The Purposes Of The Messiah Essay, Research Paper
INTRODUCTION Luke sums up the mission of Jesus Christ in one quote, “For the Son ofMan came to seek and to save what was lost. ” By studying Messianic prophecyone is able to see in particular what Christ’s purposes were – just howindeed He sought and saved that which was lost. By comparing these detailsto the record of His life as found in the four gospels, one gets a clear ideaof Jesus’ mission, and what the response to this should be.ISAIAH’S SERVANT SONG Undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable prophecies concerning thepromised Messiah was uttered by Isaiah, in his fourth servant song, inparticular the section which states: Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; 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. Firstly, however, it must be demonstrated that this passage ispredictive of the promised Messiah, for there are other interpretations incurrent usage . Gerald Sigal is quoted by Ankerberg et. al. as saying, “WhatJews find even more amazing and mystifying is how any person who studies thischapter critically can possible believe it alludes to Jesus. . . . Isaiah 53speaks of the nation of Israel. . . . ” Certainly, Ringgren, in line withhis theory that Messianism is simply king ideology, sees this passage asconcerning the relationship of Israel to the world . Bentzen describes theinterpretation of this passage as “less soluble than most” but asserts that”It is doubtful whether they [scholars] will ever arrive at the answer of theChurch. ” Still others believe that Isaiah is actually referring to himself .It is surmised by some that the Ethiopian eunuch learned this interpretationfrom Jerusalem rabbis when asking Philip, “Tell me, of whom does the prophetspeak? Of himself, or of somebody else? ” These interpretations are incorrect. The suffering servant “had doneno violence, nor was any deceit found in his mouth. ” Yet, Isaiah said, “Iam a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips. “Similarly, Isaiah confessed on behalf of Israel, “Our offenses are many inyour sight, and our sins testify against us. ” Finally, Isaiah 53:8 states,”For the transgression of my people, he was stricken.” The “my people” canonly refer to Israel, thus “the servant” cannot. Similarly, Throughout this passage, the Servant is portrayed as an individual. It speaks of what He has done; how He was despised; how He was rejected, and how the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. All of this the Servant did on behalf of “My people.” This passage speaks of the Messiah. This is the view applied in someof the Targums’s and Midrash’s . Ankerberg et. al. mention many Jewishscholars who see this passage as Messianic . In fact, many early Rabbisconceived of two Messiahs in order to resolve this passage with theirexpectancy of a triumphant and victorious Messiah . Scholem elaborates, “TheMessiah ben Joseph is the dying Messiah who perishes in the Messianiccatastrophe. . . . By contrast. . . . all of the utopian interest isconcentrated on the Messiah ben David. ” Manson demonstrates anotherRabbinic explanation for the suffering Messiah which involves the Aramaictext of the Targum on Isaiah 53. In this, verse eight is rendered such, Out of chastisements and punishments he will bring our captives near; the wondrous things done to us in his days who shall be able to tell? for he will cause the dominion of the Gentiles to pass away from the land of Israel, and transfer to them the sins which my people have committed.Of course, Manson’s comments are the obvious, It would scarcely be possible to conceive a more complete perversion of the whole central idea of the Hebrew prophet’s vision than is here revealed in the Targum. The latter recognises that the Servant is the Messiah, but deliberately contorts everything in Isa. liii. into conformity with the worst excesses of Jewish nationalistic doctrine. . . . In place of the prophet’s “He was cut off from the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken,” the Targum indulges the sadistic reflection that the Messiah, in freeing Israel at last from the dominion of the Gentiles, will transfer to them the sins which Israel has committed – a new doctrine of vicarious atonement! Thus, having confidence that this prophecy refers to the promisedMessiah, we can immediately see Jesus’ purposes. The Messiah would rise fromobscurity and humiliation and be exalted high above all others. Thishumiliation would be so devastating that He would be grossly disfigured andconsidered to have been rejected and smitten by God. He would be despised.Indeed, this is what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth, as described in thefour gospels. Yet this was all for a purpose. As Smith states, “Hissuffering would be on behalf of others. At least twelve times in this[verses 4-6] and the next three verses Isaiah emphasizes that the Servant’ssufferings were vicarious. He suffered to save men from the terribleconsequences of sin. ” And indeed, the consequences of sin are terrible.James Strong defines the Hebrew word for grief (ykx, choliy) in verse fouras a malady, or a calamity . Similarly, the Hebrew word for sorrows(hbakvn, makobah) is defined as anguish and afflictions, grief and pain .Anyone would be deceiving themselves to think that Christ’s sufferings were’sad’ – they were inconceivable sufferings – He was rather the man ofsorrows, acquainted with grief (verse 3), indeed He was “cut off from theland of the living.” It is important to note, however, that the Messiah isnot, and does not become, a sinner, so that He might remove sin – rather, Heremoves the consequences of sin, as seen by the verbs borne (asn, nasa, tolift or carry away ) and carried (lbc, cabal, to bear a burden ) in versefour. This He has done only be bearing them himself. Further, Jesus’ sufferings were substitutionary. “Our transgression,our iniquities demanded the death penalty from the eternal Judge. Heabsorbed the punishment rightfully due us. ” His sufferings were redemptive – Isaiah refers to them as chastisement.All have sinned – and fallen short of the glory of God – and the wages ofsin is death , the Scriptures declare. Yet, “He himself bore our sins in hisbody on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; byhis wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, butnow you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ” By Hissufferings, Jesus has reconciled us to God – the Son is the propitiation forour sins . His sufferings were essential. Like sheep, mankind had strayed awayfrom God. As the straying is a metaphor for sin, the danger comes from GodHimself – who must punish sin. Thus, “the human need triggers the divineaction ” – the Father lays upon the Messiah the punishment for iniquity of usall. As Peter said so long ago, “Salvation is found in no one else, forthere is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. ” Finally, His sufferings were acceptable. In spite of His innocence, itpleased God to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, because “a guilt offeringhad thereby been offered before God. This would make possible the redemptionof the fallen sons of Adam. ” Dr. Walter Kaiser summarises the relevance of this prophecy thus: Men would reject the Servant’s message (53:1), His person (verse 2), and His mission (verse 3). But His vicarious suffering would effect an atonement between God and man (verses 4-6); and though He would submit to suffering (verse 7), death (verse 8), and burial (verse 9), He would subsequently be raised to life, exalted and richly rewarded (verses 10-12).THE PROTOEVANGELIUM When declaring His punishments upon the actors in the Garden of Eden,God declared to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you willstrike his heel. ” Whereas it is true that the full meaning of thisprophetic statement would not have been known until after Adam and Eve’stime, this is still a meaningful Messianic prophecy. Smith states of it, All subsequent Messianic promises are but amplifications of that which is implicit here. The verse is commonly called the protoevangelium (first Gospel). Here in embryo state is the whole of God’s program for the human race. Of course, as with all Messianic prophecy, indeed any supernaturalaspect of God’s revelations, this verse has its critics. Smith lists several
scholars who see in this verse nothing more than an explanation of why peoplehate snakes . Mowinckel is another, stating further that “there is noallusion here to the Devil or to Christ” . Edersheim, however, mentionsseveral Targums which describe it as Messianic . Ankerberg et. al. quoteMartin, a scholar who determined the earliest pre-Christian interpretation ofthis verse and “demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, on philologicalgrounds, that the Jewish community – at least the one in Alexandria -understood this to be Messianic and this well in advance of the birth ofChrist. ” This has also been the Christian viewpoint since early in Churchhistory . The Apostle John declared, “For this purpose the Son of God wasmanifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil ” and this is thevery purpose described in this Messianic foregleam. Smith refers to a”paramount battle” – “A terrible battle between the satanic Serpent and theSaviour is implied in this verse. The outcome of that battle, however, wasnot in doubt. The promised Saviour would crush the head of satanicSerpent. ” Shortly before offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of theworld, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the princeof this world be cast down. ” Indeed the reign of Satan came to an end withthe victorious death, resurrection and ascension of Christ – “And havingspoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly triumphingover them in it. ” The second part of the prophecy is explained by Smith: Satanic serpent would not go down without a bitter struggle. He would crush the heel of the Savior. As a reptile writhes and twists and sinks his fangs into his adversary, so satanic Serpent tries to defend himself against the deadly tread of mankind’s Savior. Here the important point is that the victory over satanic Serpent would be accompanied by, if not accomplished through, the suffering of the Savior. Ankerberg et. al. summarise the passage thus, God says there will be, first of all, conflict that takes place and reaches into the future. The conflict will result from enmity (hatred) between Satan and the woman. Second, this hatred will extend to Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed. Third, someday the woman’s seed, One specifically – a “he” – will victoriously defeat Satan by bruising his head; yet Satan will bruise his heel.THE BLESSING THROUGH ABRAHAM’S SEED On several accounts, God spoke to Abraham, saying variously, “I willbless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. . . . and inyou shall all families of the earth be blessed “, and “And in your seed shallall the nations of the earth be blessed. ” Smith makes an importantdistinction between the usage of the word “blessed” in these passages. Inthe second verse, the Hithpael form is used, a Hebrew reflexive verbal form.Smith explains, Genesis 22:18 and 26:4 are not to be interpreted as a salutation with which people would greet each other in the future (e.g., May the Lord bless you as he blessed Abraham). The basic idea conveyed by this form is that the nations would regard themselves as blessed in the seed of Abraham. They would realize how fortunate they were to have some association with this seed. Similarly, the Niphal form is most naturally rendered in English in thepassive voice, and is used in Genesis 12:3; 18:18 and 28:14. Again, Smithexplains, The notion is not that the nations will be blessed as Abraham was blessed. Rather, the idea is that the nations will, as a matter of fact, be blessed in or through Abraham. This blessing was to come through Abraham’s seed. Regarding themeaning of “seed”, Smith points out that: The promise made to Abram cannot refer to all the seed of the Patriarch taken collectively. There is no sense in which Abram’s son by Hagar or his sons by Keturah have been a blessing to all the families of the earth. On any supposition, therefore, there must have been some limitation of the promise; or the word seed was intended to include only some portion of his descendants. Seed must have referred to a part only of the posterity of Abram, but to what part can be determined only by subsequent revelation.Indeed, the apostle Paul saw significance in the fact that the promise wasmade to Abraham’s seed (singular), and not his seeds (plural), saying “Now toAbraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, And to seeds,as of many; but as of one, And to your seed which is Christ. ” This seedthen, this individual, of whom God spoke about in the promise was theMessiah. Abraham’s destiny was to be a blessing to all nations, and thatcould only be fulfilled in his descendant, Christ. Hence, part of Christ’spurposes were, in some way, to be a blessing. In fact, the full scope ofthis blessing granted to mankind may only be ascertained from a study of theNew Testament , which gives five overlapping areas. Firstly, the Christ was born. John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias,related this to the promise when he uttered the words, “Blessed be the LordGod of Israel for he. . . . has raised up an horn of salvation for us in thehouse of his servant David. . . . to remember his holy covenant, the oathwhich he sware to our father Abraham. . . . ” Secondly, Jesus was resurrected. Paul makes this connection, saying,”And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise was made unto thefathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hasraised up Jesus again. . . . ” Thirdly sinners are converted. Peter preached that the blessingoffered by Jesus was the very blessing in the well-known promise to Abraham,saying, “You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant made withour fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in you seed shall all kindreds of theearth be blessed. Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, senthim to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. ” Fourthly, and chiefly, mankind may be justified by faith. Paulactually equates the Abrahamic blessing with “the gospel”, “And theScripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations beblessed. ” Fifthly, and finally, the Holy Spirit may be given. Paul goes on tostate, “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through JesusChrist; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. ” Truly Jesus spoke when He said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day and hesaw it, and was glad. “CONCLUSION By appealing to but three of the Messianic prophecies contained in theOld Testament, one finds a clear picture of the purposes of Jesus ofNazareth, the Christ. Truly He came “to seek and save what was lost. ” He”did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransomfor many. ” Indeed, He has “freed us from our sins by his blood ” and now”Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heavengiven to men by which we must be saved. “SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHYAnkerberg, John, John Weldon and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The Case for Jesus The Messiah. Melbourne: Pacific College Study Series, 1994.Becker, Joachim. Messianic Expectation in the Old Testament. Translated by David Green. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.Bentzen, Aage. King And Messiah. 2d ed. Edited by G.W. Anderson. London: Lutterworth Press, 1970.Bruce, F. F., ed. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2, Messiah, by J. A. Motyer. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980.Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.Manson, William. Jesus The Messiah. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1943.Mowinckel, Samuel. He That Cometh. Translated by G.W. Anderson. New York: Abingdon Press, 1954Ringgren, Helmer. The Messiah in the Old Testament. London: SCM Press Ltd., 1956.Scholem, Gershom. The Messianic Idea in Judaism. London: George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., 1971.Smith, James. The Promised Messiah. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Old Testament. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994.REFERENCES Luke 19:10. Isaiah 53:4-12, New International Version. Of course, the New Testament supports this claim, applying it toChrist in many passages. However, such evidence is insufficient for thosewho deny the inspiration of the Scriptures. John Ankerberg, John Walter and John Kaiser, The Case for Jesusthe Messiah (Melbourne: Pacific College Study Series, 1994), 109. Helmer Ringgren, The Messiah in the Old Testament (London: SCMPress Ltd., 1956), 66. Aage Bentzen, King and Messiah, edited by G.W. Anderson, 2d. ed.(London: Lutterworth Press, 1970), 48. Ankerberg et. al., op. cit., 52-53. Acts 8:30-35. Isaiah 53:9-10. Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah 59:12. Ankerbeg et. al., op. cit., 54. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah(Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 997-998. Ankerbeg et. al., op. cit., 57-60. Ibid. Gershom Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism (London: GeorgeAllen & Unwin Ltd., 1971), 18. William Manson, Jesus the Messiah (London: Hodder & Stoughton,1943), 169. Idem, 170. James Smith, The Promised Messiah (Nashville: Thomas NelsonPublishers, 1993), 311. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, s.v. 2483. Idem, s.v. 4341. Idem, s.v. 5375. Idem, s.v. 5345. Smith, op. cit., 312. Romans 3:23. Romans 6:23. I Peter 2:24-25. I John 4:10. Smith, op. cit., 314. Acts 4:12, emphasis added. Smith, op. cit., 316. Ankerberg et. al., op. cit., 52, emphasis added. Genesis 3:15. Smith, op. cit., 38. Idem, 39. Samuel Mowinckel, He That Cometh, translated by G.W. Anderson(New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), 11. Edersheim, op. cit., 981. Ankerberg et. al., op. cit., 109. Smith, op. cit., 38. I John 3:8. Smith, op. cit., 42. John 12:31. Colossians 2:15. Smith, op. cit., 42. Ankerberg et. al., op. cit., 23, emphasis added. Genesis 12:2-3. Genesis 22:18. Smith, op. cit., 49. Ibid. Idem, 51. Galatians 3:16. Smith, op. cit., 52-54. Luke 1:68-75. Acts 13:32-33. Acts 3:25-26. Galatians 3:8. Galatians 3:14. John 8:56. Luke 19:10. Mark 10:45. Revelation 1:5. Acts 4:12.