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It is important to begin by
saying that for one who has already made up his or her mind that Jesus is not
the Messiah, no amount of evidence will be convincing. But for those who are
honest in asking, the evidence speaks for itself.
When sincerely asked, this
question is a good one. After all, there have been false Messiahs in Jewish
history. Among the most prominent were Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi. Bar
Kochba led a revolt against Rome in the years 132-135 C.E.
During this revolt, one of
the most famous figures in Jewish history, Rabbi Akiva, proclaimed him to be
"King Messiah." Unfortunately, Bar Kochba, Akiva and thousands of
Jews were killed in 135 C.E. when the Romans stormed the stronghold of Betar.
Shabbetai Zevi, on the other hand, was a self-proclaimed Messiah. Flourishing
in 17th-century Europe, the Shabbatean movement spread among both the common people and the
rabbis. But when Shabbetai Zevi was arrested in 1666 by the Sultan of Turkey,
he converted to Islam rather than face death. We have been tragically wrong
before, so it is not surprising that hard evidence should be sought for
believing in Jesus.
The idea of a Messiah is
one that is found throughout the Hebrew Bible. There, the Messiah's
"I.D." is given to us. Imagine looking up a friend by first locating
his country. That would not be enough information, so you would need to
ascertain his city, street, and specific number on that street. It would also
help if you had a phone number and knew the time at which he would be home.
Similarly, the Bible tells
us the "I.D." of the Messiah. His ethnic background, place of birth,
time frame of his arrival and other identifying characteristics are given.
These "credentials" enable us to identify the Messiah, and to
Of course it might be
objected that if these "credentials" are so clear, why didn't most
Jewish people believe in Jesus, and why were they so taken in by false Messiahs
like Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi?
To understand this, one
must realize that by the time of Jesus, the Messianic hope had become greatly
politicized in the minds of the people. They were seeking deliverance from the
tyranny of Rome. Although the Scripture
spoke both of the sufferings and of the victories of the Messiah, the
victorious aspect had become uppermost in the minds of the common people
because of the Roman domination. This "lopsided" view of the Messiah
has stuck with Jewish people, and the politicization of the Messianic hope has
continued. Thus the hope of a political rather than a spiritual Messiah
contributes to both the acceptance of people such as Bar Kochba, and the
rejection of Jesus in his role as a Messiah.
This is not to say that all
Jewish people rejected the claims of Jesus. Far from that being the case, all
the first followers of Jesus were Jews. In fact, the rabbis of that time period
and afterwards were well aware of the many Messianic prophecies which
Christians claimed were fulfilled in Jesus. So for instance, although the
Talmudic rabbis concurred that Isaiah 53 was a prediction of the Messiah, by
medieval times the pressure from those who applied this prophecy to Jesus was
so great that Rashi, that greatest medieval Biblical scholar, reinterpreted the
chapter and said it referred to the nation of Israel. This interpretation is
maintained today by many Jewish scholars, though it only dates back to the
What, then, are some of the
credentials of the Messiah? Only a few can be listed below; there are many
others. All of these passages were recognized by the early rabbis as referring
to the Messiah:
Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:1
Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10
Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9
Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22
Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel
Messiah's life would match a particular description, including
suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man's
tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
In detail as to lineage,
birthplace, time, and lifestyle, Jesus matched the Messianic expectations of
the Hebrew Scriptures. The record of this fulfillment is to be found in the
pages of the New Testament. But several other factors combine to further
substantiate the Messiahship of Jesus.
In the first place, he
claimed to be the Messiah! When a woman said to him, "I know that Messiah
is coming." he replied, "I who speak to you am he."1 Naturally, that
doesn't prove anything one way or the other. But if Jesus had never made the
claim to be the Messiah, why would we bother to try and prove that he was? His
own claim lays the groundwork for the rest of the evidence.
Also, Jesus' life is in
sharp contrast to that of the false Messiahs, and it is a positive
demonstration of what we would expect the Messiah to do. Thus, Jesus worked
many miracles of healing, bringing wholeness into people's lives, forgiving sin
and restoring relationships. In contrast with Shabbetai Zevi, for instance,
Jesus carried out the Law of Moses as a devout Jew. And in contrast with Bar
Kochba, although Jesus also died, he was resurrected!
The resurrection is a third
piece of additional evidence, and it is perhaps the most convincing vindication
of Jesus' claims. It is interesting that an Israeli scholar, Pinchas Lapide,
has written a book which has attracted no small amount of attention in the
Jewish community. The reason is that Lapide has said that the resurrection of
Jesus is well within the realm of possibility. After all, he reasoned, the
Hebrew Scriptures give a number of accounts of people coming back to life. Why
not Jesus as well? Regrettably, Lapide fails to note that the resurrection of Jesus
is described in terms that go far beyond the resucitations of the other
stories; and, he fails to come to grips with the fact that Jesus predicted his
own resurrection, which vindicated his claims to Messiahship.
An assortment of
explanations has been offered throughout history to explain away the
resurrection as either non-historical ("It never happened.") or as
non-supernatural ("Here's how it happened."). But these explanations
have not been successful. Run down the possibilities for yourself and see which
makes the best sense.
Did the Roman authorities steal the body of Jesus from
the tomb? Then why didn't they produce it when the word started being spread
that Jesus was risen? Or maybe the disciples stole it. But could such a
fabrication on their part account for the change in their attitude?
earlier they were disillusioned, defeated idealists who had hoped that Jesus
would bring in a new world order; could a lie which they knew to be a lie, now
account for their hope, their boldness in the face of official persecution, and
for the high ethical standards they set?
Or perhaps Jesus never
died: he just fainted on the cross and revived in the tomb. This idea was
popularized in the book The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield. Unfortunately the
author overlooked the fact that the Romans pierced Jesus' side, which would
have most certainly killed him.
Also, there was a contingent of Roman soldiers
guarding the tomb as well as a huge stone that blocked its entrance. There was
no way that a resuscitated Jesus could have escaped and then convinced hundreds
of skeptical eyewitnesses that he had conquered death forever! Or was it all a
It must have been quite a hallucination to be
seen by vastly different kinds of people at different times of day in many
different places. You might be able to fool one person, but can you fool five
hundred who saw him at one time? And unlike the pattern of hallucinations,
these appearances of the resurrected Jesus stopped as suddenly as they started,
forty days after the resurrection took place.
The only satisfactory
explanation is that the resurrection actually occurred, just as the record
says. And if that's the case, it's a solid reason for accepting the Messiahship
Finally, Jesus transforms
people's lives. Because he provides atonement for sin and reconciliation with
God, Jesus brings peace, joy, and purpose into people's lives. Apart from faith
in him, there is no basis for true peace or direction, for as the psalmist
says, "Man is estranged from the womb." That this estrangement is
healed by the reconciling ministry of Jesus is the common experience of those
who believe in him.
So, between the objective
evidence of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and the subjective
verification in our own lives--we think there's ample evidence that Jesus was
who he claimed to be!
Isaiah 53:5 (King James Version)
5 But he was wounded
for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of
our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:1-12 (King James Version)
53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lordrevealed?
2 For he shall grow up
before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no
form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we
should desire him.
3 He is despised and
rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it
were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne
our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of
God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for
our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our
peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have
gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the
iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and
he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his
8 He was taken from
prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut
off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he
9 And he made his grave
with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath
put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall
see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his
11 He shall see of the
travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my
righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I
divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the
strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered
with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for
Messianic Prophecy - The Odds of Fulfillment
We can understand the power of Messianic Prophecy when we consider statistical
odds that one person fulfilled all of them. If we study just seven of the
specific prophecies, that were later fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ,
we are amazed by the impossibility!
To illustrate, here are some conservative "odds" next to seven
Messianic Prophecy &... Odds Without God
Jesus would be a descendant of David.
104 (1 in 10,000)
Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.
105 (1 in 100,000)
Jesus would be a miracle worker.
105 (1 in 100,000)
Jesus would present Himself as King
106 (1 in 1,000,000)
Jesus would be betrayed by a friend for
106 (1 in 1,000,000)
Jesus would be crucified.
106 (1 in 1,000,000)
Jesus would first present Himself as King
from the decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem.
106 (1 in 1,000,000)
Total Probability (without God)
1038 (1 in a 100 billion,
Messianic Prophecy - The Importance!
This Messianic prophecy is unparalleled evidence that sets God's Word, the
Bible, apart from the other "holy books." Take time to study the Old
Testament prophecies and the parallel New Testament fulfillments. What you
discover is potentially life-changing!
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