FIRST POSTED ON 15 JANUARY 2020.
Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!
In this and the next two sessions, we will look into greater detail at what Jesus said so as to understand God’s full Rhema for us today.
Jesus kicked off His ministry here on earth with the proclamation of the above words from Mk 1:15, which had great prophetic significance - “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” In other words, in God’s Kairos - which was being fulfilled then at the end of the Fourth Day of Creation - Jesus came to bring the good news or Gospel to God’s chosen people Israel about the soon arrival of God’s Kingdom. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is therefore not so much about us as it is about God and His Kingdom rule over Israel, His chosen people and lesser light, and the Church the ingrafted branch of Israel. Our salvation is the means through which God will establish His Kingdom here on earth in Jesus, and not the end goal or purpose.
In fact, the Jews in Jesus’ day understood what Jesus meant perfectly. Earlier, we saw how the Old Testament Prophets had comforted God’s people with the hope that a promised Messiah would come to restore the glory of David’s Kingdom to Israel. The day when this Kairos event would happen was also known as the Day of the Lord. The Jews believed that on this special Day, God would restore His rule over Israel in fulfilment of His promise to David. This promise can be found in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 - God would raise up an anointed one - the Messiah, a son of David - who would rule Israel forever even as Israel drew all the nations to God as His lesser light.
Now, although the Jews had returned to Jerusalem in 538 BC to rebuild the city and God’s Temple following their exile to Babylon, this promised kingdom never did come to pass. For the next 500 years, Israel was ruled and oppressed by a string of foreign powers - Medo-Persia, Greece and finally Rome in Jesus’ time. In fact, the voice of the Prophets would go silent for over 400 years after the Prophet Malachi. In his closing words however, Malachi reminded the people of God’s faithfulness and prophesied that He would send a messenger, the prophet Elijah, before the Day of the Lord comes when God would suddenly appear in His Temple (Mal 3:1, 4:5).
So, when John the Baptist suddenly came on the scene announcing that the Messiah was coming and later identifying Jesus to be the Anointed One, the Jews naturally had misplaced expectations that Jesus would rise up as a political leader to re-establish Israel as an independent kingdom. They remembered how a group of Jews had earlier led a revolt against the ruling Greek Seleucid Empire to establish what was known as the Hasmonean Dynasty. That kingdom lasted a century before being invaded by the Romans and replaced with the Herodian Dynasty just a generation earlier in 37 BC to act as their puppet rulers.
Other Jews, meanwhile, were more superficially drawn to the healings and various miracles that Jesus performed. Their misplaced values led them to seek after the gifts rather than the Giver.
On the other hand, the Jewish political and religious leaders reacted in hostility and rejection toward Jesus. King Herod, who was actually only half Jew, feared for his own position and would not tolerate another “King of the Jews.” The Sadducees, who were the elite of Jewish society then, did not want to see their comfortable lives shaken should the Romans come down hard on the Jewish nation for supporting this potential rebel King. Their misplaced allegiance to Rome revealed a heart that was far from God.
The Pharisees, meanwhile, hated Jesus for pointing out their hypocrisy. Theirs was a case of misplaced focus - they could not see the very God whom they claimed to worship because they majored in the minor, emphasizing slavish obedience to the smallest details of the Law but missing entirely God’s spirit and heart behind these regulations.
For all the above reasons, Jesus’ message would eventually be unwelcomed by the Jews. Let us not follow in their footsteps but instead ask God to correct our expectations, values, alle