Jesus left no one in doubt he is the Messiah. He demonstrated it repeatedly beyond reasonable doubt.
Did the wicked pastors, bishops and general overseers who conspired to have Jesus crucified really know he is the Messiah? Yes they did. Would they in their right minds dare to kill the son of God? Yes they would. By the end of Jesus’ ministry, everyone knew he is the Messiah. Nevertheless, they still decided to kill him. Those who did not know he is the Messiah did not want to know and were determined not to know.
Herod was not an unbeliever. When he heard about the birth of the Messiah, he did not rubbish the idea. He sought confirmation from the religious establishment where they prophesied the Messiah would be born. When he was told, he did not waste time. He decided the Messiah must be killed. In effect, a mere man knowingly decided to fight against God by killing his son. How could he have expected to prevail?
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus left no one in doubt he is the Messiah. He demonstrated it repeatedly beyond reasonable doubt. When John the Baptist had a crisis of faith in Herod’s prison and sent his disciples to confirm from Jesus if he really is the Messiah, Jesus kept them for a day so they could observe his ministry. Then he sent them back saying: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5).
These acts are the scriptural signs of the Messiah. Isaiah says: “Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” (Isaiah 35:4-6). Jesus more than fulfilled these requirements: “And many of the people believed in him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will he do more signs than these which this man has done?’” (John 7:31).
Tradition of the Elders
But the Pharisees would not merely rely on the confirmations of scripture. They believed in the supremacy of the traditions of the elders. In the determination not to go back into captivity by breaking God’s law, the scribes and religious rulers decided to broaden the Law of Moses in order to safeguard obedience. Therefore, they built a set of secondary “fence laws” around the law. These were conceptualised as speed-bumps against breaking the law. If you break the “fence laws” it would alert you and thereby prevent you from breaking the law.
For example, Moses says: “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19). This was designed to forestall Israel from practicing the fertility rite of the Canaanites where the mother’s milk in which a young goat was boiled was sprinkled superstitiously on farms in the belief this would provoke a big harvest. To safeguard adherence to this Mosaic prohibition, the Pharisees introduced secondary laws for the separation of meat and milk products.
They were concerned that you might eat a goat and afterwards drink goat’s milk. This milk might circumstantially be from the mother of the goat. Since both the goat’s meat and the mother’s milk would then be combined in your digestive system, you would unwittingly break the Law of Moses. Or you might eat goat cheese and then have goat pepper-soup the next day. Although you washed your plate the day before, there might still be little traces of cheese on the plate you used to eat the goat pepper-soup, and you then end up by breaking the law. Therefore, they created laws about using separate plates for eating cheese and meat.
To one Sabbath law was added over 1,500 secondary laws. Moses says no work must be done on the Sabbath. The tradition of the elders went further to insist you must not reap on the Sabbath. You must not thresh. You must not blow away the chaff. You must not winnow or store. You must not walk in a field on the Sabbath; otherwise you might accidentally step on a piece of corn and thereby separate it from the shell. That is work. If you step on it you might grind it. That is work. If your garment blows on it, then you are threshing and have violated the Sabbath.
Initially, you could disagree with the secondary law, but not the original Law of Moses. But later, the rabbis built another set of laws around the secondary laws. They then changed the rules of engagement. They canonized the secondary laws and made them the final authority. As a result, they ended up with two final authorities: the Law of Moses and the secondary fence laws.
Soon, the secondary fence laws were compiled into a book called the Mishna. Commentaries were then written on the Mishna. The Mishna and the Commentaries became known as the Talmud. These were now considered supreme authorities. By the time of Jesus, they were ascribing even greater authority to them than to the Law of Moses: “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?’” (Matthew 15:1-3).
Using these non-scriptural tradition of the elders, Pharisaic Judaism believed there are two types of miracles: those that can be performed by anyone through the enablement of the Holy Spirit; and those that can only be performed by the Messiah. Only three miracles were deemed messianic: the healing of a leper; the casting out of a deaf and dumb demon; and the healing of a man blind from birth. Anybody who performed any of these miracles must be the Messiah.
The healing of a leper was put in a special category because it had never happened before in Israel. Elisha healed Naaman of leprosy. However, Naaman was a Syrian; he was not a Jew. Therefore, anyone one who heals leprosy must be the Messiah.
The Pharisees also put the casting out of a dumb demon in a special messianic category, according to their tradition of the elders. This was deemed impossible for logistical reasons. Pharisaic exorcism first required the determination of the demon’s name from the demon. It was then cast out using his name. But if the demon happened to be dumb, exorcism was impossible because it could not tell them its name. Therefore, anybody who casts out a dumb demon must be the Messiah.
However, the greatest miracle of all was the opening of the eyes of a man who is blind from birth. “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” (John 9:32). Therefore, anyone who succeeds in doing this miracle must be the Messiah.
Jesus alarmed the religious establishment in Israel by performing every single one of these “impossible miracles” in rapid succession.
To be continued…
Femi Aribisala is the fellowship coordinator of Healing Wings. Healing Wings is a pentecostal Christian fellowship which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He blogs at Femi Aribisala . E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org