Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Messiah

Alrighty folks, here's the deal: Today was Rabbi Feintuch's last lecture until the end of the semester. It was great! After each class period we have this online forum thingy where the teacher posts a question and then we all have to respond for a grade, here is the question and my post from the day. Thought you might like to read it, and perhaps it will spur some thought for you as it did me. I realize since you weren't in the class that it won't be quite as meaningful, or make as much sense maybe.

(Now that i've had the opportunity to listen to an expert and faithful follower in Judaism i'll begin to share my experience on this here blog, probably late this week.)

The Question:
Rabbi Feintuch discussed Jewish expectations of a messiah. How has his remarks influenced your own thinking of the concept of a messiah and why the vast majority of Jews rejected Jesus as fulfilling their expectation of a messiah?

My Response:
The Rabbi pointed out several very important aspects of the Jews expectations of the Messiah, both historical (someone to lead them out of Roman captivity) and theological (a man, not an incarnation of God since God is indivisible).

From what I’ve understood from the Rabbi Judaism is very literal in its interpretation of the Torah. I mean, you're talking about a Religion where one could debate the tearing of toilet paper and keeping the Sabbath. A Christian view of scripture can be much more open when it comes to how scripture is read. This is one reason Christianity gets into so much trouble.

Did his views alter my ideas about what a Messiah is? In a word, no. I don't want to be disrespectful or dismissive. I have made it a point to LISTEN to the Rabbi and not always be quick to weigh in with my beliefs immediately. But, since this question prompted it, here we go:

Earlier last week the Rabbi spoke of Jacob wrestling the angel. He said there was room for interpretation regarding what actually transpired on the riverside that night. Was Jacob wrestling an actual angel? Did this represent some inner struggle? Maybe it was just a robber and represented Jacob proving himself as a worthy leader? There are a VARIETY of angles.

To me the same is true with the Messiah. The bible speaks of many prophecies about the Messiah, I think to REALLY develop an answer one needs to be familiar with some of them, not just listen to 20 minutes of lecture, from an expert no less, but there is more to the story:

Genesis 49: 10, the Messiah would descend from Judah, Luke 3: 33.

Psalm 22, read it. The author describes many aspects of crucifixion which Jesus invoked in Mathew 27: 46

Isaiah 7: 14, The Messiah would have a miraculous birth and be called Immanuel: see Matthew 1: 18-25

Isaiah 11: 10 says that the Gentiles will also seek the Messiah, "from the root of Jesse". Jesse=David's father, Jesus=Descended from David

Read Luke 1: 67-80 that speaks of Jesus fulfilling the role of the Messiah.

Daniel 9:25-26:
25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree [a] to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, [b] the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. [c] The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

So, the anointed one will be cut-off and then the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed. Sounds like the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent destruction of the temple to me.

Zachariah 9: 9- Jesus fulfilled this by entering Jerusalem on a donkey, hardly the image of a mighty conqueror.

Malachi 3: 1, 4: 5- Jesus was indeed preceded by John the Baptist.

Ok, I am finished with the various copying and pasting of passages, there's many more and lots of people that explain them way better than me.

Do I aim to impress anyone who reads this with my vast biblical knowledge, absolutely not, I don't claim to be the master or Bible Trivia Champion. All I am trying to show is that depending on how you view the Torah could alter your views of a Messiah.

I believe Jesus himself was not speaking in strict literal terms, for example:

"All right," Jesus replied. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2: 19....sorry, maybe I wasn't done posting scripture...

Was Jesus going to get out there with his hammer and bust out the ol' carpentry skills? No, he was talking about himself being crucified and rising again.

So I believe that Jesus was the Messiah because he said he was, and that all of human history is dependant and defined by his resurrection.

If this isn't true, than everything I believe is crap. Crap crap crap. But you can't just say Jesus was a nice guy who prophesied about God, a good observant Jew who was a little to zealous or misunderstood. No. As Josh McDowell says, he was either Lord, Liar, or Lunatic. Meaning, he was lying about his status as the son of man, he was crazy and didn't know the difference anyways, or he really was who he said he was. But Christ's message is inseparable just as the Jews believe God is inseparable. You cannot divorce some of Christ's teachings from the others.

Plus, let's get into the problem of a Messiah for Jews NOW. If they're all scattered throughout the world, what are they to be liberated from? Being servants of the West? I feel like the strict literal interpretations lose their teeth because now the historical context is gone.

Others have said that we would be skeptical of a man who might appear and prophecy a 3rd coming. First of all, the second coming was not an invention of the early church, they were Christ's words. If we want to get into the authenticity of scripture then we'll be here the rest of our lives. So it's not just out of sheer convenience that Christ would predict his own return, it's out of truth and the fulfillment of God's plan that was started with the Patriarch's and the house of Israel. One of the strengths of Christ's teachings are that they are radical, as are his claims about himself.

I do not want to be a ranting Christian who is a bigot. I respect The Rabbi deeply. But I also will proclaim what I believe as he proclaims what he believes. The good news is that I am not reliant on his approval or anyone's approval who will read this. The Rabbi and I are both seeking the same thing: Closeness in our walk with the Lord. I believe that this is fully realized in Christ the Messiah.


Adam Caldwell said...

Great thoughts...Just thought you might want to know that Josh McDowel stole it from C.S. Lewis. See Mere Christianity.

Matisyahou and POD...Do it!

adam mustoe said...

Freakin C.S. Lewis. That dude might as well be canonized.

Adam Caldwell said...

agreed :)

Andy B. said...

I've thought a lot about that "Lord, liar, or lunatic" argument. My problem with it is that it seems awfully "either/or" - when most of theology is a whole lot of "both/and." I'm not trying to say Jesus was both Lord and liar(although there is a rather "lunatic" element to Jesus' personality that is attractive to me ;) ). What I am trying to say is that there is not much that is absolutely cut and dried about the identity of Jesus. Ask 50 Christians, "Who is Jesus?" and you are likely to get 50 different answers, all of which contain elements of truth. I prefer the "Who do YOU say that I am" approach to Christology. Rather than "Who is Jesus?" we ought to ask "Who is Jesus for you?"
Lost in Wonder,
Andy B.

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