What Christmas commemorates is big for many reasons. With the incarnation comes the Savior. For those who repent, there is justification, adoption, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, sanctification, and, one day, glorification. But if we back up a bit, with the incarnation, there is the arrival of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. It’s difficult for a 21st century audience to appreciate the century-long yearning which the Hebrews had for the Messiah’s arrival.
But why? What is the significance of the Jewish Messiah?
For centuries, the Israelites correctly understood that the Messiah would be the most important individual in world history. The significance of the Jewish Messiah would in no way be a localized significance. While the Hebrew Scriptures records his importance, that importance was not only for Hebrews. Instead, the Hebrews were granted divine inspiration for the recording and declaring thereof. That he would come through the Israeli people in no way confined his importance to that small corner of the globe. This coming Messiah, whenever he came, would be the most important individual for all peoples of all times in all places.
How could that be so? The Messiah is foretold to be the individual who will do many incredible things. Much could be said, but for a brief Christmas meditation, here are six of many reasons why the Jewish Messiah is the most significant individual in history, and, as a bonus, why Jesus is he:
A brief preface: The messianic prophecies cited were all known to be given prior to the arrival of the Messiah so that the world would have no trouble recognizing him upon his arrival. While the specific date of his birth was not disclosed to the world, the details of his person and doings were; something far more helpful.
- The Jewish Messiah’s kingdom-reign will grow and never end.
“Thus says the LORD…‘When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom…Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” ’ ” (2 Samuel 7:8, 12, 16). Date of prophecy, ca. 1000 B.C.
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders…There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). Date of prophecy, ca. 700 B.C.
“And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one” (Zechariah 14:9). Date of prophecy, ca. 500 B.C.
These messianic prophecies contain some striking imperial declarations. First, the Jewish Messiah will be a king. His rule will not be democratic, but monocratic. He alone will rule. Second, he will be a king in the lineage of David, the Hebrew king (to whom the 2 Samuel prophecy was given). His human ancestry will be strictly Jewish and Davidic. Third, the Messiah will have a kingdom. Fourth, his kingdom will feature peace, justice, and righteousness. Whatever this will look like, it’s great news for the world. Fifth, his kingdom will increase. That is, it will feature growth. Sixth, the Messiah’s kingdom will never end. That is, it is an eternal kingdom; with no termination. That’s a tough one to accomplish, especially if you are merely human. But make no mistake about it, the Jewish Messiah will rule a kingdom which will continue for eternity. Finally, the Jewish Messiah’s kingdom will be global, or, “all the earth.”
Earth has seen some powerful rulers. However, if you are a king with this kind of a kingdom, you are set apart from all of them.
- The Jewish Messiah has existed for eternity.
“But as for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). Date of prophecy, ca. 700 B.C.
The last statement in this prophecy is striking. It’s one thing for a king to reign forever, as mentioned in the aforementioned prophecy. It’s quite another for him to have already existed for eternity. This means that his existence has no beginning point. The Jewish Messiah has no moment at which his being began. Unlike every human being, he is uncreated and uncaused. He is before all things, including the created order as we know it.
Based upon his eternality alone, the Jewish Messiah is more than a cut above all individuals in history.
- The Jewish Messiah will be fully man and fully God.
“Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Date of prophecies, ca. 700 B.C.
Aside from the fact that he will be born of a virgin, it is notable in light of his eternality that the Jewish Messiah will be fully human. Both of Isaiah’s messianic prophecies mention the birth of a male child.
However, he will differ from all other human beings: he will also be God. We know this for a few reasons. First, as mentioned in Micah 5:2, his existence has no beginning. That can only be said of an individual who is self-existent and uncreated; who is prior to all created things. The Hebrew Scriptures (and logic) tell us that such a being must be the God and Creator of all things. Second, Isaiah 7:14 mentions that he will be known as, “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” Third, Isaiah’s second prophecy states that he is called, “Mighty God.” It would be blasphemous to call someone, “God,” who was not. Thus, the Jewish Messiah would be both fully human and fully God, making him unequivocally significant in history.
- The Jewish Messiah will die as a substitute sacrifice, and thereby perform the work to put his people in right relationship before God by eliminating the penalty of their sin.
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 7He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-11). Date of prophecy, ca. 700 B.C.
The death of many great men have certainly been moving and momentous events. However, no death has ever been said to accomplish things as monumental as that of the Jewish Messiah. Many things are foretold in this prophecy. First, the Messiah will be rejected and die a brutal death. Language such as “stricken,” “smitten,” “pierced through,” “crushed,” “chastening,” “scourging,” “oppression,” “slaughter,” “cut off,” “grave,” and “poured Himself out to death,” indicates an unpleasant death. Second, his death will serve as a substitute in the place of others’ sin. The passage is full of substitutionary language; “our griefs He…bore,” “our sorrows He carried,” “pierced through for our transgressions,” “crushed for our iniquities,” “chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,” “by His scourging we are healed,” “the iniquity of us all to fall on Him,” “He will bear their iniquities,” and “He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for transgressors.” Further, it is said that he gives himself as an offering for the judicial guilt of those sinners; “He would render Himself as a guilt offering.” Third, it was God who was involved in punishing him as a substitute sacrifice; “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” and “the LORD was pleased to crush Him.” Therefore, God played a part in punishing the Jewish Messiah in order to “justify the many,” or place these “many” in right relationship with him. For that, the Messiah is of ultimate significance.
- The Jewish Messiah will rise from the dead.
“But the Lord was pleased to crush Him…He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10). Date of prophecy, ca. 700 B.C.
For the Messiah to “see His offspring” and have his days prolonged, he must rise after his brutal death. Of course, from the many other messianic passages which speak of him reigning forever, one must also conclude that the Messiah rises from the dead.
- The Jewish Messiah will one day alter the entire world so that sin, death, violence, injustice, and destruction are permanently eradicated for all who pledge allegiance to him.
“‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware’” (Psalm 2:8-9). Date of prophecy, ca. 1000-500 B.C.
“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit…4But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. 6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. 7 Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10 Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 4-10).
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah…10And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:5-6, 10). Dates of prophecies, ca. 700 B.C.
The world described in these prophecies is the kind everyone longs for. It’s a world of utter peace; where human sickness and suffering are absent; where perfect justice is administered; and where death is dead. This is the world that the Jewish Messiah will bring about in the future.
Such things cannot be remotely said of any other historical figure. For this reason, the Jewish Messiah is the most significant individual in history.
But that demands the question, “Who is the Jewish Messiah?” Jesus, whose birth many celebrate this time of year, claimed to be him (John 4:25-26). The evidence is overwhelmingly in agreement with his testimony. Tomes could, and have, be written on the subject. But briefly, here are a few reasons we know that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah.
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem, thus fulfilling Micah 5:2.
Again, two witnesses explicitly testify to this, not to mention Mary and Joseph who were there for the birth (Matt. 2:1-6, Luke 2:4, 15).
- Jesus was born in the family line of David, thus fulfilling 2 Sam 7:12-16.
Both Matthew (1:1-6) and Luke (1:32-33, 2:4) establish his Davidic lineage. Further, Mary and Joseph testified to this fact by virtue of travelling to Bethlehem during the census (Luke 2:1-4).
- Jesus was born of a virgin, thus fulfilling Isaiah 7:14.
Mary and Joseph both testify that he was. In Jewish law, two witnesses sufficed. However, two other witnesses explicitly testify to it (Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:34-35). Further, both John (John 8:41) and the apostle Paul (Rom. 5:12-19) implicitly refer to it.
That is a difficult prophecy to pull off. But Jesus fulfilled it and a multitude of witnesses agree.
- Jesus miraculously healed devastating disabilities and raised others from the dead, thus fulfilling Isaiah 35:5-6.
This one is trickier to fulfill than, say, being born in Bethlehem or in the Davidic line. But, many individuals testify to it. All four gospel accounts bear witness to miracles such as healing the blind, paralyzed, and raising the dead. And, even Jesus’ enemies admitted to his ability to do miracles (cf. Matt. 12:22-24).
- Jesus rose from the dead, thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:10, and, implicitly, all other prophecies speaking of his eternal reign.
The resurrection of Christ is an event that has never been seriously contested. All four gospel writers bear witness to it. The apostle Paul (an unlikely convert) bears witness to it, as well as at least 500 other individuals at the time (1 Cor. 15:6). Also, the radical change experienced by myriads of individuals throughout history in the name of Christ testifies to the resurrection.
What about his deity, eternality, and sin-bearing work? If an individual is able to do all the things which Jesus did, it is safe to say that he, therefore, is qualified in every other category. He said he would rise from the dead, and he did (Matt. 16:21). Thus, when he said that he is God and sin-bearer (John 8:58, Matt. 26:28), he must be believed. Many more fulfilled prophecies could be cited, such as Zechariah 9:9/Matthew 21:1-7, Zechariah 11:12-13/Matthew 26:14-15, and Malachi 4:5-6/Matthew 11:14-15.
Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and, therefore, the most significant individual in world history. The implications of this fact cannot be over-emphasized.
I don’t know where you have put your hope this Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Ashura, Bodhi, Yaldu, Juul, Zarathushtra, Christmas, Gaia, or none-of-the-above season. But if it is not in this Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, you are hopeless. It matters not what your spiritual persuasion is; or your upbringing or education or tradition or religious preferences or anything else. Jesus Christ is the world’s hope; he is your hope. To throw your soul’s anchor in anyone else is eternal suicide.
“He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41).
Merry Christmas from all of us at the Cripplegate.