The Liberator Comes to Zion
IT WAS something worthy of being written down for an inerasable record and, more than that, to be proclaimed to the farthest parts of the earth. It proved to provide inestimable comfort to the Jews when they were in Babylonian captivity. It was the word spoken by none other than Jehovah God himself: “Say, you people, to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look! Your salvation is coming. Look! The reward he gives is with him, and the wages he pays are before him.’” (Isa. 62:11) Some years after Zion began to be rebuilt in 537 B.C.E., when Babylon had fallen as the Third World Power and could no longer hold the Jews in captivity, Jehovah inspired his prophet Zechariah to say something similar in these words: “Be very joyful, O daughter of Zion. Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem. Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass, even upon a full-grown animal the son of a she-ass.”—Zech. 9:9.
The Jews understood the latter prophecy as applying to the coming of the Messiah and looked forward to its fulfillment. Today, however, there are many Jews included among those who do not have that faith. These descendants of Abraham should give attention to the fact that the Giver of this prophecy overthrew a mighty world power to release their forefathers from captivity. They should give weighty and serious consideration to the promise of their God that Zion would be favored with a visit from the foretold Messiah, the one whom Jehovah would anoint with holy spirit to be the king of the kingdom, to sit forever on “Jehovah’s throne.” It is not too late for them to investigate whether the Messiah has made this visit and been unrecognized by them.
FACTS TO BE CONSIDERED
Those who would look into this question should take seriously the following facts: It was people of their own nation, the Jews, who first recognized Jesus as the Messiah and announced him. True, they were in a minority and for the most part humble people. It was the religious leaders who rejected Jesus and caused many people of the Jewish nation also to reject him. But was it not the leaders of the Jews who rejected the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah and who caused the people to go into Babylonian captivity in 607 B.C.E.? They did not believe these prophets whom God sent foretelling the captivity and the reasons for it, as well as describing the return from bondage in 537 B.C.E. Nonetheless, the prophecies came true to the very letter. The rejection of the Messiah by such men should not shake our faith, for Jehovah had foretold that the nation would be in a Babylonish religious form of captivity when the Messiah came and that they would reject him. (Isa. 53:3-9, 12) Also, a fact to be considered is that the Jews of the days of Jesus had access to the genealogical and chronological records of the nation and would be able to prove the identity of the Messiah, which would be impossible today or at any time in the future. If anyone claiming to be the Messiah should come, he could not prove his identity, for the genealogical and chronological records of the Jews were destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans.
PROOFS THAT THE LIBERATOR VISITED ZION
For the benefit of those who have faith in God and who are willing to look with an open mind into the matter of the coming of Messiah the Liberator to Zion, we herewith present five lines of proof that the Messiah did come to Zion in the first century of our Common Era.
(1) Genealogical evidence. About three hundred years before the Messiah came, Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, made a translation of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures known as the Greek Septuagint Version. In this version was used the Greek title “Christ,” which, the same as the Hebrew title “Messiah,” means Anointed One. The one who was to qualify as Messiah or Christ had to meet certain requirements as to his line of descent. He had to be a son or descendant of the patriarch Abraham. Then he also had to be a son of David. This would give him a natural right or claim to the kingship of Zion, and he could be the promised Seed of Abraham to bless the families of the earth. (2 Sam. 7:8-17; Gen. 12:3; 22:18) Jesus met these requirements. The apostle Matthew divides the lineage into three parts, from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation of the Jews to Babylon, and then down to Jesus.—Matt. 1:17.
(2) Miraculous birth of Jesus. The prophecy at Isaiah 7:14 foretold accurately the manner of the birth of the one to be the Messiah. Matthew recounts the facts fulfilling it: “But the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way. During the time his mother Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit before they were united. . . . All this actually came about for that to be fulfilled which was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying: ‘Look! The virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel,’ which means, when translated, ‘With Us Is God.’” (Matt. 1:18-23) He had the right to the name Immanuel, but the angel told Mary to call his name Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. The name Jesus means “Jehovah Is Salvation.” From this latter name it is seen, not only that he would be the representative of God with his people, but that he would also be the great Deliverer that Jehovah had promised. Joseph, who was also of the line of David, adopted Jesus, as Matthew indicates to us. But Jesus was the Son of God, not the son of Joseph.
(3) Place of birth. God’s prophet Micah had foretold the exact place of the birth of this One who would represent Jehovah. The chief priests and scribes of Jesus’ day understood this well, for King Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born, and they answered, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is how it has been written through the prophet, ‘And you, O Bethlehem of the land of Judah, are by no means the most insignificant city among the governors of Judah; for out of you will come forth a governing one, who will shepherd my people, Israel.’” Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.—Matt. 2:4-6; Mic. 5:2; Luke 2:1-7.
(4) Time of Messiah’s appearance. When Jesus was about thirty years of age he appeared before John to be baptized. (Luke 3:23) After his baptism in water he was anointed with holy spirit and a visible manifestation was given to John the Baptist. (John 1:32-34) Jesus thereby became the Anointed One, or the Messiah, the Christ. It was in the year 29 C.E. that this event occurred. Luke gives us the time John began his ministry, about six months before Jesus’ baptism, at Luke chapter 3, verses 1, 2: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was district ruler of Galilee, but Philip his brother was district ruler of the country of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was district ruler of Abilene, in the days of chief priest Annas and of Caiaphas, God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”a
The date is historically fixed and fell at the time prophesied hundreds of years previously. This can be proved by calculating the 69 weeks of years foretold in Daniel 9:25: “From the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks [7 + 62 = 69]. She will return and be actually rebuilt, with a public square and moat, but in the straits of the times.” From the time this rebuilding took place, in 455 B.C.E., there would be 69 x 7 = 483 years, which would bring us to 29 C.E. for the anointing of Jesus as the Messiah, the Leader.b
(5) Proof of Messiahship by his life and works. Matthew, chapter two, describes events that fulfill ancient prophecies in connection with Jesus: the flight of his parents with him to Egypt and return and the effort of Herod to kill him by killing all the children two years of age and under. The prophecies thus fulfilled are Hosea 11:1 and Jeremiah 31:15.—Matt. 2:15, 17, 18.
John the Baptist was appointed to fulfill prophecy by preparing a people for Jehovah. (Luke 1:13-17) Jesus recognized this. He knew, as John declared later on: “That one [Christ] must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.” (John 3:30) Jesus went to John his forerunner to be baptized by him in the Jordan River and immediately thereafter he went into the wilderness of Judea for forty days by himself, where he was exposed to a heart-searching temptation by Satan the Devil. Proving his integrity under this test and gaining the victory, Jesus returned to John and was pointed out by John to some of his disciples as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; John 1:28, 29) Prophetic dramas had foreshadowed this sacrificial lamblike One centuries previously.—Gen. 22:9-14; Ex. 12:1-28; 29:38-42; Num. 28:1-10; 1 Cor. 5:7.
Jesus accepted his first disciples from among those who had been disciples of John, as the account further reads: “Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he looked at Jesus walking he said: ‘See, the Lamb of God!’ And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned and, getting a view of them following, he said to them: ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him: ‘Rabbi, (which means, when translated, Teacher,) where are you staying?’ He said to them: ‘Come, and you will see.’ Accordingly they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day; it was about the tenth hour [4 p.m.]. Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two that heard what John said and followed Jesus. First this one found his own brother, Simon, and said to him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ). He led him to Jesus. When Jesus looked upon him he said: ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” (John 1:35-42) Later on, in Galilee, Peter and Andrew began to follow Jesus continually.
In the spring of the next year, 30 C.E., at the time of the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple of those who were trying to make a commercial business out of God’s worship. This fulfilled the prophecy of David at Psalm 69:9, as pointed out by the apostle John: “His disciples called to mind that it is written: ‘The zeal for your house will eat me up.’”—John 2:13-17.
THE LIBERATOR’S COMMISSION
After John was arrested and imprisoned, Jesus left Judea and went north through Samaria to Galilee. The record tells us that, at Nazareth, where he had been reared, “he entered into the synagogue, and he stood up to read. So the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed him, and he opened the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.’ . . . Then he started to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”—Luke 4:16-21.
Here was an opportunity for the Jews to recognize that the Liberator whom Jehovah had sent was actually present with them. Contrarily, however, the Nazarenes did not attribute to Jehovah’s holy spirit the ability of this former carpenter Jesus to preach.
Notice that the prophecy from which Jesus read (Isa. 61:1-3) goes on to speak of this anointed one as comforting all the mourning ones. It indicates over what the mourning will be when it goes on to say: “to assign to those mourning over Zion.” This scripture bears reference first to the seventy-year exile or desolation of Zion or Jerusalem. During their exile in Babylon the Jews had mourned over the desolation of Zion and God’s temple there. Jesus in quoting this prophecy and applying it to himself was plainly showing the Jews that this was certainly a time of good news for them, for the Liberator had now come to deliver them from Babylonish religious exile in which they were in a desolated spiritual condition.—Matt. 9:36.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS DENOUNCED
The religious leaders rejected Jesus and led many of the people in this course, against their best interests. But this did not deter Jesus from his work of binding up the truly brokenhearted ones and comforting those that mourned. However, Jesus did not comfort those Babylonish religious leaders. His fearless speech in condemnation of them proved he was truly the Anointed One. He spoke just as his forerunner John had spoken, but more severely. He called attention to the prophecies to be fulfilled by their stubbornness. He said: “Woe to you who are versed in the Law, because you took away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not go in, and those going in you hindered!” (Luke 11:52) Therefore he publicly exposed those religious oppressors so that those who were blinded by them and suffering slavery under religious captivity could get free. He proved to be the Greater Cyrus with the authority and commission from God to liberate those among the Jews who mourned from their Babylonish religious captivity. He warned his own disciples concerning these religious leaders: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”—Matt. 15:14, 1-9; Isa. 29:13, 14.
Three days before the chief priests Annas and Caiaphas and other religious leaders brought about his death, he held them up to the most scathing denunciation in front of the people, saying:
“They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger. All the works they do they do to be viewed by men; . . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in. . . . you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. . . . you are bearing witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers.
“Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna? For this reason, here I am sending forth to you prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them you will kill and impale, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city; that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I say to you, All these things will come upon this generation.”—Matt. 23:4-36.
The extent of their religious bondage was emphasized by what he said next: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you. For I say to you, You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Matt. 23:37-39; Ps. 118:26) This indicated that they were in such a deplorable Babylonish state that God would abandon their house of worship just as the former temple built by Solomon had been abandoned to the Babylonians.
MANY RECEIVE LIBERATION
Not all the people were of the attitude that the Jewish religious leaders had, neither did they follow these leaders. They followed the Greater Cyrus who, like Cyrus of old, served as Jehovah’s shepherd and did liberate many of the Jews. The Jewish remnant of faithful ones were given the real freedom that Jehovah God provided for those who seriously considered his Word and compared the prophecies of the ancient Hebrew prophets with the events surrounding Jesus and the works that he did. They recognized Jesus as the Fine Shepherd and followed him to the freedom that he gave, which was, as he stated, ‘an actual freedom,’ not only from false religion and its bondage but also from the power of sin and its penalty death.—John 8:31-36.
Whether you belong to Jewry or to a religion of Christendom, seriously ask yourself, “What freedom have the religious leaders given to me?” Both Jewry and Christendom are split up into many sects and divisions. Leaders of these religions admit that they are confused and that the problems of delinquency, moral degeneracy, world fear and the threat of war are increasing. They have no satisfying remedy to offer. They do not look to Jehovah to bring liberation but, rather, turn the people to the national government in whatever land they reside, and to one failing political scheme after another. Particularly, they direct the people’s hope toward the United Nations. In doing so they are acting exactly like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, turning the people away from the true Liberator, the Messiah, and keeping them in bondage to the great world religious empire of Babylon the Great. Therefore, regardless of the pomp and ceremony of the religious systems of Babylon the Great and even though their leaders do exercise great influence and wield power with the governments and rule haughtily over their religious flocks, honest persons today will be like the humble God-fearing Jews of the Messiah’s day and will prove to themselves that Messiah, the Liberator, did indeed come to Zion more than nineteen centuries ago. Moreover now, as God’s Son and reigning heavenly King, he, the Greater Cyrus, is able to liberate them from Babylon the Great.
a Tiberius succeeded Augustus as emperor at Augustus’ death, August 19, 14 C.E. John’s baptizing work began in the spring of the fifteenth year of Tiberius, which ran from August of 28 C.E. to August of 29 C.E. Jesus was baptized in the fall, about the first of October, which would be in the sixteenth year of Tiberius.
b See the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York, pages 385-388. Also The Watchtower, October 15, 1965.