In the last section we left our friends with a very disturbing question in their minds--a question which seemed to defy understanding. If Jesus was "the messiah" why did he refuse when they wanted to make him king? We, ourselves, looked at three prophecies from three different prophets stating that the Messiah would be a king from the tribe of David, so we too might ask the question--why did he refuse?
The answer is to be found in other prophecies which describe "the messiah" as a righteous servant who will suffer and die. The first of these prophecies was written around 600 B.C. and is found in Daniel 9:21-26,
"While I was still in prayer, [the angel] Gabriel...came to me in swift flight...
He instructed me and said to me, `Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding...
`Seventy `sevens' [of prophetic years] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness...
`Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the Anointed One [messiah], the ruler comes, there will be seven `sevens', and sixty-two `sevens'...After the sixty-two `sevens', the Anointed One will be cut off, and will have nothing.' "
This phrase "will have nothing" has also been translated as "but not for himself" or "and will have no one". Regardless of which translation is the best, they all convey the meaning that this Anointed One will not realize his kingdom at that time, but that these things will happen in order to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness.
The second prophecy, written by Isaiah some 750 years before Christ came, can be seen on the following page in Photograph 8. This very manuscript from the caves of Qumran was copied 150 years before Jesus started preaching, and remained buried in the caves until 1948. There is no question of anyone changing this portion of God's word during those years, so we can be sure that it represents part of the Torah-Old Testament which the Qur'an testifies was in Jesus' presence and "BETWEEN HIS HANDS". The prophecy reads,
"Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering...
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53 as found in the "Dead Sea Scroll" (IQIsa), dated ca 125-100 B.C.
By permission of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Isaiah prophesies that there is going to be a righteous servant who will die to bear the sins of many and will intercede for the transgressors. Stanley Rosenthal, a Jewish writer who became a Christian, mentions this seeming contradiction between the idea of a mighty king and a suffering servant and describes the attempt of Jewish scholars to resolve it with these words,
"It is no wonder that many of the ancient rabbis wrote in the Jewish Talmud of two Messiahs who would appear on the stage of history. Studying intensely as they did, it was obvious to them that not only would there be a messiah whom they called Mashiah Ben David (Messiah, son of David) who would reign and rule as David did, but that there also would be a Messiah whom they called Mashiah ben Joseph (Messiah, son of Joseph) for he would suffer as Joseph suffered."
How can this be reconciled? A first century Jew had no answer and there was no answer until Jesus explained it.
By revelation Jesus showed his disciples that he, the Son of Man, was with them the first time "to be cut off" in order "to bear the sin of many". Secondly, in the future he would return from heaven with mighty power to establish his kingdom on earth. What the Jewish Rabbis thought of as "two messiahs", we now understand to be two appearances of the "one Messiah--Jesus of Nazareth".
With that further understanding in mind let us return to Elias, our friend from Nain.
You remember that Rabbi that I was telling you about--Jesus of Nazareth--well things are not getting any clearer. The other day a man from Jerusalem to whom I sell my goats was here. He was raised in Nain and knows everyone well, so every year just before the feast of the Passover he comes up here to Nain and buys the best healthy one year old rams he can find for the Passover sacrifice.
Anyway, he was telling me about some things which really make your head swim. One day during the feast of Tabernacles several months ago, when Jesus was talking to a crowd of people in the Temple, he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32.
Some of our Jewish theologians got pretty upset at this and said, "What do you mean? We've never been slaves of any one. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin". Then he went on and said, "If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:33-34,36.
Later on, according to the sheep-trader, he told them, "I tell you the truth, if a man keeps my word, he will never see death."
At this the (theologians) got really excited and exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if a man keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
Jesus replied, "...Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad." [Abraham lived about 1800 years before Jesus.]
"You are not yet fifty years old," the (theologians) said to him, "and you have seen Abraham?"
And now get this answer. Without a moment's hesitation, as though it was the most normal and obvious thing in the world, he said, "I tell you the truth. Before Abraham was, I AM!"
He called himself "I AM"! But "I AM" is a name of God! No human can have that name!
The sheep-trader says that a lot of them started looking around for stones to stone him to death for blasphemy. But they were sort of slow as though they couldn't make up their minds, and Jesus went over behind a pillar and slipped away from the Temple grounds. John 8:51-53,56-59.
It certainly would be blasphemy if anyone else said it! But what about those miracles?
The sheep-trader says that the very next day Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. He'd never seen a thing in his whole life. He didn't know red from blue, or even black from white for that matter.
When Jesus came by he told his disciples, "While I am in the world I am the light of the world."
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. (Then) he told him, "Go. Wash in the pool of Siloam"...
A couple of people helped him get up and started him on his way. He went and washed and came home seeing. Just like that--a man who had never seen anything in his whole life.
Later when someone asked him about this miracle, Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see..."; just as though he did the miracle as a lesson. John 9:1,5-7,39a.
And that's the way it goes. One day he says some terrible unbelievable thing and then the next day he does an unbelievable miracle.
The sheep-trader says that just before coming up to Nain on his buying trip,
he heard Jesus speak as though he were going to die--as though it is all planned.
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as
the Father knows me and I know the Father--and
I lay down my life for my sheep...The reason my Father loves me is that
I lay down my life--only to take it up again.
(These verses from John 10:14-15,17
can be seen on the following page in Photograph 9.)
Who can understand it. Jesus always speaks in these allegories, but it sure sounds like he is saying that he is going to die and then come back to life. But what kind of a "messiah" is that? And why?
At this point, the sheep-trader says there was a big discussion in the Temple. Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"
But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" John 10:20-21.
When the sheep-trader told me that, I felt pretty good. I'm just as puzzled as I was before, but according to him our greatest religious teachers are equally puzzled.
Another day the Jewish leaders said to Jesus, "If you are the Messiah tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles which I do in my Father's name speak for me...Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may learn and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."
When he said that, they tried to seize him again, but he escaped from their grasp. John 10:24-25,37-39.
The next thing the sheep-trader heard was that Jesus had healed ten lepers with one command. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out..."Jesus, Master, have pity on us."
When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."
And as they went, they were cleansed. Luke 17:12-14.
So when he (the hired hand) sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. [[Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down by life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.]]
Now, there it is again! How can he be "in the Father and the Father in him?" I can't blame them for wanting to stone him, but he always gives the impression his words are truth and he wants them to go right into your heart. In fact it's as though he himself is the truth standing right in front of you.
The last thing the sheep-trader told me was that he has a friend who is one of Jesus' disciples--not one of the closest twelve--but one of the seventy. This friend told the sheep-trader that on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus said clearly to the twelve that he, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him, and three days later he will rise. Mark 10:33b-34.
Now why would he want to prophesy his own death? It's unbelievable. He has all that power to do those miracles. Why one time they say he stopped the wind and waves of a storm just by speaking to it. Mark 4:37-41.
If he has all that power how could they even touch him, let alone seize him and kill him? It's true that a long time ago I heard a rabbi speak about a suffering "messiah", but I told him that was ridiculous. If somebody is the "messiah" he is going to reign as king and throw out these horrid uncircumcised Romans! The rabbi didn't insist, but he did say something about a "righteous suffering servant".
You know I think a lot about these things--especially when I'm sitting milking my goats and my mind is free. I wonder what it will be like to be under him as a king? He certainly spoke sternly to some of those people the day he fed the 5000, but when he spoke of God as Father and said that the Heavenly Father loves us, it was very reassuring. I still remember those words when he said, "If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Oh, I have some good news. My uncle who lives near Cyrene in Libya, whom we haven't seen for 15 years, is coming for the Passover and the feast of Pentecost. I can't go to Jerusalem with him for the Passover, because it is my turn to watch the goats and do the milking for my two brothers and myself.
But when Pentecost comes, if the Lord wills, I'm going to go up to Jerusalem with my uncle. Then I'm hoping to hear Jesus speak again. I think he really is bearing witness to the truth and they know it.
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