Savior. Healer. Lord. King. Messiah.
Christians associate these names with one Man: Jesus Christ. He is the culmination of our hopes and the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus the Messiah is our greatest hope and joy in this life!
Jewish people also believe the Scriptures speak about a Messiah. Their interpretation of messianic prophecy differs significantly. As believers in Jesus, I believe it is important for us to know why the Jewish people believe Jesus did not accomplish everything the Messiah promised to do. So what exactly is the Jewish belief of the Messiah?
The term Messiah (Heb. Mashiach) means “anointed one.” It was customary for Jewish people to consecrate their priests and kings by pouring anointing oil over them (cf. Aaron (Ex. 30:30); Saul (1 Sam. 10:2); David (1 Sam. 16:13)). The oil was symbolic of being set apart by and endowed with the power of God for special service.
During the prophetic period of Israel’s history, the Jewish people were promised that God would raise up a redeemer from the seed of David who would bring the physical deliverance from their Gentile enemies, restore the Temple, and reestablish the kingdom rule of David (cf. 9:6–7; 11:1–2; Jer. 23:5).
Second Temple Suffering
In the time of the second Temple (Herod’s Temple), messianic hope was very strong. The Jewish people looked for a political Messiah who would deliver them from the iron heel of Roman occupation and oppression. It was during this time that Jesus Christ lived, but according to Jewish teaching He did not fit the description of the promised Messiah. For the Jew, Messiah was to be from the family of David; a military and political leader who would rule as king; and he was to bring everlasting peace to Israel. Jesus, on the other hand, was born into a poor family; with no known physical father, never became king of Israel; nor did He bring peace to Israel but was crucified by the Romans.
The Jewish people looked for a political Messiah who would deliver them from the iron heel of Roman occupation and oppression.
After the second Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, Jewish people were scattered throughout the world. Suffering discrimination and persecution in Asia, Europe, and Africa, the Jewish people clung to the hope that a personal Messiah would soon come and bring redemption from their suffering, reestablish them in the land of Israel, and bring everlasting peace.
A Man or a Kingdom?
Traditional Judaism (Orthodox and Conservative) has never viewed the Messiah as a God-Man, but only a man with unusual power from God who will manifest the qualities of a prophet, priest, and king in Israel. They have described the Messiah in a dual role. First, there would come the “suffering servant” (Messiah ben Joseph) who would die in battle against the enemies of Israel preparing the way for the second Messiah. Secondly, there would come a descendant of King David who would secure the land of Israel for the Jewish people; bring peace and blessing to Israel and the world; rebuild the Temple on its historical site; and reinstitute the sacrificial system.
Modern Judaism (Reform branch) has reinterpreted the messianic hope. Instead of a “personal Messiah” there will come a “Messianic Age” that is brought about through the humanist progression of world leaders negotiating for peace. When universal peace, righteousness, and justice is established in the world, then Israel will enjoy peace in her land forever.
Throughout their long history the Jewish people have renewed the messianic hope during times of persecution and suffering, but that hope becomes dim when Jewish people live in peace and security.
Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?
Many pseudo-Messiahs arose throughout the long history of Judaism. There have been over 60 pseudo-Messiahs in Israel’s history. Here are a few notable ones:
Theudas (A.D. 44) – Israel
Menachem ben Jair (A.D. 66) – Israel
Simon Bar Kokhba (A.D. 135) – Israel
Moses of Crete (440) – Crete
Screne of Syria (720) – Syria
Abu Isa Isfahani (755–756) –Persia
Yudgham (Alra’i) (8th century) – Persia
David Alroy (1160–1247) – Persia
Abraha ben Samuel Abulafia (1240–1292) Spain
Nissim ben Davie (End of the 13th century) – Spain
David Reubeni (1491–1535) – Arabia
Asher Laemmlein (1500) – Germany
Solomon Molcho (1500–1532) – Portugal
Isaac ben Solomon Luria (1534–1572) – Palestine
Hayin Vital (Hayin Calabrese) (1543–1620) – Palestine
Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) – Smyrna, Turkey
Abraham Miguel Cardosa (1630–1710) – Portugal
Judah Chasid Halevi (1638–1700) – Podelia
Nathan Benjamin Halevi Ghazzati (1644–1680) – Gaza/Jerusalem
Jonathan Eyebeschutz (1690–1764) – Poland
Jacob Querido (1690) – Turkey
Berachiah (1695–1740) –Turkey
Moses Chayim Luzzatto (1707–1747) – Italy
Jacob Frank (1726-1791) – Poland
Loebele Prossnitz (1750) – Moravia
All met a very sad end. Some were imprisoned or killed, while others converted to various religions to escape punishment or death. None met the requirements of the Messiah. Christians believe Jesus met these standards, but the Jewish people continue to wait for their Messiah. Will you pray with me that as anyone seeks to find hope that is only found in the Messiah that they will look to God’s Word and that He will reveal to them the true Savior, Healer, Lord, King?