How could Jesus be the Messiah if he did not fulfil all that the Messiah was meant to do?
The Jewish understanding and expectation of the Messiah comes from the multitude of Messianic prophecies found in the Tanach. Although Jesus fulfilled many Messianic prophecies, he is not widely regarded by the Jewish people as the Messiah. Why is that?
What Messianic Prophecies Did Jesus Not Fulfil?
According to the scriptures, the Messiah was supposed to:
So how can it be possible that Jesus was the Messiah and yet he did not accomplish all of the things that the Messiah was meant to do? In order to gather the people, usher in an era of peace, spread universal knowledge, and rule as a king, Jesus would have first needed to establish a kingdom. However, Jesus was prevented from doing so when the people rejected and betrayed him. Is it possible that this caused God’s plan to change?
Change in God’s Plan
Does God ever change or delay his plans according to the scriptures? The answer is undoubtedly yes. The Tanach contains several examples of God’s plan changing, not because God doesn’t fulfil his promises but because the people sometimes fail to fulfil theirs. When God makes a promise, sometimes called an agreement or a covenant with the people, it is a two-way street. God will always uphold his promises but the people must also uphold their end of the bargain.
One of the most famous examples of God’s plan changing is the fate of Moses and the Children of Israel regarding the promised land. God promised Moses that he would lead him along with the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt into abundant promised land (Exodus 3:15-18). This was God’s clear promise, however, things did not go according to plan. Moses, his successor Aaron and most of their generation perished before ever setting foot in the promised land. So what happened? Did God go back on his promise? According to scripture, the actions of the people caused a delay in God’s plan:
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! 4 Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
God extended a promise to the Israelites but they showed a lack of trust in his plan. Therefore his plan changed and it was the next generation that entered into the promised land instead.
Another example of a change in God’s plan is the vicegerency of Saul. Saul was God’s chosen, anointed king. God promised him this position but everything changed when Saul disobeyed God’s command. God told Saul to enter into a land and kill everything. But he didn’t fully obey, sparing the best sheep and cattle. God regretted making Saul his vicegerent (1 Samuel 15:11). God sent Samuel to inform Saul that he is no longer God’s vicegerent.
22 “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.
28 Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. (1 Samuel 15:22,28)
Saul failed to keep his end of his agreement with God, therefore, God’s plan had to change. Another example of God’s promise changing due to the actions of the people occurred during the time of the prophet Joshua.
God had promised the Israelites victory in battle. However, they lost the battle and the lives of thirty-six of their soldiers. Joshua did not comprehend how or why this had happened. He went to the ark of the meeting and fell face to the ground.
7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! …
The Lord said: 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
God previously told the Israelites not to take any of the war booty, for everything belonged to God. However, a man named Achan from the tribe of Judah disobeyed God’s command and stole some items – a robe, silver and gold and buried them under his tent. In doing so, he broke his promise to God, therefore God withdrew his promise to the Israelites.
Did the people accept the Messiah?
From the gospels, it is clear that some of the fiercest opponents of Jesus were the Jewish high priests and scholars. They were always accusing Jesus of various crimes in an effort to disprove his claim:
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus cleverly pointed out a flaw in their logic. God’s vicegerent is the lawmaker, and can change the jurisprudence just as David had previously shown. Furthermore, the Messiah was supposed to establish a new covenant between God and mankind. Doesn’t a new covenant always come with a new jurisprudence? If the Messiah was not meant to be a reformer of religion then what was his purpose supposed to be? Naturally the enemies of the Messiah or reformer are the scholars.
This is how it was for Jesus. Jesus warned the chief priests and Pharisees that if they continued on challenging and rejecting their own Messiah, they would lose him and God’s promise would go to another people.
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
Isn’t this exactly what happened? Didn’t the Israelites miss out on their chance to live in the Messianic kingdom, under a covenant with God? The people rejected Jesus time and time again.
John 6 starts out with Jesus feeding thousands of people and then by the end of the chapter something that he taught caused them all to turn away from him.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”…66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Jesus’ own close circle of twelve disciples believed and disbelieved many times. Then the ultimate betrayal happened when one of the twelve, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver, causing him to be arrested. (Matthew 26:14-16) And finally, the people demanded that Jesus be put to death.
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
How could Jesus establish a Messianic Kingdom and all that it entails without the support of the nation of Israel? Isn’t it clear that the actions of the people led to a change in God’s plan, just as Jesus forewarned? Jesus said “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43) This is an important warning to all people even in this day and age that a promise with God is not to be taken lightly.