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Criteria for the Messiah

When Jesus was on earth, he didn't often advertise the fact that he was the Messiah. It would not have done much good to go around exclaiming, “Look, everybody, I'm the Messiah!” For, after all, on the outside there was nothing special to look at. Isaiah had predicted that he would...“have no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there [will be] no beauty that we should desire him” (53:2). Therefore Jesus relied on (1) the power of his words, and (2) the miracles and mighty works to establish the fact that he was the Messiah.

The OT had established certain criteria for the Messiah. In other words, the idea was that when people would see certain prophecies being fulfilled, they could know without doubt that the person doing those things was the Messiah. Central among those signs were the benevolent works predicted in Isaiah 61:1-3, “. . . the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound,” etc.

There is a fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls (this fragment was written during the first or second century BC) which also speaks of the work of the Messiah. This is 4Q521 and it is sometimes called the Messianic Apocalypse. It says, in part:

Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.
He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the bent . . .
For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.

One of the main reasons why a group of men broke away from Temple worship in the 2nd century BC, and withdrew to the desert (Qumran), was so that they might “make straight in the desert a highway” and get ready for the coming of the Messiah. The Qumran group was extremely messianic, in that they expected the coming of a Prophet, a Teacher of Righteousness, and laid down criteria by which he might be recognized. They also expected a “new Jerusalem,” and contemplated the erection of a new Temple. In spite of all this “messianic” activity and preparation just a few miles away, most of the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to recognize the Messiah when they saw him.

May the Lord hasten the day when the veil will be removed and the Jewish people will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”


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