Appreciating Why the Messiah Was to Come
“We have found the Messiah.”—JOHN 1:41.
1. What startling announcement is recorded in the Bible, and when was it made?
A JEW named Andrew made the above startling announcement to his brother over 1,950 years ago. Can you sense the excitement in his words, recorded by the Christian apostle John? That unforgettable year was pinpointed by a Christian historian, Luke, as “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” Tiberius’ 15th year, from the time he was proclaimed Roman emperor, began in September 28 C.E. and ended in September 29 C.E.—Luke 3:1-3, 21, 22; John 1:32-35, 41.
2. How did the prophecy of Daniel focus on the year 29 C.E.?
2 The year of Messiah’s appearance had been accurately foretold. Exactly 483 years had passed since the command was given by Persian king Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem, that being in the 20th year of his reign, 455 B.C.E.* (Nehemiah 2:1-8) The prophet Daniel foretold “that 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.” (Daniel 9:25) Thus, a period of 7 + 62 = 69 prophetic weeks would separate these two important events. Sixty-nine literal weeks equals 483 days. According to the prophetic rule of “a day for a year,” the Messiah would appear 483 years later, in 29 C.E.—Ezekiel 4:6.
3. (a) What is the meaning of the title “Messiah”? (b) What prophecies did the Messiah have to fulfill?
3 Justifiably, in the year 29 C.E., “the people were in expectation” of the Messiah. (Luke 3:1, 15) The title “Messiah” has the same meaning as “Christ” in Greek; both mean “Anointed One.” (John 1:41) The burning question among many Jews was, ‘Whom will Jehovah God anoint as king to rule not only Israel but all mankind?’ By means of prophecy, the choice had been narrowed down to a descendant of Abraham’s great-grandson Judah. Furthermore, the Messiah was to be heir to the throne of the Judean king David and was to be born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem.—Genesis 17:5, 6; 49:10; Psalm 132:11; Daniel 7:13, 14; Micah 5:2; John 7:42.
4, 5. (a) What happened in the key year 29 C.E.? (b) In what unmistakable way was the one chosen as Messiah identified?
4 In that key year, 29 C.E., this is what happened: “God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. So he came into all the country around the Jordan, preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:2, 3) John’s ministry prepared repentant Jews to accept the imminent coming of the Messiah. Furthermore, Jehovah gave John a sign. He was to look out for one “upon whom [he would] see the spirit coming down and remaining.”—John 1:33.
5 After baptizing Jesus of Nazareth, John saw this unmistakable anointing. Jesus was not anointed with oil, as his earthly forefather David had been, but with Jehovah God’s holy spirit. (1 Samuel 16:13; Acts 10:38) At the same time, God’s own voice said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:16, 17) As John later testified: “I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him. And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”—John 1:32, 34.
6. What fine example did Andrew and John set for us?
6 With such words, John the Baptizer faithfully introduced his disciples to Jesus, also calling him “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Two disciples were quick to respond. After one day spent in Jesus’ company, they were thoroughly convinced. The name of the one was Andrew, who eagerly searched out his brother, Simon Peter. The other disciple is understood to be John the son of Zebedee, who became Jesus’ beloved apostle. After witnessing about the Messiah for nearly 70 years, this John was moved to write the above information for our benefit. Does his example and that of Andrew touch your heart? Are you as eager as they and the other “apostles of the Lamb” were to proclaim the thrilling truths about the Messiah?—Revelation 1:9; 21:14; John 1:35-41; Acts 5:40-42.
Anointed as King and High Priest
7. Why could Jesus not serve as a priest in Jerusalem’s temple?
7 Being born into the Jewish nation, Jesus “came to be under law.” (Galatians 4:4) Therefore, being of the tribe of Judah, he could not serve as a priest in Jehovah’s typical temple, whose priests were descendants of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. “Our Lord has sprung up out of Judah, a tribe about which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests,” the apostle Paul reminded fellow Christians.—Hebrews 7:14.
8. What did Jehovah’s earthly temple foreshadow?
8 The apostle John wrote: “The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world.” (John 1:6-9) With Jesus’ baptism, it was as if a great spiritual temple came into existence, there now being a spiritual high priest who could save mankind from bondage to Satan’s world of spiritual darkness.—Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:24.
9, 10. (a) What was meant by Jesus’ words, “Sacrifice and offering you did not want” and, “You prepared a body for me”? (b) How did Jesus personally feel about this?
9 Jesus was praying at the time of his baptism. The Bible records some of his significant words, as later quoted by the apostle Paul: “‘Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.’ Then I said, ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’”—Hebrews 10:5-7; Luke 3:21.
10 Thus, Jesus applied to himself the prophecy at Psalm 40:6-8, which foretold Jehovah’s purpose to bring an end to animal sacrifices offered by Aaronic priests at Jerusalem’s temple. Jehovah did not “delight” in those offerings, in that they were only typical and unable to atone completely for human sin. Hence, Jehovah prepared a perfect human body for Jesus to sacrifice. God transferred the life of his heavenly Son to the womb of a Jewish virgin. Jesus was thus born uncontaminated by the sin of Adam. He was a perfect human Son of God, whose life could atone for the sin of mankind. (Luke 1:30-35) As Psalm 40:8 foretold, it was Jesus’ heartfelt desire to do his Father’s will. “By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”—Hebrews 10:10, 11.
11. What prophecy did the Messiah’s death fulfill, and how did it cause ‘sacrifice to cease’?
11 The sacrifice of Jesus’ human life once for all time canceled the need for additional offerings at the typical temple in Jerusalem. Furthermore, his death took place on Passover Day 33 C.E. That was about three and a half years after his baptism. The three and a half years would amount to half a prophetic week. (Numbers 14:34) So matters turned out exactly as Daniel had foretold concerning the cutting off of the Messiah: “At the half of the week he will cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease.” (Daniel 9:26, 27) Although the typical priesthood in Jerusalem functioned until the temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., the sacrifices that the priests offered during those years ceased to have any value, having been replaced by Jesus’ superior sacrifice.—Matthew 23:37, 38.
12. In what way is Jesus’ priesthood superior to that of Aaron?
12 Aaron had been the first in a long succession of Israelite high priests. After his being anointed with holy oil, he had to wait in the tabernacle for seven days before being empowered to serve as high priest. (Leviticus 8:12, 33) Similarly, Jesus had a waiting period before being empowered to intercede in behalf of mankind. That was from the time of his anointing as High Priest until his resurrection. Unlike Aaron, the immortal Son of God needs no successors, and he serves as both Priest and King “according to the manner of Melchizedek.”—Psalm 110:1-4; Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 6:20; 7:1-3, 11-17, 23-25.
13. (a) What heavy responsibility fell upon the high priests of Israel? (b) How has Jesus Christ shouldered an even greater responsibility?
13 In ancient Israel, the main responsibility for correct religious teaching fell upon the high priest. (Leviticus 10:8-11; Malachi 2:7) Jesus accordingly made known Jehovah’s righteous requirements for all who want to inherit the Kingdom and everlasting life. (Matthew 6:9, 10, 33; 7:28, 29; 11:12; 25:34, 46) When he was in a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read and applied to himself the prophecy: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news.” Then, after spending time in Capernaum, he said: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:18, 19, 43; Isaiah 61:1, 2) Jesus also trained 70 of his followers to expand this Kingdom-preaching work, and he foretold that they would do greater works than he himself had done. (Luke 10:1-9; John 14:12) This laid the foundation for a worldwide Bible educational campaign that Jesus would direct through ‘the faithful slave,’ consisting of his anointed followers.—Matthew 24:45-47; 28:19, 20.
Chief Vindicator of Jehovah’s Sovereignty
14. (a) Why did Israel’s high priest enter the Most Holy on the annual Day of Atonement? (b) What was pictured by the fragrant incense?
14 The most important reason why God’s Son came to earth was not to save mankind. Rather, it was to settle the slanderous issues raised by Satan with regard to Jehovah’s sovereignty. We can gain insight into this by reflecting on Israel’s annual Day of Atonement, when the typical high priest had to enter the Most Holy several times. The first entry was made with fragrant incense, which was poured upon an incense holder of burning coals. (Leviticus 16:12-16) This well represented what the antitypical High Priest was to do on earth before he ascended to heaven to appear before Jehovah with the value of his human sacrifice.* (Hebrews 9:24) As indicated by the use of the incense, Jesus’ course of faithfulness was marked by sincere prayers, a burning zeal for pure worship, and a deep love for Jehovah. (Psalm 141:2; Mark 1:35; John 2:13-17; 12:27, 28; 14:30, 31; Hebrews 5:7) Jesus succeeded in keeping flawless integrity in the face of all the subtle temptation, ridicule, and vicious persecution heaped upon him by Satan and his agents.—Proverbs 27:11; Matthew 22:15-18; Mark 14:60-65; 15:16-32; Luke 4:13, 29; John 8:44, 59.
15. How can we show our gratitude to Jehovah for providing such an excellent high priest? (Hebrews 10:21-26)
15 For vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty, Jesus was rewarded with resurrection to immortal life in heaven. How grateful we should be to Jehovah for providing us with such an excellent High Priest! “Seeing, therefore, that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold onto our confessing of him.” (Hebrews 4:14) Is it your earnest desire to follow Jesus’ example of integrity, regardless of what the Devil may do? If so, you can count on help, and you can succeed. That is because the very best of help is available. “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Hebrews 4:15, 16; 5:7-10; Philippians 4:13; 1 John 2:1, 2.
The Need for Adjustment
16. What expectations did the Messiah’s early disciples have with respect to his Kingdom rule?
16 Andrew and John were quick to identify the true Messiah, but they and other early disciples had much to learn. (John 16:12, 13) Like many religious Jews at that time, they hoped that the Messianic Kingdom would begin ruling back then and that it would deliver the nation of Israel and its capital, Jerusalem, from Gentile domination. (Luke 2:38; 3:15; 19:11; 23:51; 24:21) Yet, what lasting benefit would that have brought sinful mankind?
17, 18. Why did Jesus give the illustration about “a certain man of noble birth”?
17 To remove sin and death from his future Kingdom subjects, it was vital that the Messiah first be cut off like a sacrificial lamb. (John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7, 12) When Jesus foretold how this would happen and how he would be resurrected, Peter responded: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” (Matthew 16:21, 22) Jesus knew, however, that his disciples “were not understanding the saying.”—Mark 9:31, 32; compare Matthew 17:22, 23.
18 On his last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus became even more explicit. (Matthew 20:18, 19) He also showed the great benefit his death would bring, saying: “The Son of man came . . . to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Wrong expectations prevented his disciples from grasping this. Luke records: “He was near Jerusalem and they were imagining that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.” To adjust their thinking, Jesus gave an illustration in which he likened himself to “a certain man of noble birth” who first had to travel “to a distant land to secure kingly power.” (Luke 19:11, 12) That “land” referred to heaven, to which Jesus ascended after his death and resurrection.
19 However, just before Jesus’ ascension, his disciples asked: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) Did Jesus reject them for asking this? No, he explained that it was not yet the time and that they were to busy themselves with the important work of witnessing about the true Messiah. (Acts 1:7, 8) God’s covenant relationship with natural Israel was to cease before long. Therefore, the future Messianic Kingdom would not be restored to that unfaithful earthly nation. Jesus told his Jewish opposers: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) Ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, that nation was born. Holy spirit was poured out upon 120 of Jesus’ disciples, and thus they were anointed to be God’s “holy ones” and “joint heirs with Christ” in the coming Messianic Kingdom.—Daniel 7:13, 14, 18; Romans 1:7; 8:1, 16, 17; Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 6:15, 16.
20. In spite of having some wrong expectations, what did faithful first-century Christians do?
20 Even after their anointing, the first-century Christians had mistaken expectations. (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) But instead of becoming disgruntled quitters, they humbly accepted correction. Empowered by God’s holy spirit, they joyfully accepted the assignment to witness and “make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:23.
21. What questions will be considered in our next article?
21 What about our 20th century? Were Jehovah’s modern-day servants alert to the establishment of Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom? And like their first-century counterparts, did they need to have their expectations adjusted in some ways?
Both The Encyclopedia Americana and the Great Soviet Encyclopedia agree that Artaxerxes’ reign ended in 424 B.C.E. When did it begin? In 474 B.C.E. In support of this, one archaeological inscription is dated in Artaxerxes’ 50th year; another indicates that he was succeeded in his 51st year. Counting back 50 complete years from 424 B.C.E., we come to the date 474 B.C.E. as the start of his reign. Therefore, Artaxerxes’ 20th year, when the command was given, would be 19 complete years into his reign, that is, 455 B.C.E. For further details, see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 616, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
How Would You Answer?
□ What is meant by the title “Messiah”?
□ What significant event took place in the year 29 C.E.?
□ How did Messiah ‘cause sacrifice to cease at the half of the week’?
□ Since his anointing, what responsibility has Jesus shouldered?
□ What was the main purpose of Messiah’s first coming, and how should this affect us?
[Picture on page 13]
The high priest’s first entry into the Most Holy foreshadowed something more important than mankind’s salvation