Two Messiahs and a wonderful man.

Signpost for Advent 3, Sunday 15 December 2013: Is 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matt 11:2-11.

I’ve always wondered what on earth’s going on in Matt 11:3. Weird question for John to ask given what he said earlier (Matt 3:13-14). But now I’ve just discovered the two messiahs theory (here’s where I found it). According this piece, The Dead Sea scrolls appear to back up the idea.

It seems that some Jews may well have been expecting a couple of messiahs to turn up: Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Levi, also known as Messiah ben Joseph.

They thought ben David would to appear first, behave like David the warrior king, run the foreigners out of Judea and Galilee and then restore the kingdom to the Israelites.

After that ben Joseph would come along, get rid of corruption in the temple and among the high priests, heal the sick and free those wrongly enslaved.

Luke 3:16-17 suggests that John was expecting someone like a ben David and Jesus certainly wasn’t behaving like that. Hence, Matt 11:3.

Yet another source suggests that Matthew is responding to issues in the church around AD 80. By then the big question was whether or not Jesus would continue to have Jewish followers as well as gentiles, since the faith was much better established outside Israel than within.

And apparently new Christ followers and traditional Jews tended to blame each other for the destruction of Jerusalem after the Roman-Jewish War (AD 66-70). The argument goes that by getting John the hard-liner to ask if Jesus is the expected messiah, Matthew is appealing to first century Jews to have another look at the teachings and deeds of Jesus. The thrust of Matthew’s gospel is clearly that both the law and the prophets – the twin bedrocks of Judaism – are fulfilled in Jesus.

On that note I’ll leave you with these words: He believed in “a oneness in humanity that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”

“I will always fall short of him but he makes me want to be better.”

“It is precisely because he could be so full of good humour, even mischief, despite heavy burdens that he carried that we love him so. He was a man of flesh and blood – a son, a brother and a friend.”

The words might well have been spoken about Jesus, by one of his disciples. Actually, they are the words of Barack Obama talking about Nelson Mandela at his memorial service this week.

When I see how much Mandela achieved, it reminds me just how wonderfully magnetic Jesus must have been in person, and I think, that’s why he walks with us today.

One more piece from Obama’s speech this week: “We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose to live in a world defined not by conflict but by peace and justice and opportunity.”

Reminds me of John 10:10.

Paul

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