Teaching about the Messiah
Contemporary ideas about the Messiah in the New Testament period
Classic teaching was that the Jews were looking for a King Messiah and Jesus came as a suffering Messiah. This is not entirely true - there was not one set idea of the Messiah at the time of Jesus.
Classic Kingship view:
Someone who brings salvation
Descendant of David
Establish the kingdom for Israel
Gather the exiles
Judge the nations
Bring Peace on earth
Dead Sea Scrolls
Prophet of the last days
Three functions of the ideal Jewish state.
This passed into Christianity - Jesus as Prophet Priest and King.
Also Suffering servant in Dead Sea Scrolls
Israel Knohl's recent book - The Messiah before Jesus.
Based on the Thanksgiving scroll, suggested that the idea of a Suffering Messiah was part of the Qumran sect. (Many people would see the detail of Knohl's views as speculative.)
So we need to look at the teaching Jesus gave about the Messiah. He wanted to teach people two things:
Who the Messiah is
What has he come do.
First place to look is the Sermon at Nazareth. This in Galilee away from the intense rabbinic debates of Jerusalem.
Luke 4:14-30 - read
In this passage there is a description of him going to synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath. The result of his teaching was very dramatic - he was nearly cast over a cliff and was driven out of his home town. What was he teaching that gained such a dramatic response?
Have Luke 4 open in front of you. And finger in Isaiah 61
A number of ancient synagogues have been discovered in Galilee, mostly dating from the first or second centuries AD.
These, combined with rabbinic writings, give us some insights into synagogue worship in Jesus' day. As with the Temple in Jerusalem, synagogues in Galilee were generally orientated to the west, as an eastward orientation was associated with sun worship. At the front of the synagogue was a cupboard, or Ark, where the scrolls of the law were kept, and in the centre of the synagogue was the Bimah or reading desk.
Jesus must have been a respected person within his community because he was asked to read. Today in synagogue there is a reading each week from the Torah (Pentateuch) followed by a `Haftorah' reading which is a reading from the Prophets selected to fit the Torah theme. During the year, the Torah is read through once systematically. There are various suggestions concerning the lectionary in Jesus' day. One common view is that there was a three year cycle for reading the Torah and that there were also Haftorah readings.
Each week the Torah reading was divided into three. The person who read the last portion of the Torah may also have read the Haftorah and then taught on the passages.
If this were the case, Jesus would have been the person chosen not only to read but also to speak. The scrolls were written in Hebrew and as they were read, they were explained in Aramaic, sometimes drawing on the Septuagint for help in translation. This translation with explanation was known as a Targum and would account for some scriptural quotes in the New Testament seeming to be a little different to the Old Testament verse in the same translation of the Bible.
1) Look at this passage. Compare it with Isaiah 61 and find any differences - why are they there?
The last two phrases of Luke 4:18 (`recovery of sight for the blind; to release the oppressed') are alternate meanings of the Hebrew original for the final line of Isaiah 61:1 (`and release from darkness for the prisoners').
This may have been a Targum by Jesus and if this was the case, then it indicates that he was reading the passage and expanding it at the same time.
Looking at the detail of it:
2) Write a list of who Jesus thought the Messiah was and what he came to do.
V18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, the Lord has anointed me…
Both of these are Messianic - The Spirit of the Lord came on people chosen by God - Samson, Saul, David, Solomon. Then the term 'anointed' is the same as the term 'messiah.'
He has sent me to. - Jesus saw himself as a messenger of the Lord.
Proclaim Freedom for prisoners
Recovery of sight for the blind
Release for the oppressed
Here is the Targum - this must have been a part of the passage that Jesus emphasised. This was the core of his mission.
To proclaim the year of the Lord's Favour
The Jubilee year - when justice is re-established.
3) Look at the second part of the passage. What did Jesus say here that may have led to his rejection?
In our English translation of Luke it seems as if Jesus, after reading from the scroll, simply went back to his seat after reading and then added his challenge, almost like an afterthought.
It must be remembered that at this time it was traditional to stand to read and to sit to teach. So the description of him standing to read the passage and then sitting down before he spoke fits the customs of his day.
Jesus' teaching on that day was very challenging to his hearers. He not only proclaimed himself as the Messiah (anointed one) but also suggested that the Gentiles would be more responsive to his ministry than people from his own home town. His rejection by the people of Nazareth inevitably followed and from here he moved to Capernaum. It is interesting to note that this was not an encounter of debate but one of sheer reaction to his teaching.