For Jews: Is Jesus Your Messiah?

Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? By Diana Laycock

Today, all the main branches of Judaism maintain that Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah. If you are a Jew you may have come to associate the name of Jesus with pogroms and crusades and centuries of anti-Semitism. You might regard Christianity as being far removed from Judaism and believe that Jesus could not be the expected Messiah as he did not fulfil the Messianic prophesies about bringing universal peace. As a Jew you may be expected to study the Talmud and Rabbinic writings and shun as heretical, the writings of the New Testament.

Which is to be followed, the Talmud or the New Testament?  The answer is that which is faithful to the ancient Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and which recognises the true Messiah.  If you read the New Testament you will find that much of the teaching is in harmony with other 1st century Jewish teachings. Read any of the four Gospel accounts and you may be surprised to discover the real Jesus. Jesus (or Yeshua, as his contemporaries would have known him) was born a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day, raised in a Jewish community, lived and worked as a Jew, kept the Sabbath and the Feasts, worshipped at the Temple as a faithful Jew, attended and taught at the synagogue regularly, was acknowledged by a leading member of the Sanhedrin as a Rabbi and he died as every Jew desires with Hebrew Scriptures and prayers on his lips. During his ministry he interacted with his fellow Jews and all his immediate followers were Jews.  He was welcomed by many of his Jewish contemporaries as the promised Messiah, he pointed to the words of the prophets to explain his mission and he spent most of his time preaching to Jews, healing their sicknesses and meeting their spiritual and emotional needs.          

It was Jewish men and women who were eyewitnesses of his death and resurrection. They saw him, touched him and ate with him after his resurrection and were filled with wonder. Despite putting themselves in mortal danger, his disciples announced his resurrection to crowds of religious Jews. People do not generally risk their lives for something they know to be untrue. Thousands of Jews repented and put their faith in Jesus as their Messiah. The first followers of Jesus, were often persecuted, imprisoned, beaten and put to death by fellow Jews.

Jesus was arguably the most influential Jew ever to walk the Earth.  Through the centuries there have always been a remnant of Jews who have followed Jesus the Messiah and it is prophesied that Jews will turn back to him on a national scale at the end of the age.  Paul explains this: ‘I do not want you (Gentiles) to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in.  And so, all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ Romans’ 11:25-27; quoting Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9 and Jeremiah 31:33-34

Christianity as a separate religion only emerged centuries after Jesus death.  What caused the separation? The answer is complex.  One important factor was that as the Messianic Jewish faith developed, it was highly successful in one of its key biblical functions, namely, making the God of Israel known to the nations. As a result, there was a great influx of Gentiles into the community of believers.  The Gentiles shared in Sabbath worship in the synagogue each week and learned from the Torah but were not required to make a formal conversion to become Jews. Jewish followers remained Jews and Gentile followers remained Gentile. Eventually the numbers of Gentiles exceeded the number of Jews in the community of believers and sadly some of the Hebraic influence was lost.

Shamefully, as the church in its Roman Catholic form became powerful in society, it began to persecute those who refused to believe in its version of Jesus which by this time was a distorted, hardly Jewish version of Jesus.  Thousands of Jews lost their lives. Centuries of bloodshed and atrocities were committed against Jewish people by those who claimed to be Christians. Even Martin Luther, the hero of Protestants, who was initially pro-Jewish, in later life turned against the Jews writing words of hatred. It is important to know that his anti-Semitic writings were uncharacteristic of him and were considered by many of his contemporaries to be unacceptable and were rejected by the Lutheran Church.  Tragically his words, which certainly did not reflect Jesus’ teaching, were used by the Nazis (who were not Christian) to justify the ‘final solution’, the extermination of 6 million in the ovens of the Holocaust. The horrible story of ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism, settled things completely for many Jews who came to believe that Jesus is the cause of most of their troubles and that Christianity is a religion of hate not love

This is far from the truth.  The atrocities and tragic legacy of anti-Semitism are a stain on those who call themselves Christians. The question to ask is what did Jesus teach his followers to do? Is there a single New Testament writer who advocated violence and called for injury to the Jews?  No, there is not. Jesus himself declared, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” Matthew 26:52. Contrary to what the early church fathers taught, Paul declared that God has not rejected the Jews. ‘I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.’ Romans 11:1. It is clear that this tragic legacy of those who identify themselves with Jesus do not follow the instructions of Jesus or the New Testament writers. Indeed, genuine Christians and church leaders through the centuries have not been anti-Semites but have had a special love for Israel and the Jewish people. True Christians around the world are shocked to learn that anyone in history who claimed to be a follower of Jesus the Messiah could ever hate or persecute the Jews. Indeed, we are indebted to the Jewish people, recognising that our scriptures come from the Jews, Jesus our Messiah is a Jew, and without the faithful witness of Jewish believers in Jesus we would not have our Apostolic scriptures and there would be no Gentile Christians in the world today.

Did Jesus fulfil the prophesies of Messiah portrayed in the Hebrew Bible?  Please see ‘100 Fulfilled Prophesies of Messiah’. There is an important prophesy in Daniel which shows that Messiah was to come before the destruction of the second Temple which happened in AD 70.  In Daniel 9, we are told of the encounter Daniel had with the angel Gabriel, when he prayed for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem after the seventy years of desolation prophesied by Jeremiah had been fulfilled. He is given a detailed prophecy, the famous ‘70 weeks of years’ which speaks of the rebuilding of Jerusalem ‘in troublesome times’ and the eventual destruction of the city and the Temple.  Before that happens, ‘Messiah shall be cut off’ but not for himself and that following this ‘the people of the prince that shall come (i.e., the Romans) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary (the Temple).’ The fall of Jerusalem would not be followed by peace at all, but by wars and desolations The only person who could possibly have fulfilled this verse is someone who was cut off, dying a violent death, not for himself because he was without sin, but for the sins of others at some time before the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. The only one who fits the description is Jesus of Nazareth.

Interestingly, there is a passage in the Talmud that lends support to something very significant happening 40 years before the destruction of the Temple.  There are four signs recorded in the Talmud (Yoma 39a,b) of events that happened during this forty-year period. The lot for the Lord’s goat did not come up in the right hand of the high priest. This was seen as a sign that God had rejected the sacrifice. The scarlet cord tied to the door of the Temple on the Day of Atonement stopped turning white after the scapegoat had been cast over the precipice. This was seen as a sign that Israel’s sin had not been forgiven. The western light on the Temple menorah kept going out.  The heavy Temple doors would open by themselves. The rabbis saw this latter sign as an ominous fulfilment of Zechariah 11:1, ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that fire may devour thy cedars.‘ The opening of the doors to let in the consuming fire foretold the destruction of the Temple itself by fire.  The New Testament records another sign.  The Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom opening up a way to the holiest place. What was it that happened at this time which proved so catastrophic that it eventually sent Jews into exile for two thousand years?   The answer is that these signs began to appear 40 years before the destruction of the Temple at the time when Jesus of Nazareth gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

You may ask but where is the kingdom of peace and prosperity that was promised to Israel when Messiah comes? (Isaiah 2:4) You are in good company because Jesus’ disciples also had expectations that Messiah would bring deliverance from the tyranny of Rome.  Those closest to Jesus had difficulty in understanding that he was going to be executed on a Roman stake and rise again in three days. Speaking to his disciples of his arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus said “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Matthew 26:56. After his resurrection he explained to his disciples how he had fulfilled prophesies written about him “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he said to them, “Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:44-47.

While the prophets did give a clear picture of the Messiah reigning with power on the earth bringing about the redemption of Israel, the end of war, and universal knowledge of God, there is another set of prophecies that speak of the Messiah suffering as an atonement for sin. This is what Talmudist, Rachmiel Frydland, who was a holocaust survivor, wrote concerning Isaiah 53:

The subject was never discussed in my prewar Poland Hebrew School.  In the rabbinical training I had received, the fifty-third chapter of the book of Isaiah had been continually avoided in favour of other, ‘weightier’ matters to be learned. Yet when I first read this passage, my mind was filled with questions: Who is this chapter speaking about?  The words are clear - the passage tells of an outstanding Servant of the Lord whose visage is marred and is afflicted and stricken.  He has not deserved any pain or wounds, but was wounded through our transgressions, bruised through our iniquities, and with his wounds we are healed.  The text presents the suffering Servant of the Lord who dies as a korban, a recompense for guilt. He is then buried with the rich and wicked, but is gloriously resurrected to life.  God permits his afflicted and, at the end, exalted Servant to endure this suffering in order to remove the sins of many.’ Rachmiel Frydland, ‘The Rabbi’s Dilemma: A Look at Isaiah 53’ (ISSUES 2:5, Hineni Ministries, 1980).  Rachmiel Frydland put his faith in Jesus.  His account of how he came to believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah can be read here: http://www.messianicassociation.org/bio-frydland.htm

As rabbis studied the prophetic writings concerning the Messiah, they realised that the Messiah was to be both someone who died on our behalf and a Redeemer who would be victorious and rule forever over the Messianic Kingdom. To explain what seemed like a contradiction they concluded that there must be two different Messiahs. The one who would suffer and die was given the title Messiah son of Joseph who suffers like Joseph in Egypt and one who would reign as king was given the title Messiah son of David. There is another explanation. It is not a case of two different Messiahs, it is the same Messiah coming twice, first as the Lamb of God, he would be cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of his people, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.  He will come again as the reigning King Messiah. Those who witness his arrival will see the wounds in his hands and his feet and weep.  As Zechariah 12:10 prophesies ‘They will look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child’ who else but Jesus fits the description?

Jesus fulfilled many Messianic prophecies to the letter. He was born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He preached a message of good news to the poor bringing release to those in captivity to sin and sickness (Isaiah 61:1-2). He laid down his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, was executed as a transgressor, although without sin himself, prayed for those responsible for his death, was buried in a rich man’s tomb and rose again from the dead on the third day (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 16:8-11). All this happened before the destruction of the second temple as prophesied in Daniel 9:25-26.

Before bringing peace into the world it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die as an atonement for sin. By doing so, he brought peace between humanity and God. When Jesus returns prophecies as yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled. He will come in the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13, Mark 14:62) and every eye will see Him (Zechariah 12:10, Revelation 1:7). He will come with the ‘holy ones’ or saints (Zechariah 14:5, Revelation 19:14). The point of His return to Earth will be the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4, Acts 1:11). He will bring an end to the world conflict that will be raging over Jerusalem (Zechariah 12-14, Revelation 16-19).

The prophet Hosea predicted that the Jewish people will languish without a king on the throne for centuries and then one day God will send a descendant of David to reign and bring the promised blessings. Hosea 3:4-5. Yes, Jesus the Jewish Messiah will return.  He is our sin bearer and he offers forgiveness and peace with God to those who trust in him. The final question is: are you prepared to welcome him as your Messiah?  Will you welcome him now?

Messiah's Fulfilment of Prophecy