Has the Messiah come or returned?

ANDREW SHOLL

I have recently returned from Israel, where I stayed from 4-17 October, mainly in Jerusalem.

While in the Holy City, I had two personal experiences which were quite revealing.

The first concerned a newly “discovered” cousin whom I telephoned and met shortly afterwards. Apparently he was going off to Georgia in the Caucasus, the very next day.

I have recently returned from Israel, where I stayed from 4-17 October, mainly in Jerusalem.

While in the Holy City, I had two personal experiences which were quite revealing.

The first concerned a newly “discovered” cousin whom I telephoned and met shortly afterwards. Apparently he was going off to Georgia in the Caucasus, the very next day.

As we were bringing each other up to date about our lives, his in Israel, and mine in Australia and elsewhere, suddenly, literally “out of the blue” (as we say in Australia), he put the following question to me which literally floored me: “How do you feel about Jesus?”

Coming from someone whom I knew to be Jewish, although he did not wear a kippa (a skull cap), momentarily stunned me. When I quickly recovered, I immediately replied that “I feel very positive about Him!”

However, it was his rejoinder that really stunned me: “So do I!” We did not take this conversation any further, but I am sure that this will not be the last time that we discuss Jesus.

The second experience concerned an ATM right near my hotel in Jerusalem. As I was waiting for someone to finish his transaction, I happened to remark – Israelis talk about everything, everywhere! – that “Interestingly, here the ATM ‘talks’ to you not just in Hebrew, but in English as well.”

I then added, “”Back in Australia, it only talks to you in English, but who knows, one day it may ‘talk’ to us in Hebrew.” To this, the other person rejoined: “Yes, when the Messiah comes ...” To this, I immediately added, “He has already come!”

Now if this man had been an Orthodox, and especially an ultra-Orthodox Jew, I would have got myself involved in a major argument. But ass it was, he just walked away without a further word.

Christian belief

Now we Catholics (and other Christians), whether of Jewish origin or not, believe that the Messiah came to Israel in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ (the Hebrew word Mashiach, Messiah, means in Greek Christos, Christ, or the Anointed One).

He was born of the Virgin Mary, a Jewish girl, was circumcised on the 8th day as a Jew, preached his Gospel (“Good News”) of love and repentance to Israel, and sent his twelve Apostles to do the same throughout the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20) before being crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea.

Then, having died on the cross for the sins of mankind, gloriously rose from the dead on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. We further believe that Jesus will return on the Last Day, to judge the living and the dead.

Now the coming of the Messiah is a fundamental teaching of Judaism. The great medieval Jewish rabbi, philosopher and theologian, Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon) taught in his Guide to the Perplexed, as per his 13th principle, that “I believe with perfect faith that, though the Messiah may tarry, yes he will come.”

Consequently, throughout Jewish history, and especially since the First Century AD, there have been men recognised for a while by certain Jews as “Messiah”, only to turn out to be a false Messiah, with consequent disillusionment.

Thus, the great Rabbi Akiva, born around 40AD, “recognised” the leader of the 2nd century revolt against the Romans, Bar Kochba, as the “Messiah”, only to be crush mercilessly by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135AD.

In the 17th century, there was a Jew, Shabbatai Zvi, who became highly regarded by many Jews, even to being accepted as the “Messiah”. Subsequently, the Ottoman Empire crushed his messianic movement and exiled its leader who then converted to Islam.

Coming now to our times, we have the latest “Messiah”, in the person of the late leader of the Lubavicher sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, who died only a few years ago in New York (he had never been to Israel).

He was Rabbi Menahem Mendel Shneerson. The Lubavicher of course expected him to rise on the third day: he didn’t!

Walking around Jerusalem only a few weeks ago, I saw the Rebbe’s (Yiddish for Rabbi) benign, smiling, bearded face, giving his blessing from posters plastered all over town, especially in the more affluent area of Jerusalem, around King David Hotel, with the Hebrew caption, “Yeshi haMashiach Melech David”, i.e. “Here is the Messiah, King David”.

To my astonishment, I even saw the same picture of “the rebbe” in a frame on the wall of a local café, run by a French-speaking Sephardic Jewish couple from North Africa, where I ate dinner twice.

Now here is a paradox: most Jews won’t (as yet) recognise Our Lord Jesus Christ as the true Messiah of Israel, who provided by his wonderful life, sufferings, death on the Cross and Resurrection that He was the true Messiah.

On the other hand, some are willing to recognise a false “Messiah” in the Rebbe, who never died for the sins of mankind, never rose from the dead, and certainly is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty … and he will never return on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.

I believe that many Jewish people, like my long-lost cousin, ironically including the non-religious and non-Orthodox, often have some belief in Jesus, even though it may not be a fully-fledged one as Messiah and Son of God.

Still, it’s only a beginning, and we pray that it will grow into a mature faith, so that with St Paul we can all say: “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart, you are made righteous: by confessing with your lips, you are saved.” (Romans 10:10)

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

(Andrew Sholl is co-founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, which aims to end the alienation of Catholics of Jewish origin and background from their historical heritage. Its headquarters are in the United States, and its web site is www.hebrewcatholic.net. It conducts regular monthly meetings in cities where its numbers make this possible.)

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  • commented 2016-09-11 11:54:56 +1000
    A very interesting article, but I think it will take the Second Coming of Our Lord to convince them that they were mistaken two thousand years ago. When Our Lord returns every eye will see Him and every knee will bow. And considering the ‘time of trouble’ that is opening up for the world, Our Lord’s Return might not be so far off.