by Bill Nugent
The word “Messiah” is the anglicized form of the Hebrew word“Mashiyach.” The word “Christ” is synonymous with “Messiah” and means “anointed.” Messiah is a title that was commonly used in the Old Testament when referring to royalty. King David even referred to king Saul as the Lord’s messiah in First Samuel 24:10.
The rabbis acknowledge that there is quite a difference between amessiah and the Messiah. The rabbis also acknowledge that there are hundreds of prophetic passages in the Old Testament that predict the coming of a unique individual who will do great things and who is called the Messiah.
One of the traditional Jewish objections to Jesus being the Messiah is the claim that Jesus did not properly observe the Sabbath. Christian apologists reply that Jesus did in fact observe Sabbath in accordance with biblical requirements but did not follow the extraneous Sabbath rules imposed by the rabbis. Christians maintain that Jesus did not violate any of the commands of the Torah (Old Testament law).
The crux of the matter is whether or not the Messiah of Israel must obey the rabbis. If the Messiah has greater spiritual authority than the rabbis He would be exempt from their interpretations.
Jesus performed miraculous healings on the Sabbath. The Pharisees regarded such healings as work that should be forbidden on the Sabbath. In the New Testament, in Luke 13:15, Jesus argued that on a Sabbath a man will untie his ox and lead it to water. His point was that this minor work must be done even on the Sabbath to ensure the ox’s survival. By extension, Jesus’s argument asserted that people need to be healed on the Sabbath. In this way Jesus set aside that particular pharisaic rabbinic interpretation regarding healing on the Sabbath.
One of the greatest messianic prophecies is contained in the first ten verses of the eleventh chapter of the book of Isaiah. The first five verses describe the Messiah and the second five verses of the passage describe the age of perfect peace that the Messiah will bring. The rabbis have traditionally taught that the age of perfect peace would come immediately upon the arrival of the Messiah. However, the passage in Isaiah does not give the timing of the commencement of the age of peace.
The rabbis have drawn an inference about the timing of the start of the age of peace. In logic, inferences can be described either as necessary inferences or as possible inferences. The inference that Messiah would immediately bring the age of peace is a possible inference but is certainly not a necessary inference.
Christians argue that the messianic age of peace has been implemented at least in part over the last twenty centuries as Christ has been “a light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6). The rise of western civilization (in spite of its many shortcomings) with its biblical concepts of the sanctity of life, the dignity of man and human rights is in stark contrast to the brutality of the paganism that preceded it.
Christian apologists like myself claim that there are over 300 predictive prophecies including 62 major prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ. The rabbis read those same prophecies but come to different conclusions because they make different inferences from the wording of the prophetic passages.
Interpretation of prophecies involves making inferences and connecting dots. Surely you’ve noticed that predictive prophecies in the Bible are often written in metaphor or as riddles. It’s like God didn’t want to just come right out and say what was going to happen. I’ve often pondered why. I think it’s because God doesn’t want everybody and anybody to have a true understanding of what it means to serve Him. God wants only those who genuinely love Him, who diligently seek Him and who are chosen by Him.
It takes spiritual discernment to get the right understanding of the fulfillment of prophecies.
Every messianic prophecy seems to be written with just enough ambivalence to allow a skeptic to deny it. I call it “the skeptic’s exit clause.” Messiah Jesus did not come as the conquering king that the rabbis expected. Messiah Jesus did not obey the sometimes extreme rules that the rabbis set up around the Old Testament law. Messiah is above the rabbis and is not submitted under them. The Old Testament law alone and not rabbinic rules were binding on the Redeemer of Israel.
Psalm 118 is a Psalm of ascents which means it is sung as one goes up to Jerusalem. It is also commonly sung at Passover. In Psalm 118:22-23 it is written:
“The stone which the builders rejected
Is become the chief corner-stone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
(The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text; Jewish publication Society of America 1980)
The above prophetic passage is one of many that predicted that the Messiah would be rejected by the rabbis. The full implementation of the messianic age of peace will wait until the second coming of the Messiah. Messiah Jesus will be the chief cornerstone of the glorious edifice that will be the age of peace.