The Messiah the Jews didn’t expect

To me a few words from the Prologue to John’s gospel are amongst the saddest verses of Scripture.

John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the
world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Have you ever been waiting to meet somebody, maybe at a station or an airport, and when they turn up you don’t recognise them? That is certainly what happened to the people of Israel and their Messiah. The nation had been waiting for a thousand years! Waiting for the day when God’s salvation would come. Looking forward to the day when God would act as King, punish those who were not His chosen People and establish His Kingdom in the world. The prophet Isaiah had prepared the way for the Messiah’s coming. Let’s remind ourselves for a few moments of all the blessings the promised Messiah would bring.


Isa 45:17 But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.


Isaiah 42:1-7
1 ¶ “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. …. 3 …… In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. ”
11: 4 … with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.


55:6 ¶ Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.


60:19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.


11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.


35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Salvation, rescue, justice, cleansing, forgiveness, God’s presence, peace, safety, healing, joy. So many overflowing blessings! For centuries the people of Israel had been waiting for God’s salvation to be revealed. And they were waiting for the person who would bring in that Kingdom. The Messiah. God’s chosen and anointed one. And what will the Messiah be like? Isaiah tells us!


Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He
will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Hail the conquering hero comes! The stage was set. For hundreds of years the people had been waiting, anticipating. But when the Messiah came His own people didn’t recognise Him. In fact they rejected Him! Remember what happened at Nazareth as soon as Jesus opened his mouth in the first sermon he ever preached.

Luke 4:16 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them,
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Here Jesus is making an amazing claim. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 61:1-4. He’s saying, the day has arrived, you’ve been waiting for me, well here I am!

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: `Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your home town what we have heard
that you did in Capernaum.'” 24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his home town.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
There was only the beginning of the Messiah’s experience of rejection!
“He came to that which was His own,
but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11)

But WHY did the Jews at Nazareth get angry and try to kill Jesus ? Why did they not immediately recognise Jesus as their Messiah ? Well it was because, in a number of very important ways, Jesus was the Messiah they were NOT expecting! There were a number of promises about the Messiah in the Old Testament, and many even in the same book of Isaiah, which the Jews ignored completely. So when Jesus came and fulfilled THOSE promises, he was not welcome at all!!

God’s Blessings are for Everybody!

The thing about Jesus that really annoyed respectable Jews was that they wanted to keep the blessings of God’s Kingdom for themselves, but Jesus offered those blessings to everybody. Tax collectors, prostitutes, even Gentiles (those who were not Jews at all), received God’s love and forgiveness rather than the religious but self-righteous Pharisees. But Isaiah had clearly foretold that the blessings of God’s Kingdom would come to all peoples.

Isaiah 2:2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains;.. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”

Isaiah 49:5 And now the LORD says … “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 56: 3 ¶ Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” 6 … foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”The blessings God promises and the blessings Jesus brings are given to all peoples, not just to the Jews to everyone irrespective of race and culture. The Jews weren’t expecting that!

God’s Blessings are only for the faithful!

The Jews assumed that was enough just to belong to God’s chosen people, to be a Jew. They relied on their heritage instead of on God. But all the blessings Jesus offered had to be received personally by faith and obedience and discipleship. This should not have been a surprise to anyone! Isaiah had clearly said that only a “remnant” of the Jews would be saved, the “survivors”, those who obey God and repent and do what is right. Isaiah’s message was that disobedient Jews would come under God’s judgement just like other evildoers. The idea of a faithful “remnant” of God’s chosen people is a common theme of the later part of the Old Testament God’s Kingdom is for them only.

Isaiah 1:9 Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors (a remnant) , we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.

Isaiah 10:20 ¶ In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. 22 Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return.

Isaiah 11:10 ¶ In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people ..12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. … 16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.God’s blessings were only promised to those who were truly faithful to God. The Jews weren’t expecting that!
God’s blessings come through suffering

There was one strand of the prophesies about the Messiah which the Jews completely ignored because it made them uncomfortable. It is the prophesies of the suffering servant.
The name Christ (which is Greek) is the translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, and both mean “The Anointed One”. He is, like His ancestor David, the agent of God’s judgement and of His deliverance. Most of the prophecies of the Messiah focus on his victory!
So it is not too surprising that most Jews in Jesus’s time and since have completely overlooked the picture in Isaiah of the Messiah as the One who must suffer for the sins of God’s people, dying in their place as a sacrifice and taking the punishment they deserved.

But this is clearly how Jesus Himself understood His own mission, and so too did the Early Church. Remember what Isaiah foretold about the Suffering Servant ?

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 ¶ Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 … he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 … For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
10 ¶ Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and
the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. … 12 he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
This is how Jesus understood His ministry. As the suffering servant. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Messiah they weren’t expecting. Who brought salvation to all peoples, not just to the Jews. Who brought salvation – but only to the faithful remnant. Who brought salvation not by glorious triumph but instead through suffering and sacrifice. No wonder he went unrecognised and rejected.

John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the
world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
But here’s the good news!
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God!

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