things Tanakh. Even his name is a testament against him. (“Here’s a horse” as best as this image’s name can be forced into Hebrew)
And naturally – NO learned Jew would ever incline his ear to hear somebody telling him to actually bow down and worship a man – much less a man such as the one Rome’s children sell today! Any person – Jew or otherwise – who is even moderately versed in the Law knows better than to worship anything or anybody other than YHWH. We all know perfectly well that the words the Creator spoke to man are commandments forever. We are marked in our hearts with the NAME and NUMBER of the One who made us: YHWH who is ONE.
So, when this man-god who is a member of a trinity (three gods in one) comes along and tries to tell us to eat unclean, bow down before him, pray to him, and that our god is actually three – we are not only skeptical but incensed! “We are NOT polytheists, and will NOT worship your IDOL!”
Christians worship the image called Jesus because they are NOT familiar with the Law or the prophecies of Messiah. Anybody who had this understanding would NEVER bow down and worship Rome’s image. And, since Jews make the same case against this foreign / strange worship, it stands as witness to their SUPERIOR grasp of these matters.
Thus, Christians and Jews alike would best be served by considering the ACTUAL MAN who lived 2,000 years ago when weighing his possibly role in prophecy. What did he ACTUALLY say and do and practice? Was he really the disgraceful thing who is sold in churches today? Or was he actually something much better and even righteous?
Based solely on Tanakh (the Old Testament of the Bible), could this man have actually been Messiah ben Joseph?