“We Have Found the Messiah”!
“First [Andrew] found his own brother, Simon, and said to him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ).”—JOHN 1:41.
1. What did John the Baptizer testify about Jesus of Nazareth, and what did Andrew conclude about him?
ANDREW took a long, hard look at the Jewish man called Jesus of Nazareth. He did not have the appearance of a king, or a wise man, or a rabbi. He had no royal finery, nor gray hairs, nor soft hands and fair skin. Jesus was young—about 30 years old—with the callused hands and bronzed skin of a manual worker. So Andrew might not have been surprised to learn that he was a carpenter. Nevertheless, John the Baptizer said of this man: “See, the Lamb of God!” The day before, John had said something even more astounding: “This one is the Son of God.” Could this be true? Andrew spent some time listening to Jesus that day. We do not know what Jesus said; we do know that his words changed Andrew’s life. He hurried to find his brother, Simon, and exclaimed, “We have found the Messiah”!—John 1:34-41.
2. Why is it important to consider the evidence as to whether Jesus was the promised Messiah?
2 Andrew and Simon (whom Jesus renamed Peter) later became apostles of Jesus. After more than two years as his disciple, Peter said to Jesus: “You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) The faithful apostles and disciples ultimately proved willing to stake their lives on that belief. Today, millions of sincere people are equally devoted. But on what evidence? Evidence, after all, makes the difference between faith and mere credulity. (See Hebrews 11:1.) So let us consider three general lines of evidence that prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
3. What do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke detail about Jesus’ lineage?
3 Jesus’ lineage is the first evidence the Christian Greek Scriptures give in support of his Messiahship. The Bible foretold that the Messiah would come from the family line of King David. (Psalm 132:11, 12; Isaiah 11:1, 10) Matthew’s Gospel begins: “The book of the history of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” Matthew backs up this bold claim by tracing Jesus’ descent through the line of his adoptive father, Joseph. (Matthew 1:1-16) Luke’s Gospel traces Jesus’ lineage through his natural mother, Mary, back through David and Abraham to Adam. (Luke 3:23-38)* Thus the Gospel writers thoroughly document their claim that Jesus was an heir of David, both in a legal and in a natural sense.
4, 5. (a) Did Jesus’ contemporaries challenge his descent from David, and why is this significant? (b) How do non-Biblical references support Jesus’ lineage?
4 Even the most skeptical opponent of Jesus’ Messiahship cannot deny Jesus’ claim to be a son of David. Why? There are two reasons. One, that claim was widely repeated in Jerusalem for decades before the city was destroyed in 70 C.E. (Compare Matthew 21:9; Acts 4:27; 5:27, 28.) If the claim was false, any of Jesus’ opponents—and he had many—could have proved Jesus a fraud simply by checking his lineage in the genealogies in the public archives.* But history has no record of anyone challenging Jesus’ descent from King David. Evidently, the claim was unassailable. No doubt Matthew and Luke copied the salient names for their accounts directly from the public records.
5 Second, sources outside the Bible confirm the general acceptance of Jesus’ lineage. For instance, the Talmud records a fourth-century rabbi as making a scurrilous attack on Mary, the mother of Jesus, for ‘playing the harlot with carpenters’; but the same passage concedes that “she was the descendant of princes and rulers.” An earlier example is the second-century historian Hegesippus. He related that when the Roman Caesar Domitian wanted to exterminate any descendants of David, some enemies of the early Christians denounced the grandsons of Jude, Jesus’ half brother, “as being of the family of David.” If Jude was a known descendant of David, was not Jesus as well? Undeniably!—Galatians 1:19; Jude 1.
6. How abundant are Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures?
6 Another line of evidence that Jesus was the Messiah is fulfilled prophecy. Prophecies that apply to the Messiah are abundant in the Hebrew Scriptures. In his work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim tallied up 456 passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that ancient rabbis viewed as messianic. However, the rabbis had many wrong ideas about the Messiah; many of the passages they pointed to are not messianic at all. Still, at the very least there are scores of prophecies that identify Jesus as the Messiah.—Compare Revelation 19:10.
7. What are some of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during his sojourn on earth?
7 Among them: the town of his birth (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-11); the tragedy of mass infanticide that took place after his birth (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18); he would be called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15); rulers of the nations would unite to destroy him (Psalm 2:1, 2; Acts 4:25-28); his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15); even the manner of his death.—Psalm 22:16, footnote; John 19:18, 23; 20:25, 27.*
His Arrival Prophesied
8. (a) What prophecy pinpoints when the Messiah would arrive? (b) What two factors must be known in order to understand this prophecy?
8 Let us focus on just one prophecy. At Daniel 9:25, the Jews were told when the Messiah would come. It reads: “You should know and have the insight 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.” At first glance this prophecy may seem cryptic. But in a broad sense, it asks us to find only two pieces of information: a starting point and a span of time. To illustrate, if you had a map that pointed to a treasure lying buried “50 rods east of the well in the town park,” you might find the directions puzzling—especially if you did not know where this well was, or how long a ‘rod’ was. Would you not seek out those two facts so that you could locate the treasure? Well, Daniel’s prophecy is much the same, except that we are identifying a starting time and measuring the period that follows.
9, 10. (a) What is the starting point from which the 69 weeks are measured? (b) How long were the 69 weeks, and how do we know this?
9 First, we need our starting point, the date when ‘the word went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.’ Next, we need to know the distance from that point, just how long these 69 (7 plus 62) weeks were. Neither piece of information is hard to come by. Nehemiah quite explicitly tells us that the word went forth to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, making it at last a restored city, “in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king.” (Nehemiah 2:1, 5, 7, 8) That puts our starting point at 455 B.C.E.*
10 Now as to these 69 weeks, could they be literal weeks of seven days? No, for Messiah did not appear just over a year after 455 B.C.E. Thus most Bible scholars and numerous translations (including the Jewish Tanakh in a footnote to this verse) agree that these are weeks “of years.” This concept of a ‘week of years,’ or a seven-year cycle, was familiar to the ancient Jews. Just as they observed a sabbath day every seventh day, they observed a sabbath year every seventh year. (Exodus 20:8-11; 23:10, 11) So 69 weeks of years would amount to 69 times 7 years, or 483 years. All we have left to do is count. From 455 B.C.E., counting 483 years takes us to the year 29 C.E.—the very year when Jesus was baptized and became ma·shiʹach, the Messiah!—See “Seventy Weeks,” Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 899.
11. How might we answer those who say that this is only a modern way of interpreting Daniel’s prophecy?
11 Some might object that this is merely a modern way of interpreting the prophecy to fit history. If so, why were the people in Jesus’ day expecting the Messiah to appear at that time? Christian historian Luke, Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, Jewish historian Josephus, and Jewish philosopher Philo all lived near this time and testified to this state of expectation. (Luke 3:15) Some scholars today insist that it was Roman oppression that made the Jews long for and expect the Messiah in those days. Why, though, did the Jews expect the Messiah then rather than during the brutal Greek persecution centuries earlier? Why did Tacitus say that it was “mysterious prophecies” that led the Jews to expect powerful rulers to come from Judea and “acquire universal empire”? Abba Hillel Silver, in his book A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel, acknowledges that “the Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century C.E.,” not because of Roman persecution, but because of “the popular chronology of that day,” derived in part from the book of Daniel.
Identified From Above
12. How did Jehovah identify Jesus as the Messiah?
12 The third type of evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship is the testimony of God himself. According to Luke 3:21, 22, after Jesus was baptized, he was anointed with the most sacred and powerful force in the universe, Jehovah God’s own holy spirit. And with his own voice, Jehovah acknowledged that he had approved his Son, Jesus. On two other occasions, Jehovah spoke directly to Jesus from heaven, thereby indicating His approval: once, before three of Jesus’ apostles, and another time, before a crowd of onlookers. (Matthew 17:1-5; John 12:28, 29) Furthermore, angels were sent from above to confirm Jesus’ status as Christ, or Messiah.—Luke 2:10, 11.
13, 14. How did Jehovah demonstrate his approval of Jesus as Messiah?
13 Jehovah showed his approval of his anointed one by empowering him to accomplish great works. For example, Jesus uttered prophecies that detailed history in advance—some extending to our own day.* He also performed miracles, such as feeding hungry crowds and healing the sick. He even resurrected the dead. Did his followers simply invent stories of these mighty acts after the fact? Well, Jesus performed many of his miracles in front of eyewitnesses, sometimes thousands of people at a time. Even Jesus’ enemies could not deny that he actually did these things. (Mark 6:2; John 11:47) Besides, if Jesus’ followers were inclined to invent such accounts, then why would they be so frank when it came to their own failings? Really, would they have been willing to die for a faith based on mere myths that they had personally invented? No. Jesus’ miracles are facts of history.
14 God’s testimony about Jesus as the Messiah went further. Through holy spirit he saw to it that evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship was written down and became part of the most widely translated and distributed book in all history.
Why Did the Jews Not Accept Jesus?
15. (a) How extensive are Jesus’ credentials identifying him as Messiah? (b) What expectations of the Jews led many of them to reject Jesus as the Messiah?
15 In all, then, these three categories of evidence include literally hundreds of facts that identify Jesus as the Messiah. Is that not enough? Just imagine applying for a driver’s license or a credit card and being told that three pieces of identification were not sufficient—you must bring hundreds. How unreasonable! Surely, then, Jesus is amply identified in the Bible. Why, though, did many of Jesus’ own people deny all this evidence that he was the Messiah? Because evidence, important as it is to genuine faith, does not guarantee faith. Sadly, many people believe what they want to believe, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. When it came to the Messiah, most Jews had very definite ideas about what they wanted. They wanted a political messiah, one who would end Roman oppression and restore Israel to a glory resembling in a materialistic way that of the days of Solomon. How, then, could they accept this humble son of a carpenter, this Nazarene who showed no interest in politics or riches? How, especially, could he be Messiah after he suffered and died ignominiously on a torture stake?
16. Why did Jesus’ followers have to adjust their own expectations as to the Messiah?
16 Jesus’ own disciples were shaken by his death. After his glorious resurrection, they evidently hoped that he would ‘restore the kingdom to Israel’ right away. (Acts 1:6) But they did not reject Jesus as Messiah simply because this personal hope was not realized. They exercised faith in him based on the ample evidence at hand, and their understanding gradually grew; mysteries cleared up. They came to see that the Messiah could not fulfill all the prophecies about him during his brief time as a man on this earth. Why, one prophecy spoke of his arriving humbly, riding upon the colt of an ass, while another spoke of his coming in glory upon the clouds! How could both be true? Obviously he would have to come a second time.—Daniel 7:13; Zechariah 9:9.
Why the Messiah Had to Die
17. How did Daniel’s prophecy make it clear that the Messiah would have to die, and for what reason would he die?
17 Furthermore, the Messianic prophecies made it clear that the Messiah had to die. For instance, the very prophecy that foretold when the Messiah would arrive foretold in the next verse: “After the sixty-two weeks [which followed the seven weeks] Messiah will be cut off.” (Daniel 9:26) The Hebrew word ka·rathʹ used here for “cut off” is the same word used for the death sentence under the Mosaic Law. Without a doubt the Messiah had to die. Why? Da 9 Verse 24 gives us the answer: “To finish off sin, and to make atonement for error, and to bring in righteousness for times indefinite.” The Jews knew well that only a sacrifice, a death, could make atonement for error.—Leviticus 17:11; compare Hebrews 9:22.
18. (a) How does Isaiah chapter 53 show that the Messiah must suffer and die? (b) What seeming paradox does this prophecy raise?
18 Isaiah chapter 53 speaks of the Messiah as a special Servant of Jehovah who would have to suffer and die to cover the sins of others. Isa 53 Verse 5 says: “He was being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors.” The same prophecy, after telling us that this Messiah must die as “a guilt offering,” reveals that this same One “will prolong his days, and in his hand what is the delight of Jehovah will succeed.” (Isa 53 Verse 10) Is that not a paradox? How could the Messiah die, and then “prolong his days”? How could he be offered up as a sacrifice and afterward make ‘what is the delight of Jehovah succeed’? How, indeed, could he die and remain dead without fulfilling the most important prophecies about him, namely that he would reign forever as King and bring peace and happiness to the entire world?—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
19. How does the resurrection of Jesus reconcile the seemingly contradictory prophecies about the Messiah?
19 This seeming paradox was solved by a single, spectacular miracle. Jesus was resurrected. Hundreds of honesthearted Jews became eyewitnesses to this glorious reality. (1 Corinthians 15:6) The apostle Paul later wrote: “This man [Jesus Christ] offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 13) Yes, it was after Jesus was resurrected to heavenly life, and after a period of “awaiting,” that he would finally be enthroned as King and act against the enemies of his Father, Jehovah. In his role as heavenly King, Jesus the Messiah touches the life of every person now living. In what way? Our next article will consider this.
Jewish historian Josephus, in presenting his own lineage, makes it clear that such records were available before 70 C.E. These records were apparently destroyed with the city of Jerusalem, making all subsequent claims to Messiahship unprovable.
There is solid evidence from ancient Greek, Babylonian, and Persian sources indicating that Artaxerxes’ first regnal year was 474 B.C.E. See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, pages 614-16, 900.
In one such prophecy, he predicted that false messiahs would arise from his day onward. (Matthew 24:23-26) See the preceding article.
How Would You Answer?
□ Why examine evidence as to whether Jesus is the promised Messiah?
□ How does Jesus’ lineage support his Messiahship?
□ How do Bible prophecies help to prove that Jesus was the Messiah?
□ In what ways did Jehovah personally confirm Jesus’ identity as the Messiah?
□ Why did so many Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah, and why were these reasons unsound?
[Picture on page 12]
Each of Jesus’ many miracles furnished further proof of his Messiahship