Pause for thought
Written by: | Posted on: | Category:

A concept relied on in logic and mathematics is that of “necessary and sufficient”. If one is making arguments to support a conclusion, those arguments may indeed be necessary to the proof, but not sufficient to complete it. Necessary and sufficient is the minimum amount of evidence needed to completely prove the assertion.

Increasingly one of the arguments I hear against Christian belief is that Jesus was a “good man, a great teacher, but not divine”, and is put in the same category as other good men, great teachers, and philosophers.

But, as Christians, we make and rely on the claim that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah as predicted in The Old Testament. This is a bold claim, and cannot not be ignored. If it’s true, we can reject the notion that, “Jesus was just a good teacher but nothing more.” If false, we have legitimate grounds to dismiss and possibly reject the entire Christian message! So let’s have a look at the evidence in support of our claim.

Let’s observe the fact that the same verses that New Testament writers labeled “messianic” are the same passages that Jewish scholars have identified in exactly the same ways. You can find dozens of such references in the rabbinic writings like the Talmud, Mishnah, and Targums, all written long before Jesus was born.

We also must observe that there are two very different kinds of Messianic prophecies.

Old Testament scholars, both Jewish and Christian, see as many as 800 verses that point to a Messiah, (in Greek “Christos” - the “anointed" one), a unique person who fulfills God’s plans and promises. But some of them describe a reigning messiah who brings in peace and prosperity while others paint pictures of a suffering messiah who atones for sins.

In the first category (as many as 500 out of the 800 verses), we read of a messianic age when:

– “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Micah 4:3, NIV)

– “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” (Isaiah 65:25, NIV)

Some of these passages speak of divine judgment, such as, “You [God] will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Psalm 2:9, NIV)

However, in the second category, we find prophecies like these:

– The first messianic prophecy in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed God: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15, NIV)

– “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.” (Isaiah 53:6, see all of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, NIV)

These examples are just a tiny sample of a huge collection you can easily find with a simple Internet search, but they do raise an interesting question. How could one person do both—reign and suffer?

One proposal that the Jewish teachers came up with was that there would be two Messiahs.

The reigning king they called “Messiah, son of David” (see for example, 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89), and the suffering servant “Messiah, son of Joseph” (for example Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22).

While the “two Messiahs” suggestion does solve some of the difficulties raised by the two vastly different kinds of messianic prophecies, it does not take into account that there are also a few messianic prophecies that tie the suffering and the reigning to the same person.

For example, Zechariah predicted a time when God Himself, in the person of the Messiah, will come to earth and people “will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zechariah 12:10, NIV)

He came the first time and was pierced. He returns a second time and reigns (see the rest of the book of Zechariah).

So, rather than pointing to two Messiahs, the Old Testament envisions one Messiah who comes twice.

Also, we must take into account what the New Testament writers claimed.

They identify Jesus as the one who fulfills predictions of the first coming (see Matthew 1:22-23; 2:5-6; 2:15; 2:17-18 among many other places) and the one who will fulfill promises of a future return (see Mark 14:62; Matthew 24:29-31).

Jesus Himself claimed that things written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms were about Him (see Luke 24:44) and that “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56, NIV)

If Jesus was correct—that the prophets spoke about Him, that He arrived when and where and how they said He would, and that He provided atonement for sin so people could know God intimately—we must take His word (and the prophets He affirmed) seriously.

We end up echoing the words of the blind man, right before Jesus healed him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47, NIV)

While it is certainly necessary that Jesus was a good man and a great moral teacher, the fact that He does indeed fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah is both necessary and sufficient to support the claim that He is the promised Messiah, and as such his claims and teachings cannot be dismissed as just an interesting alternative.

He’s coming again and it will be very different for this world when he does.

Let’s make sure as many people as possible know and are ready to receive, and be received by, him!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at