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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Mark Eastman :: The Search for the Messiah

Mark Eastman :: Chapter Eleven: The Rejection of Jesus Christ

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"And Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" (Matthew 16:16)

This declaration by Peter is a statement of faith. According to Jesus, this faith was given to him from the Father in heaven. Immediately prior to his death and after many years of reflecting on the life, ministry and meaning of Jesus, Peter stated:

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And this voice which came from heaven we heard when we were with him on the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto ye do well ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."(2 Peter 1:16-19 KJV)

After more than thirty years of telling people that he was an eyewitness to the "power and coming" of Jesus, Peter knew that many people found the story of this carpenter from Nazareth too good to be true, too incredible to accept. Consequently, he knew that many would attempt to explain it away as a myth or a "cunningly devised fable." So Peter essentially declares, "If you don't want to take my word for it then, we have also a more sure word of prophecy."

Here Peter appeals to the Messianic prophecies of the Tanakh, or Old Testament and claims that the life, ministry and destiny of the Messiah, as spelled out in those prophecies, was fulfilled in the very life of Jesus Christ.

If this is so, if Jesus did fulfill so many Messianic prophecies, why then did the majority of the Jewish leadership reject him, while at the same time Peter and tens of thousands of first century Jews embraced and accepted Jesus as the very fulfillment of those prophecies?

Why have the rabbis so dramatically changed their views on those very same prophecies over the past 1900 years?

Finally, what difference does it make if Jesus is the Messiah?

The Rejection of Jesus

In this book we have examined only a small number of the hundreds of Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Nevertheless, we have been able to extract a fairly complete portrait of the Messiah's character, lineage, mission and destiny according to the ancient rabbis. We have found a number of very specific requirements that any Messianic candidate must fulfill in order to be taken seriously. And we have been able to support this portrait with the writings of ancient rabbis, men who were among the most respected teachers of their time. We will refer to this scripturally established portrait as the "biblical view."

We have seen that various rabbis of the last 2300 years believed the Messiah was an eternal being who would be the Son of God, born of a virgin, a miracle worker of the line of David, in the city of Bethlehem. Yet he would be mocked, despised and rejected. He would have his hands and feet pierced and die for the sins of the people. And we have found evidence from the Bible that the Messiah would be a physical manifestation of God.

According to the Tanakh, the Messiah was to come to the Second Temple and after his coming, that very same temple would be destroyed. After the Second Temple was destroyed we find a number of rabbis expressing their dismay that the Messiah had not come! They attribute this failure to the sins of the nation of Israel.

Is our biblical portrait of Messiah fulfilled in Jesus? The answer, according to the people who were eyewitnesses to his life, the people who were willing to suffer horribly for their faith is an unequivocal yes! Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the biblical view of the Messiah!

Why then, did the Sanhedrin reject him?

Earlier, in our discussion of the mood of first century Israel, we saw that while they were under the yoke of Roman oppression, a popular view of the Messiah had developed. Because of centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, they began to yearn for the glorious, victorious Messiah, the one who would come in the clouds as "the Son of Man" to establish the everlasting Kingdom of God. This Messiah would rule on the throne of David forever. However, this one-sided view was based more on the hopes of the people, rather than the more complete biblical view so vividly painted by the prophets.

This popular view of the Messiah was not, however, totally void of a biblical basis. This Messiah was essentially the fulfillment of the ruling and reigning "vein" of prophecy. Those prophecies that spoke of the glorious ruling of the Messiah were extracted and embraced. Those that spoke of a suffering servant were placed on the back burner, to be fulfilled at another time, perhaps even by another individual. This dichotomy led to the two Messiah theory, a theory with not a shred of biblical support.

Despite their recognition of the suffering servant vein of prophecy, they were not expecting this part of the picture to be fulfilled when the Messiah came. In the minds of the first century Jews, a humble, lowly, suffering servant was the last thing they wanted in a Messiah.

The Jews of the first century were, in effect, expecting the second coming of the Messiah first!

It was this popular view of the Messiah that Jesus did not fulfill. Jesus of Nazareth was of the lineage of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, and based on biblical chronological indicators, he came at the expected time! Yet because he presented the image of a lowly servant, one who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, one who was very critical of the Jewish leadership, he was rejected by the majority of the people.

The rejection was something that Jesus himself foretold over and over to his disciples. However, when we read their response we see an incredible lack of biblical and spiritual understanding on this issue. It is quite clear that the disciples were also victims of this popular view of the Messiah. In perhaps the clearest example of this lack of understanding we read:

"From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to You!' But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.'" (Matthew 16:21-23)

This discourse took place after Peter's declaration that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Nevertheless, only moments later we see Peter demonstrating his one-sided, popular view of the Messiah. The response of Jesus must have startled Peter. Not only did he attribute the words of Peter to Satan but Jesus stated that Peter's one-sided view of the Messiah was "not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Jesus was declaring that Peter's one sided Messianic view was not of God but of men!

On another occasion Jesus spoke to all twelve disciples about his coming rejection and death and again their lack of understanding came through:

"Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. And they will scourge him and put him to death. And the third day he will rise again.' But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken." (Luke 18:31)

The rejection of this miracle worker was incomprehensible to the twelve men who had seen so much good done by him. On many occasions the disciples demonstrated their expectation that Jesus was to set up his kingdom immediately. His teachings and miracles were enough to convince them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. However, they too were expecting a Messiah who would immediately usher in the ruling and reigning vein of prophecy. Consequently, when Jesus himself told them bluntly that he must suffer, be put to death and rise on the third day, they were so blinded by the popular view of the Messiah that his message didn't sink in.

If the understanding that the Messiah was to suffer and die was so far from the consciousness of the men who loved and honored Jesus, how much farther away was this knowledge from the minds of men who hated and despised him? When the stinging criticism from Jesus pierced the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees, they discounted his many miracles, and great following. Jesus' rejection of their superficial spirituality encouraged them to embrace the popular view and reject him as the Messiah. To them Jesus just didn't add up. They must have thought, "Surely, we, the leaders of Judaism, would recognize the Messiah when he comes." And yet, despite Jesus' uncanny fulfillment of prophecy and his miraculous ministry, they rejected him.

It Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him!

Thus far we have looked at the rejection of Jesus purely from a man-centered point of view. In our limited, four dimensional minds, we cannot hope to understand the deepest methods and purposes of God. But there are elements of God's plan that we can understand. And even a casual understanding of the Tanakh reveals that the atoning death of the Messiah has been a part of God's plan from before the beginning of time!

The main purpose of the Bible is to reveal to man the purposes and ways of God. If importance can be measured by volume, then the most important purpose of the Bible is to reveal the way by which man can be reconciled or justified in the sight of God. In the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus we find the laws regarding animal sacrifice as an atonement for sins.

"'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.'" (Leviticus 17:11)

In order to cover or atone for one's sins or transgressions individuals were required to go to the temple and offer an unspotted, unblemished animal on a regular basis. The blood of the animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant and provided a covering for a person's sins. This sacrificial system, however, offered only temporary atonement, or covering, for sins. Consequently, each time a person sinned, it was necessary to atone or cover the sin with such a sacrifice.

On a national level, each year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest was required to go into the Holy of Holies and offer a sacrifice for the nation of Israel. After this sacrifice, a red ribbon was tied around the neck of a goat (called the scapegoat) and it was released into the wilderness. The goat was followed for many days and when the red ribbon turned white, it was a sign that the sins of the nation were forgiven.

This tradition probably developed as a result of this prophecy:

"Come now, and let us reason together,' says the LORD, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'"(Isaiah 1:18)

The writer of the book of Hebrews points out that the sacrificial system, though efficacious for a time, provided only a temporary covering for sins:

"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purged, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." (Hebrews 10:1)

The Levitical sacrificial system only covered over a persons sins. The writer of the book of Hebrews points out that such sacrifices did not take away a man's sins, but were in fact a continual reminder of one's sinfulness. If such sacrifices could permanently justify a man in the sight of God then those sacrifices would have to be done but once.

Because of the temporary nature of the sacrificial system there needed to be something more permanent and efficacious that could take away a man's sins, something that the writer of Hebrews says cannot be accomplished by the blood of bulls and goats.

The Daysman

In the book of Job we read of the righteousness and suffering of Job, a man whom God called "a whole-hearted man and an upright man, one that feareth God and shunneth evil."[1]In the story of Job we read that God allowed Satan to afflict Job with the loss of his personal possessions, his health and even the loss of his family. When Job's friends saw his predicament they told him that these things had occurred because he had sinned and needed to get right with God.

Job knew that he, being a man, was by nature sinful, and agreed that a righteous standing before God was something good and necessary. However, he was unaware of any specific sin that he had done to bring on his plight. Nevertheless, he answers:

"Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?" (Job 9:2)

Job recognized the incredible gulf between man and God, a gulf that could not be spanned by good works. But in his despair job recognized there was no mediator to bridge that gap and justify him in the sight of God, so he cried out:

"Nor is there any daysman [mediator] betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:33 KJV)

What Job did not know was that God had a plan. The sacrificial system of covering the sins of man with the blood of animals was only a shadow of things to come. It did not wipe the slate clean. It only covered the sin. God had something wonderful and permanent planned for the removal of sin. No longer would sin be simply covered, it would be wiped clean. God, through the prophet Jeremiah stated:

"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'when 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, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,' says the LORD. 'But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: after those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

When we examine the Messianic suffering servant vein of prophecies we find some startling and unexpected aspects of his mission. We discover that this promised deliverer would fulfill an undeniable role of the daysman or mediator between God and man. In his role as the mediator the Messiah justifies the sinner in the sight of God making atonement for our sins.

In the Levitical sacrificial system, only an unblemished animal could be used in the process of covering sins. Consequently, for the Messiah to act as mediator and make atonement for sins, he must be unblemished, free from sin himself. According to these verses, all men have sinned and are, therefore, "blemished" by their sin.

I Kings 8:46 says: "For when they sin against you-for there is no one who does not sin..."

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin."

Sinless perfection is something no mere mortal has ever accomplished.

However, the fact that the Messiah is free of sin was clearly believed by at least some ancient rabbis. We noted earlier a quote from Psalter of Solomon (written by an unknown Jewish source around 50 B.C.E.). Referring to Isaiah 9:6-7 the writer states of the Messiah, "He is pure from sin."

Also, in the book of Isaiah itself, in an undeniable Messianic verse, we read of the sinlessness of the Messiah;

"And they made his grave with the wicked; but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (Isaiah 53:9)

Consequently, since the Messiah is without "spot or blemish," he is able and worthy to take on the role of mediator or daysman.

How the Messiah accomplishes his role as mediator is astonishing and unexpected. He takes on the role of the sacrificial offering itself. Through his death Messiah accomplishes atonement of sins, the mediation between man and God, and the fulfillment of the suffering servant "vein" of prophecy!

The Messiah-The Lamb of God

Isaiah, inspired of God, spoke of the Messiah as a sacrificial lamb:

"He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

Here, in another undeniable Messianic passage, we see the sacrificial role of the Messiah expressed in the idiom of a lamb led to slaughter. When John the Baptist saw Jesus of Nazareth he declared that Jesus was not only the sacrificial Lamb of God, but that through His sacrifice the sins of the world would be completely removed and not simply covered.

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)

Finally, in the following verses, in the clearest possible terms, we read that God accepted the atoning death of the Messiah.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all...He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare his generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken...Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief. When you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. By his knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:6,8,10-12)

As we have noted earlier, the ancient rabbis recognized these verses as an unmistakable reference to the Messiah. In these verses we find the pleasure of God expressed because his people are justified (made righteous in his sight) through the rejection, bruising and sacrificial, substitutionary death of the Messiah. The One born of a virgin, who would be called the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the everlasting Father and Immanuel, our mediator, Job's "daysman!"

The Messianic message of scripture is that God himself became a man in the person of the Messiah, lived the perfect life, died as a spotless lamb led to slaughter and bridged the enormous gulf between sinful man and the eternal perfect God. No mere animal sacrifice, no mere mortal could span such a gulf. The gap needed to be spanned by a perfect sacrifice, something that could only be accomplished by the perfection found within God himself.

Overwhelmed by the incredible plan of God, the apostle John exclaimed;

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1)

Reflecting on the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, the Apostle Peter exclaimed;

"Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19)

The incredible paradox of Christianity is that Jesus Christ had to die in order to accomplish the atonement of our sins. And by doing so, Jesus is now perfectly situated to fulfill the second vein of prophecy at his second coming. A role that he himself declared that he would fulfill when he comes again.

In the book of Daniel we are given a picture of the arrival of the Messiah in his glory rather than humility:

"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him." (Daniel 7:13)

When Jesus of Nazareth declared to his disciples the signs that would precede his second coming he finished with these words:

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30)

These words parallel exactly the words of Daniel 7:13.

The Levitical System Removed

With the perfect sacrifice accomplished in the spotless Lamb of God, we find that within a generation the Levitical system of animal sacrifice was abolished. In the year 70 C.E., the Roman general Titus sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Second Temple, killed millions of Jews in the process and dispersed the remaining remnant into foreign territories. With the city of Jerusalem and the temple destroyed, the levitical system of animal sacrifice was no longer being practiced. However, the Babylonian Talmud hints that the system had lost its efficacy nearly forty years earlier.

As we saw earlier, in the days of the Second Temple there was a custom to fasten a red-colored strip of wool to the head of a goat which was to be sent away on the day of atonement. When this red ribbon became white, it was a sign that God had forgiven Israel's sins. In one of the most astonishing portions of the Babylonian Talmud we find the statement that about:

"…forty years before the Second Temple was destroyed…the red wool did not become white!"[2]

The same passage informs us that at that time the gates of the Temple swung open on their own accord!

According to this portion of the Talmud, these events were indicators to the ancient rabbis that the sins of Israel were not being forgiven anymore and the Temple would soon be destroyed![3]

The Levitical system of animal sacrifice was no longer efficacious and no longer necessary. The perfect sacrifice had been made.

The God-given sign which was an indicator that the sins of the people had been forgiven was removed around the year 30 C.E! This corresponds to the very time period when Jesus of Nazareth was sacrificed as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.

The fact that the removal of this sign was recorded in the Talmud by men who were antagonistic to the message of Christianity, is nothing less than astonishing!

Since the destruction of the Second Temple the rabbis have developed a system of "good works" to atone or balance out one's sins. Faced with the dilemma of no temple in which to perform animal sacrifices, the rabbis needed to come up with some system by which an observant Jew could obtain a righteous standing before God. Consequently, the rabbis of the Talmudic and Midrashic period began to promote the idea that a sin could be erased or balanced out by a good deed. Consequently, a tradition developed that as long as one's good deeds outnumbered the bad, then a person would be accounted as justified or righteous in the sight of God. Each year, as the day of atonement approaches, Jews are admonished to examine themselves and determine whether their good deeds outweigh their bad. If not, then a flurry of good deeds at the end of the year should take care of the sin problem.

Although on the surface this tradition of good works outweighing the bad seems reasonable, there is not a shred of biblical support for its validity. In fact, the Tanakh even mocks the concept.

"But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

The word translated as "filthy rags" is literally "used menstrual cloths." Apparently the translators felt that the public couldn't handle such a comparison. God, however, wanted us to have a vivid picture of how he views our self attained righteousness.

Surely, such a righteousness cannot justify us in the sight of God.

The Offense of the Cross

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8)

Some of you may be offended, as I was, by the message of Jesus. To think that the shed blood of a Jewish carpenter would be the way by which God would atone for the sins of man, seems insulting and ridiculous to many, especially to the modern observant Jew. Interestingly this reaction was anticipated by God. He realized that many in the nation of Israel would stumble spiritually and reject the Messiah when he came. This is expressed in the Messianic verse:

"He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isaiah 8:14)

Jesus also recognized that many would be offended by his exclusive claim of being the way of salvation. Consequently, he encouraged his disciples to remain steadfast in their faith in him and to;

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 )

Paul the Apostle, one of the Pharisees that did become a believer in the Messiahship of Jesus, stated this regarding the apparent foolishness of the substitutionary death of the Messiah;

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Regarding the offense of the cross of Jesus Christ, Paul paraphrased Isaiah 28:16;

"As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense and whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.'" (Romans 9:33)

If you are offended by the message of the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, it is also important to consider that your objection was anticipated by God, by Jesus himself and the Apostle Paul!

Jesus' Promises to His Disciples

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

The fact that Jesus anticipated his own rejection (as well as the rejection of his disciples) is in itself a powerful evidence for the truth of his Messianic claim. Normally when a religious crack pot comes around he will say things like, "Come to me and I will give you peace, joy, eternal life, prosperity. You will be popular and loved by many."

Jesus didn't say this. In addition to promising his followers joy, peace and eternal life, he also made some less appealing predictions for them.

"And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony...You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will send some of you to your death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake." (Luke 21:12-13, 16-17)
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18)
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets." (Luke 6:22 -23)
"Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three..."(Luke 12:51-52)

Jesus was a campaign manager's nightmare! Political correctness was obviously not part of his ministry. But this points out an interesting piece of evidence for his Messiahship.

If Jesus knew that he wasn't the Messiah, and he was trying to gain a following for the purpose of proclaiming himself as the Messiah, then he would have never made such statements to his potential followers. But if he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, then it would be natural that he would tell them the truth and desire to prepare them for the rejection of their Christian message. So in making such claims to his disciples, he was, in effect, validating his status as Messiah. Jesus was to suffer and so would his followers.

You Shall Not Add to the Word

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, thousands of first century Jews came to a saving belief in the Messiahship of Jesus. One of the primary tools used in presenting Jesus as the Messiah was the use of Old Testament prophecy.

Apparently, however, Rabbinical Judaism had had enough of these appeals to the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. During the Talmudic and Midrashic period, 200-1400 C.E., the interpretation of almost every Messianic prophecy began to change. The result is that the modern Messianic beliefs of Judaism are almost 180 degrees opposite of their ancient counterparts.

Instead of a Messiah who would be the supernatural Son of God, one born of a virgin, one who would raise the dead, heal the sick and yet be despised, rejected and apparently be killed by some sort of piercing, modern rabbis await a Messiah who is just a man, with no supernatural traits at all. This belief is so contrary to the views of the ancient rabbis that it is almost impossible to imagine how the modern position could have evolved to the point where it is now.

We can only speculate what may have been the motivating force that caused the rabbis to so dramatically change their interpretation of Messianic prophecy.

If the motivating force was the effective use of prophecy as an evangelistic tool by Christians, then this is a great tragedy and a disservice to the Jewish people. If the rabbis of the past nineteen centuries were so confident in their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, then they should have stuck to their guns and embraced the ancient Rabbinical interpretations since the ancients clearly had a much greater knowledge of the Hebrew language and customs than do the modern rabbis.

In most cases the rabbis of the Midrashim simply changed the interpretation of the many Messianic prophecies. However, in the case of Isaiah 53, the Ashkenazi Jews eliminated it from their Bible for centuries. Still other examples were more subtle. As we saw in the case of Psalm 22, it was the changing of a single letter from "karv" (pierced) to the word "kari" , (like a lion).

Finally, in the case of Deuteronomy 32:43 it was the elimination of the phrase "let all the angels of God worship him," a possible reference to the Messiah. Now one might argue that these were just slips of the pen. However, to eliminate the entire text of Isaiah 53 and the first portion of Deuteronomy 32:43 would clearly take an act of malicious editorial license.

What does God say about tampering with his word?

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)

What is the penalty for disobeying God's command? In the times of the Tanakh it was no less than death!

When Messiah Comes Again

"The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." (Psalms 118:22)

In the prophecies of the suffering servant we encounter the negative response of the majority of the people at Messiah's first coming. He was despised and rejected. It is fascinating to me that this is exactly the response of the majority of people alive today to Jesus. However, God in his wisdom has left no stone unturned. Not only did he predict the response at the Messiah's first coming, he also predicted the response of the nation of Israel upon Messiah's second coming!

When the Messiah arrives, in this or a future generation, and when he is recognized by the nation of Israel, God says that:

"...I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn." (Zech 12:10)

Earlier we saw that the ancient rabbis believed this verse was a reference to the slaying of Messiah:

"What is the cause of the mourning [of Zech. 12:10]. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah, the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, 'And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.'" (Talmud, Sukkah 52a)

Israel will weep when they see the One who was slain as a lamb to slaughter.

The lamb who had been slain was also seen by the Apostle John.

"And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth." (Revelation 5:6)

A friend of mine told me of a discussion he had with a rabbi recently. The rabbi told him that one of the first questions that they will ask the Messiah when he comes is, "Have you been here before?" I think if you have examined the evidence presented so far in this book, you can see that the Messiah's response will definitely be "yes!"

Have you been stumbled by the claims of Jesus? Have you made up your mind without considering the evidence? Have you decided not to decide regarding this carpenter from Nazareth? The decision you make about Jesus of Nazareth will affect your eternal destiny forever.

"Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden." (Isaiah 29:14)


[1] 1 Job 1:8, JPS, 1917

[2] 2 Babylonian Talmud, Yoma chapter 39b.

[3] 3 Adapted from The Messianic Hope, Arthur, Kac, pg. 227.

Chapter Ten: Who Moved The Stone? ← Prior Section
Chapter Twelve: The Claims of Christ Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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