The Concept of Messiah

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Messiah: The Anointed One

If you ask three Jewish people about the Messiah, you will get five opinions! There is little consensus in the Jewish community except for saying, “He hasn’t come yet. We are still waiting for Messiah! Jesus is not the Messiah.”

I grew up in the Reform Branch of Judaism. My family was not looking for a personal Messiah but for a messianic age, a time in which this world would be different... “The lion would lay down with the lamb, swords beaten into plow shares” based on what we do in making this world better.

The Orthodox Branch of Judaism is looking for a person who will come and sit on David’s throne in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. From there he will dispense justice throughout the world for a thousand year reign. He would just be a human figure, however, not divine.

These are the primary messianic prophecies that are accepted by those who are looking for the Messiah from a Jewish perspective:

  • Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
  • Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
  • Ezekiel 38:16
  • Hosea 3:4-3:5
  • Micah 4
  • Zephaniah 3:9
  • Zechariah 14:9
  • Daniel 10:14

Messiah Ben Joseph

When and how this Messiah conception originated is a question that has not yet been answered satisfactorily.

The Messiah ben Joseph, according to Rabbi Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael Weiser (1809-1879 CE), will be the future leader of the Lost Ten Tribes when they return. The Messiah son of Joseph will initiate union with Judah who will be led by Messiah son of David. Later The Messiah son of Joseph is killed and Messiah son of David rules over all Twelve Tribes.

Some religious entities have attempted to trans- pose their beliefs into the conception of Messiah ben Joseph - particularly on the basis of some Midrashim that seem to allude to his death and resurrection.

Some rabbis say Christians who wish to use Jewish texts in their evangelism believe the term Moshiach ben Yosef to refer to the “First Coming of Jesus” and lately Messianic factions of Lubavitch Hasidism who believe that the de- ceased Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah.

Some Christians believe that the rabbinic tradition of two different Messiahs began after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. This was an attempt on their part to make sense of apparent contradictions in the Messiah’s role as Suffering Servant and Conquering King, and Messiah’s failure to appear and save them from the complete destruction of their entire religious system of temple sacrifice as prescribed by Moses in the Torah.

As Isaiah 6 states, Israel’s eyes will be blinded until the time of the end, so they were unable to recognize the true Messiah and see how He fulfilled the role of Suffering Servant when He appeared in the first century, suffered death to atone for their sins, was resurrected from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God, awaiting for the fullness of the Gentiles to come in before he returns to Earth as Conquering King to deliver Israel and fulfill his promises to His covenant people, judge the nations, and set up His Kingdom on Earth.

Maimonides on Messiah Ben David

Today, many Jews still wait for the coming of the Messiah, but who are they expecting? What qualifications need to be met by the Messiah? Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides), also called Rambam (1135-1204), wrote in his Thirteen Articles of Faith, that belief in the Messiah was required for a Jew to be resurrected. The 12th and 13th articles both deal with Redemption, which will come in the days of Messiah.

12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.

13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted for ever and ever.

Here we quote from Raphael Patai’s work, The Messiah Texts on pages 322-327, his translation of the Mishne Torah [Book of the Strong Hand]. It is the only Medieval-era work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws that are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in existence, and remains an important work in Judaism.

Maimonides writes the following:

King Messiah will arise in the future and will restore the kingship of David to its ancient condition, to its rule as it was at first. And he will rebuild the Temple and gather the exiled of Israel. And in his days all the laws will return as they were in the past. They will offer up sacrifices, and will observe the Sabbatical years and the jubilee years with regard to all the commandments stated in the Torah. And he who does not believe in him, or he who does not await his coming, denies not only the [other] prophets, but also the Torah and Moses our Master. For, behold, the Torah testifies about him [the Messiah], as it is written, The Lord will return your captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples wither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it (Deut. 30:3-5).

Y’Shua as Messiah

We believe that Y’shua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah who came according to the scriptures, lived among us as God-man, died to make payment for our sin, and rose from the dead paving the way for man- kind to rise, too. We believe that He is coming again according to the scriptures, and while Christians of good intent hold differing persuasions on how the end will play out, we believe that God knows the when and how. We believe that it is urgent that all people confess Jesus as savior to receive eternal life.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. -- John 10:22-28