The Man Who Would Be Messiah
Growing up as a Christian, I always wondered why Christianity chose a Jew to be their savior. Somehow it just didn’t compute. For that matter, why did Christianity accept Jehovah as God when he was in reality the personal god of the Chosen People?
In reading the Bible stories, it’s clear that Jesus set out to fulfill prophecy, from riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to allowing himself to be caught by the Romans and crucified. There’s just one catch. The biblical concept of a messiah was one of a Jewish messiah which was strictly for the Jewish people, which by definition excluded the Gentiles. As part of their culture, Jews believed that a messiah would be their king who would lead them to victory over their oppressors; King David was a prime example. However, a spiritual messiah (such as Jesus) would have been all but unthinkable.
Other interesting sources on this subject are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible itself. The Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that there could be two messiahs at any one time, one a king descended from David and one a high priest descended from the priestly caste of Aaron. In addition, some people of Jesus’ time actually believed that John the Baptist was the messiah (see the Gospel of Mark).
The ultimate problem is that the Jews never accepted Jesus as their messiah because he didn’t qualify according to their reckoning and according to their culture (see, among other things, the Book of Isaiah). Interestingly enough, Christians who believe in the virgin birth might be surprised to learn that this alone would make it impossible for Jesus to be the messiah. The reason is that the messiah had to descend from the House of David and Jesus could only have descended from David if Joseph was his biological father.
Down through the ages, there have been many pretenders who wished to be the messiah or whose followers generously bestowed that title on him. Of course, the world is still waiting for the one who will supposedly usher in a new age of peace. According to the Book of Isaiah, it will be a time when the whole world will worship the one god of Israel and when all Israelites will have been returned to their homeland; and it will be a man who will be referred to as Immanuel. Obviously, he hasn’t come yet.