By William S. Plumer, 1867
"Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout
THE MESSIAHSHIP OF JESUS
Jesus Christ was but once anointed with material oil, and that not by an official, but by a woman; not to his office, but for his burial. Jesus Christ was anointed to office by superabundant influences of the Holy Spirit, who is the oil of gladness indeed. Psalm 45:7; Heb. 1:9; Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:1, 14, 16. The Father gave not the Spirit by measure unto him. John 3:34.
That the Jews and others expected a great deliverer, called by the prophets Messiah, cannot be denied. The woman of Samaria, ignorant as she was, said, "I know that Messiah comes." John 4:25. Luke says, "The people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Messiah or not." Luke 3:15. Indeed, there is evidence that the ancients generally expected a great deliverer to arise.
In inquiring into the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Scriptures are taken for truth. We believe all that is written in the law, and in the Psalms, and in the prophets. Besides, it is clear that if Jesus is not the promised deliverer, then the Messiah has not yet appeared. Jews and Christians alike reject all the pretenders who have arisen from the time of the Emperor Adrian to the year 1666, when Sabatai Sevi for a while deceived some. Nor is there any dispute between Jews and Christians as to the need of Messiah. We all, in words at least, confess that we are undone without him. Nor is there any doubt that for some cause, great calamities have overtaken the Jews. They admit it. Rabbi David Levi speaks of the facts of "the exact accomplishment of every event foretold by Moses as affording such clear and unequivocal proofs of divine inspiration as to strike the deist and infidel dumb." He says: "I am free to assert, no nation has ever suffered the like during a period of almost eighteen hundred years . . . . The punishments which Moses denounced against the Jews have been exactly fulfilled in every particular." Nor is there any dispute as to whether Jesus of Nazareth lived, and taught, and died on the cross. Jews and Christians, Mohammedans and Infidels are alike agreed on this point. This chapter is an argument for the Messiahship of the great teacher of Nazareth.
The first question to be considered is:
I. Has the time fixed by prophecy for the coming of the Messiah already passed?The correct answer is, It has. The arguments are clear and decisive.
On his deathbed Jacob uttered this prediction: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet—until Shiloh comes, and to him shall the gathering of the people be." Gen. 49:10. The word here rendered scepter is used in that sense by no less than six prophets. Num. 24:17; Psalm 45:6; Isaiah 14:5; Ezek. 19:11, 14; Amos 1:5, 8; Zech. 10:11; and scepter in this clause corresponds with lawgiver in the next. The Septuagint gives it this sense, and so do ancient Jewish interpreters and the Chaldee Paraphrase. That Shiloh points to the Messiah is also admitted by the three Chaldee paraphrases, the Jewish Talmud, and several later Jews; and that the word signifies Savior, or Peacemaker, or Sufferer, or the Son, or the Sent, has the consent of nearly all the best scholars. Nor can we get any good sense from the passage unless we admit that Shiloh means Messiah. "To him shall the gathering of the people be," is a phrase like that of Isaiah predicting the same person: "He shall stand for an ensign of the people." Isaiah 11:10. That the scepter or political power did continue with Judah until the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is evident; for though Herod was not of that tribe, but was an Idumean, yet the Jewish senate did never swear allegiance to him until after the birth of Christ. But in the days of Titus, about the year 70, all show and form of political power forsook the Jews. From that time they had not the smallest remnant of dominion. But their father and prophet Jacob said their power should last until Messiah should come. Therefore the time for the coming of Messiah is already past.
The same thing might be argued from Psalm 40:6-8: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said—Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." The blood of bulls and goats never did expiate the sins of men. Even as types, they were to be wholly abolished after the coming of Christ. Here then we have the prediction that the legal sacrifices shall be abolished when He who is to come, the Messiah, shall do the work so pleasing to God. It is now eighteen centuries since any Jewish priest offered a bloody sacrifice. When God would wholly reject sacrifices, Messiah was to do his will. Sacrifices have ceased, and where is Messiah, if Jesus of Nazareth is not he?
Another prophecy fixing the time for the coming and death of Messiah is found in Daniel 9. "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing."
The rule by which time is here counted is doubtless that given by Ezekiel (4:6): "I have appointed you each day for a year;" so that by seventy weeks we are to understand four hundred and ninety years. This is the longest time we have any reason for giving to the computation of the seventy weeks.
More than this, the prophecy says Messiah was to be cut off before the overflowing desolation befell the holy city. All history declares that Jesus was crucified more than thirty-three years before the armies of Rome laid waste Jerusalem. Surely the time for the coming of Messiah is past, and Jesus of Nazareth came neither too soon nor too late to meet the demands of prophecy in this respect.
I adduce but one other passage to show that Messiah has come: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty. 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the Lord Almighty. 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty." Haggai 2:6-9. By this sure word, Messiah, "the Desire of all nations," was to appear during the time of the second temple, here called "this latter house." It is also evident, as none will deny, that the second temple was destroyed by the Romans. Not one stone was left upon another. Messiah, therefore, must have come.
This passage also teaches that the glory of the second temple should excel the glory of the first. This promised glory did not consist in the superior magnificence of the structure, "for many of the priests, and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice," says an eye-witness, Ezra. Indeed, in the very chapter containing the prophecy Haggai has these words, "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" So that the second temple was inferior to the first and yet the second house was to have a glory surpassing the glory of the first. What was it?
Nor was the second temple equal, much less superior to the first in its appendages. For it is admitted that the first temple had, and that the second temple lacked, the holy fire, which came from heaven, the spirit of prophecy, the ark of the covenant, the Shechinah and the Urim and Thummim. In the eyes of Jews these were grand things. But they were not found in the second temple, and they were in the first. The promised superior glory of the latter house must have been that in it Messiah, "the Desire of all nations," was to appear. Malachi says: "The Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant whom you delight in." This key unlocks the mystery. Simeon told us what this glory was, "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." Luke 2:25-32. Thus it has been shown by four prophecies uttered during a period of eleven hundred and sixty-nine years, the first B. C. 1689, the second B. C. 1020, the third B. C. 538, and the fourth B. C. 520, that the time for the coming of the Messiah is already past. The second question to be considered is,
II. Does Jesus of Nazareth meet the demands of prophecy respecting the Messiah?Surely he does. Messiah was to be a lineal descendant of David. He was to be "a root of Jesse," "a rod out of the stem of Jesse." Isaiah 11:1,10. The first words of the first gospel are: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David," and then his genealogy is traced from Abraham through David. The scribes said that the promised "Christ is the son of David." When our Lord said, "What do you think of the Messiah? whose son is he? They said unto him—He is the son of David." Matt. 22:42. When men saw his miracles they said, "Is not this the son of David?" The blind men so addressed him. Luke 18:38. The hosanna of the multitude was "to the son of David." Matt. 21:9, 15. Indeed, before Jesus was born, the genealogy of Mary the mother of Jesus, and of Joseph her husband, were determined by the very process of law by which the lands of Judea were held, and this under the decree of the Roman emperor. Jesus meets this requirement of prophecy. He is the lineal descendant of David. None of the false Christs have given the slightest evidence that they were descended from David. Should any arise hereafter, they could never show their descent from David, for the genealogical tables of his family and of his tribe are confessedly irrecoverably lost. No man even pretends to have them in possession.
The prophets further said that Messiah should be born in Bethlehem of Judea. So the chief priests and scribes informed Herod, correctly quoting Micah 5:2 in proof: "You Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, are not the least among the princes of Juda." Matt. 2:4-6. Now it is matter of common notoriety that "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea." Matt. 2:1. Truly, God governs all things. Just before the birth of Jesus, his mother and her betrothed husband were required by an imperial edict to go to Bethlehem, some distance from their usual residence, there to be duly registered, "because they were of the house and lineage of David," and there to us was born "in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:4, 11. None of the false Christs either proved or claimed that they had been born in Bethlehem.
Prophecy required that Messiah should be born in a miraculous manner: "The Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel," which being interpreted is "God with us." Isaiah 7:14. That Jesus was thus born the angel declared at the time of his conception; that he was thus born was admitted by the husband of his mother, who fully vindicated the purity and innocence of his wife; that he was thus born God and angels and men have borne witness. No one else was ever thus born.
Jesus and no other endured all the suffering which prophecy decreed to Messiah. He had no form nor loveliness, and when we saw him there was no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; we hid our faces from him we esteemed him not. His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men. He made himself of no reputation. He took upon him the form of a servant. Prophecy said: "They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver." Zech. 11:12. The chief priests agreed with Judas "for thirty pieces of silver." Matt. 26:15. The Psalmist predicted: "They pierced my hands and my feet." Psalm 22:16. Isaiah (53:5) said: "He was wounded." Zechariah (12:10) said: "They shall look on me, whom they have pierced." We all know how his hands and his feet were pierced by the nails, how the soldiers pierced his side, and how Jesus himself afterwards showed the print of the nails. In Psalm 22:7, 8, we read, "They shall laugh him to scorn, and shake their heads, saying, He trusted in the Lord—that he would deliver him. Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him." In Matthew 27:39, 43, we read, "They that passed by, reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him, for he said, I am the Son of God." Isaiah says, "He was numbered with the transgressors." Mark says, "He was crucified between two thieves." The prophet says, "In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." His biographers tell us how "Jesus, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst, and they took a sponge and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it him to drink." The prophets said, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." In the gospels we learn how the soldiers "took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part, and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be." Isaiah and Daniel foretold that he should be cut off. No living man denies that Jesus died a violent death.
Isaiah said he would be "brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent—so he opened not his mouth." All history tells how meekly, and silently, and patiently he endured. "When he suffered, he threatened not."
Prophecy foretold that he would triumphantly enter Jerusalem riding upon a young donkey. In this way did he meekly enter the holy city, weeping over its impending ruin. Indeed, time would fail us to tell how, according to prophecy, not a bone of him was broken, how he died with the wicked, how he made his grave with the rich, how he never saw corruption, how according to the prophecy he is sitting at the right hand of God, to the intent that "all the house of Israel might know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus whom they crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Look at another matter. By the prophet Amos God says: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he reveals his secret unto his servants the prophets" (3:7). It cannot be denied that Jesus of Nazareth has done more to change the opinions and practices of mankind than Cyrus, and Alexander the Great, and the Roman empire. Yet, if he is not the Messiah, the Old Testament is silent concerning him. No man, or set of men, have ever changed the opinions of enlightened nations as Jesus did. Yet if he is not the Messiah, God never showed his prophets anything concerning him. Can it be believed that God has never by any prophet said a word to warn mankind against him, or to invite them to receive him?—him whose coming has done more to revolutionize men's opinions, to mollify hardships, to diffuse virtue and happiness among the most enlightened nations—than any other hundred men that ever lived.
1. Let Christians greatly rejoice in the abundant evidence of the divine mission of Jesus.In embracing his doctrine we are not following cunningly devised fables. O no! Jesus was truth itself.
2. If in Jesus of Nazareth we have found the Messiah, have we embraced him?Such a Deliverer is not to be put off with civilities and compliments. We may say, Lord, Lord; but we must do more. We must take his yoke upon us. We must do his will. We must embrace him, and rely on him. We must by the Holy Spirit call him Lord. Have you in your heart received him? An American errorist has written a book in which he calls him the "Magnificent Jesus." He is far more than that. The temple at Jerusalem was magnificent. The temple of Diana was magnificent. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of lost men, the Son of God! He is to be obeyed and loved, adored and embraced. God has set forth his Son as the object of saving faith. Will you receive him as such? Without faith in him we cannot be saved. Himself said: "If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins."
3. If we ourselves have found Jesus the Messiah, let us, like Andrew, tell our brother the good news and bring him to Jesus.There is none like Jesus. There is none with Jesus. There is none besides Jesus. He is the Son of God. He can save, and he alone. Oh that you would embrace him and then persuade others to do so too. You will soon need his help. A great master of logic has recently left the world. When one of the clergy spoke of his fortitude in looking death in the face, he said: "Talk not to me of fortitude; it is my faith in Christ that gives me grace and strength."
4. Pray for the Jews.God can open their eyes. None else can. It is affecting to hear them on this point. Dr. Raphall, formerly of England, now of New York, says: "While I and the Jews of the present day protest against being identified with the zealots who were concerned in the proceedings against Jesus of Nazareth, we are far from reviling his character or deriding his precepts, which are, indeed, for the most part, the precepts of Moses and the prophets. You have heard me style him the 'Great Teacher of Nazareth,' for that designation I and the Jews take to be his due."
The Late Mordecai M. Noah also said: "I did not term Jesus of Nazareth an impostor. I had never considered him such. The impostor generally aims at temporal power, attempts to control the rich and weak believer, and draws around him followers of influence whom he can control. Jesus was free from fanaticism: his was a quiet, subdued, retiring faith; he mingled with the poor, he communed with the wretched, avoided the rich, rebuked the vain-glorious. In the calm of the evening he sought shelter in the secluded groves of Olivet, or wandered pensively on the shores of Galilee. He sincerely believed in his mission; he courted no one, flattered no one; in his political denunciations he was pointed and severe; in his religion calm and subdued. These are not the characteristics of an impostor; but, admitting that we give a different interpretation to his mission, when one hundred and fifty million believe in his divinity, and we see around us abundant evidence of the happiness, good faith, mild government, and liberal feelings, which spring from his religion; what right has any one to call him an impostor? That religion which is calculated to make mankind great and happy, cannot be a false one."
PRAYER. O God, bring the children of Abraham to embrace Jesus Christ; and to us and to all who dwell in this land, give hearts to receive your Son, to believe on his name, to own him as our Savior; so that all the blessings of the covenant of grace may come on us and overtake us; that we may be blessed in the city and in the field; that your blessing may rest on the fruit of our body, and on the fruit of our ground, and the fruit of our cattle, and the increase of our flocks; that your blessing may rest on our basket and on our store; that we may be blessed when we come in and blessed when we go out; and that they who come out against us one way, may flee before us seven ways. Oh that all the land and world may soon avouch the Lord Jehovah to be their God, his Son Jesus Christ to be their Savior; his Holy Spirit to be their Sanctifier, Comforter and Guide! Unto the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God our Savior—be glory, and honor, dominion and power, now and forever! Amen.