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Why didn't they realize Jesus was Messiah?

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Revised July 26, 2008

Why didn't they realize Jesus was Messiah?


"He Who Comes"

The Old Testament has an air of expectancy. God had promised He would send a Savior to the earth. The prophets predicted that someone would be coming; someone important; someone who would make a difference, a REAL impact. The name “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “anointed.” It was the Messiah, or Christ, who was eagerly anticipated by all godly Jews.  Christ/Messiah was the official title of the promised Saviour/Redeemer, and He was often referred to as He-Who-Comes (Matt 11:3).

The key to the Messianic prophecies is found in Gen. 3:15, when God promised Satan: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This promise and prophecy were expanded upon by the prophets until the birth of Jesus, who was of the seed of woman, and also of the seed of Abraham and the seed of David.

What characteristics were the Jews looking for in a Messiah? What did they expect the Christ to be? Would He be a representative sent by God (like a prophet)? Would He come as God Himself clothed in human flesh? In what form was it predicted that "He Who Comes" would arrive on earth? According to the Bible, they were expecting:

He That cometh:
"John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, HE THAT COMETH after me is preferred before me: for he was before me." John 1:15

"And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is HE THAT COMETH in the name of the Lord:" Mark 11:9

The Consolation of Israel:
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, WAITING FOR THE CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL: and the Holy Ghost was upon him." Luke 2:25

The Redeemer: "And she (Anna) coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to ALL THEM THAT LOOKED FOR REDEMPTION IN JERUSALEM." Luke 2:38

A Prophet: "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee A PROPHET from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me (Moses); unto him ye shall hearken;" Deut. 18:15

Messiah the Prince: Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto THE MESSIAH THE PRINCE shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

Christ: "I know that MESSIAS COMETH, which is called CHRIST: WHEN HE IS COME, he will tell us all things." John 4:25

Messias: John 1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found THE MESSIAS, WHICH IS, BEING INTERPRETED, THE CHRIST.

The Anointed One: The Old Testament prophets look forwarded to the day of the "Anointed One" (Strong's No. 4899), transliterated as Messiah, which is usually translated in the New Testament as "Christ."

God: Is 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, THY GOD REIGNETH!

The Sent One: Is 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, WHOM SHALL I SEND, and who will go for US? Then said I, HERE AM I; SEND ME".

God's SON, SON of the Highest, Son of God:

"I will be his father, and he shall be MY SON. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:" 2 Sam 7:14

"I will be his father, and he shall be MY SON: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee:" 1 Chr 17:13

"And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called MY SON." (Citation of Hos. 11:1) Matt 2:15

"I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art MY SON; this day have I begotten thee." Ps 2:7

"He shall be great, and shall be called the SON of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:" Luke 1:32


How could they recognize The Sent One? Even though they were looking for the Messiah, many did not recognize Jesus when He came. This may seem strange to us—from this side of the cross. What did they have to go by? What did they know about the promised Messiah? What were the clues they had? Just how clear was the Old Testament about how to recognize the Christ for certain, when He appeared.

Jesus didn't come with a label attached for everyone to read that identified Him. Nor did He come plainly announcing who He was. He was rather quiet about His identity, often telling those who did recognize Him to "tell no man." His name (Jesus) didn't readily identify Him as the Savior of the world, or the Christ.

Because the Israelites were anticipating He-Who-Comes, they were naturally quite curious about John the Baptist.

Luke 3:15 "And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not." They asked in John 1:25: "Why baptizest thou then, if thou (John) be not (1) that Christ, nor (2) Elias (Elijah), neither (3) that prophet?"

Elijah the Prophet: Mal 4:5 "Behold, I WILL SEND YOU ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."

Messenger: Mal 3:1 "Behold, I WILL SEND MY MESSENGER, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. "

Jesus was definitely a mystery to many of the Jews. He rarely outright claimed to be the Christ, Messiah or Son of God (exceptions: John 4:26, John 10:36 and John 9:35). He usually referred to Himself as the Son of Man. Jesus didn't claim He was a Prophet, but He hinted that He was when He said: "No prophet is accepted in his own country" Luke 4:24. He hinted He was "He who Comes" when He said His Father had sent Him; and with His statements prefaced with: "I am come to..."

Jesus rarely announced who He was, perhaps preferring individuals to come to their own conclusions, as Peter did when he said, "Thou are the Christ, the son of the living God." Matt 16:16. Jesus prayed that He would be recognized: "That the world may believe THAT THOU HAST SENT ME.”


The Israelites questioned Jesus:

"Who is this?" Matt 21:10

"By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" Matt 21:23

"Art thou HE THAT SHOULD COME? or look we for another?" Luke 7:19

"Art thou the Christ?" Luke 22:67.

"Is not this the Christ?" John 4:29

"Whom makest thou thyself?" John 8:53.

"How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly" John 10:24.

"Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? John 1:22

"And the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" Matt 8:27.

“And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?” Matt 21:10


Many different opinions were given as to who Jesus was. Many were very cautious and didn't accept Jesus as being the Christ with open arms. Over the years, several men had come and gone who claimed to be the Christ, and many people were taken in with their false claims, often with disastrous results, as Gamaliel pointed out in Acts 5:36-37. So it was understandable that they carefully questioned Jesus' identity. Some thought Jesus was a PROPHET and TEACHER (Rabbi):

"...Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias (Elijah); and others, Jeremias (Jeremiah), or one of THE PROPHETS" Matt 16:14.

"The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, RABBI, we know that thou art A TEACHER come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except GOD BE WITH HIM. " John 3:2 (Nicodemas – “God be with us” is the meaning of “Emmanuel”)

"This is of a truth THAT PROPHET that should come into the world." John 6:14

"...they (chief priests and Pharisees) feared the multitudes because they took him (Jesus) for A PROPHET." Matt. 21:46

"Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was A PROPHET mighty in deed and word..." Luke 24:19

"And the multitude said, This is Jesus THE PROPHET of Nazareth of Galilee" Matt 21:11

"...saying That A GREAT PROPHET is risen up among us; and That God hath visited his people." Luke 7:16

“What sayest thou of him that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, “He is A PROPHET.” John 9:17
(Pharisees to healed blind man)

"Many of the people therefore...said, Of a truth this is THE PROPHET. Others said, This is THE CHRIST. But some said, Shall CHRIST come out of Galilee?” John 7:40-41.


After His resurrection and ascension, believers began to link Jesus' human name with the title "Christ." Before long, the title "Christ" became so firmly yoked with Jesus that "Jesus Christ" came to be considered a hyphenated name for Him. But it was not that way to begin with. When someone used the title Jesus Christ, it proved that person believed that Jesus was the Christ--they weren't just calling Him by His name. They were adding a title to the name Jesus. When a person in the New Testament referred to Jesus by the title of "Christ" or "Jesus Christ" or “Messiah;” or by a Messianic title, such as “Son of God” or “Son of David,” it showed they recognized Jesus was the promised Christ, as in the following statements:

"And we believe and are sure that thou art that CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD." John 6:69 (by Peter)

"...We have found the MESSIAS, which is, being interpreted, THE CHRIST. John 1:41 (by Andrew)

"Of a truth, this is THE PROPHET. Others said, This is THE CHRIST. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" John 7:40-41 (by many of the people)

"I believe that thou art THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, which should come into the world." John 11:27 (by Martha)

"Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art THE SON OF GOD." Matt. 14:33 (by Shipmates)

"Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this THE CHRIST?" John 4:29 (by Samaritan woman at the well)

"We have found HIM OF WHOM MOSES IN THE LAW, AND THE PROPHETS, DID WRITE, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph," John 1:45 (by Philip)

"And I (John the Baptist) saw, and bare record that this is THE SON OF GOD," John 1:34

"Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes...Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not OF GOD, he could do nothing" John 9:30-33 (by Blind man Jesus healed).

"And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou SON OF DAVID, have mercy on us." Matt 9:27

"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou SON OF DAVID; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Matt 15:22

"When CHRIST cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath done? John 7:31 (And many of the people believed on Him, and said...)

"Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was THE SON OF GOD." Matt 27:54


Looking back from this side of the cross, it is sometimes hard for us to imagine that the very ones who were looking for Him did not recognize that Jesus was the Son of God, Messiah, Christ, He-Who-Is-To-Come, The Sent One, etc. What if we had lived then? Would we have recognized Him. He didn't come with a name tag. If you knew only what they knew then, what would you have believed concerning Jesus??? What were the signs by which they would be able to recognize the Promised One? They really didn't have a lot to go by. There was nothing in Jesus’ appearance that marked Him out as The Christ. Is 53:2 “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.”

His name "Jesus" didn't identify Him as the promised Messiah. The Old Testament said His name would be Emmanuel. Is 7:14, Matt 1: 23: "Behold a virgin shall be with child…and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us." However, Jesus wasn’t commonly known as "Emmanuel."

Today, the name Jesus is commonly linked with Christ, or Jesus Christ. However, "Christ" was NOT one of Jesus' personal names. "Christ" was one of the Old Testament Messianic titles used for He-Who-Comes, or The Anointed One, Messiah. The title of “Christ” was not a part of His name that His natural parents gave Him at birth. His name (Jesus) didn't readily identify Him as the Savior of the world, or the Christ. Since Jesus was a common name at that time, it was necessary to mention his lineage or residence for identification: "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). His name is a derivation of the name "Joshua" and means God's Salvation, Salvation of the Lord, Savior. Even though the angel announced, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11, Jesus didn't go around giving out His name as Jesus Christ. He was commonly known as Jesus the son of Joseph, or Jesus, the Carpenter's son.

Jesus entered the scene making and fulfilling His own predictions. The people were amazed at His actions, miracles and supernatural knowledge. They were astonished by His words, teachings, claims and sermons. Plainly He was SOMEBODY SPECIAL—but some weren’t sure just exactly WHO He was. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:" Acts 2:22.


What did the prophets say about the coming Messiah? How did Jesus fulfill their prophecies?

Prophecy - Messenger will come before Messiah:
Mal 3:1:  "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts."

Is 40:3: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

Matt 3:1, 3: "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea…For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

Prophecy: Messiah would be Born in Bethlehem:
Mic 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

John 7:41-42: “Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" Jesus’ lineage could be traced back to David (Matt 1:16, Luke 3:23-38), a requirement for the Christ, which could be verified in the temple records.

Some confusion arose because the people erroneously assumed Jesus was born in Nazareth of Galilee. ("Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" John 7:52) Assumptions regarding things that pertain to salvation are dangerous.

Prophecies about Jesus' ancestry:


Descendant of Abraham: Gen 17:7: "I will establish my covenant between me and thee (Abraham) and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant."

Desdendant of David: Is 11:1: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:" (cited in Romans 15:12: “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”)

Ps 89:3-4: "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah."

Prophecy: Born of a woman: Whenever the birth of the Messiah is spoken in prophecy, reference is made to His mother, or to the womb—never to a human father, which Jesus did not have.

Is 49:1: "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name."

Is 49:5: "And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength."

Jer 31:22: "How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man."

Mic 5:3: "Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel."

Prophecy: Born of Virgin – called Immanuel/Emmanuel: Is 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.")

Matt 1:22-23: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."

Prophecy: God’s Son Called out of Egypt:
Hos 11:1: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt."
Matt 2:14-15: "When he (Joseph) arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son."

Prophecy: King of the Jews would Come to Jerusalem Riding on the Foal of an Ass:
Zech 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

Matt 21:4-5: "All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."
Matt 21:9: "And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."

Sign given by the Angels was fulfilled: Luke 2:11-12: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."


THE SKEPTICS didn't believe Jesus had any connection with promised Messiah, confirming the Scriptures:

"That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" John 12:38.

"He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." John 1:10

John 9:28-29: “…we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, (Jesus) we know not from whence he is."

John 9:24: Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner."

As to who Jesus was, some had not the slightest doubt...

The Angels: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2: 11.

The Devils called Him: Jesus, thou Son of God, Matt 8:29; and Jesus, thou Son of God most high Luke 8:28. See also Mark 1:24, 3:11; Acts 19:15; Luke 4:3. "I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God" Luke 4:34. "And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ" Luke 4:41.

Summary:
God promised through the prophets that He would send Someone, a Son
Jesus came or was sent
Reactions of people to Jesus were varied
Some recognized Jesus as the long promised Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World
Others viewed Jesus as an imposter and a false Christ.



If you had lived then...
Who would you have believed Jesus was?


Study made by Cherie Kropp, 1/21/03