In times of crisis, we all hope for a messiah! A solitary super-mensch who will single-handedly save us from our predicament. This one-man saviour is a popular theme for most Hollywood movies we watch. The plot usually centres on an epic battle against totalitarian regimes, where eventually, the messiah intervenes and saves the day. Some call it the messiah complex. Unfortunately, this has also become the major theme in Party Politics, voting for the best candidate versus voting for the best system.
From a theological or Biblical Worldview, is this perspective reconcilable with the gospel that Jesus preached and demonstrated?
“Christ is not the answer to your city, I am not the answer to your city. The answer to your city is Christ in you and Christ through you.”
Chris Gore, Walking in Supernatural Healing Power
A Jewish Perspective
In the fascinating article found on “Moment”, ask the Rabbis: Are Jews Still Expecting a Messiah? Several Rabbi’s acknowledge the common human desire for lasting messianic peace and prosperity: “Then all our grief will be transformed into dance (Psalms 30:12); our weeping into song (Psalms 126:5), and every sigh you ever breathed will be breathed back into you as renewed life and joy.” BUT, surprisingly they do not expect this reign of peace and order to happen by one single person:
- “Our focus should be on bringing redemption in our own lifetime and with our own two hands.” Rabbi Gershon Winkler
- “I prefer a different mythic construct that promotes the worth of every person: the legend of the 36 righteous people” Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer
- “It depends upon us. We must also acknowledge that there will always be something that needs fixing” Rabbi David J. Cooper
- “The best Jewish teachings discourage searching for wonder-workers. But to deny all messianic possibility is defeatist. Moderate messianism leads us to enlightened activism.” Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
- “Who is Elijah? We all are Elijah. As Jews, we are each God’s partner in the creation and the ongoing perfection of the world.” Rabbi Laura Novak Winer
- “I believe that each of us is created in the divine image. We increase holiness when we accept personal responsibility for bringing about a “messianic age.” Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz
What did the ancient Jews in Jesus’ time expect the Messiah to accomplish?
- The Righteous One/the Messenger (Malachi)– the prophet promised by Moses would prepare the people for the end times as the first sign.
- The Prince of Light – the Davidic king who would lead the sons of light in the final battle and establish the Kingdom of God.
- The Priestly Messiah–the Interpreter of the Law – a co-leader who would purify the altar of God.
- The Prince of Heaven–Enoch/Melchizedek, the Son of Man, would be the final judge.
- A family of righteous warriors (like the Maccabees) would drive the Romans and restore the nation to greatness.
- A foreign king, similar to Cyrus the Great of Persia (Isaiah 45: 1), would help the Jews regain their independence.
- “Lord of the Sabbath:” A righteous leader would restore the Jewish tradition of a Jubilee Year. Every 50th-year debts were forgiven (usufruct), slaves were released, and farmland was returned to its original owners. 35-36 A.D. was the Jubilee Year.
Jesus fulfilled all these expectations by being our physical “son of man”-example but also leading us to become the embodiment of the Messiah as a family collective, not by our own abilities, but by the Power of His Grace and Resurrection (Eph. 1:12-22).
Fulfill the works of God – Believe in ME
“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29; 4:21; 11:26)
The world has seen many types of messiahs who thought that they were doing good but brought about great misery, death and pain. A narcissistic, grandiose self-image often fuels the tyrant’s messiah complex:
- “They love me all,” Muammar Gaddafi insisted before he was overthrown. “They will die to protect me . . . my people.”
- When presented with an ultimatum to leave Iraq or be invaded by the United States, Saddam Hussein approved a demonstration. Demonstrators waved portraits of their tyrant and carried banners that proclaimed: “Saddam is Iraq and Iraq is Saddam.” Saddam approved the message. Otherwise, it would never have been delivered.
- Mao Zedong was “the savior of the people,” according to Chinese Communist propaganda, over which he had control.
- Josef Stalin’s “messianic egotism was boundless,” his biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore concluded.
- And Adolf Hitler told readers of Mein Kampf that he believed he was “acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator… .”
What makes the gospel of faith in Christ Jesus different from all other self-driven pursuits of holiness, nirvana, esoterical mysticism is the principle of “empty of self”. Invariably, also called self-abandonment, self-denial, self-forgetfulness. Reckoning yourself dead to self is the premise and launchpad for all Christ-centered activity.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mat 6:33; see also Mat 16:24: Rom 6:11; 12:1; Eph 2:20)
Believing in Him means coming to the end of all self-effort, self-reliance, and dead works! (Heb 6:1) This is not a once-off experience but a continual reliance on His ability, strength, faith, holiness, and righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 5:17)
Receiving the Messiah Within!
Paul reflects on this messianic mystery by saying: To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Col 1:27-29)
Feed the People
Read Mark 6:30-56
Subsequently, this portion of scripture begins with the disciples doing Messianic Work: Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32)
“You give them something to eat.” v37
Walk on the water
“Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Mat 14:22-33)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
A Messianic People
Christian Religion has a bad name, but not because of the person of Jesus Christ. It is our misrepresentation of Christ that has led Christianity into disrepute. Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth, Galilee, mostly referred to by Himself as the ‘Son of man’, whether one believes in Him or not, is still the most magnanimous form of humanity[i]
The Christian church has been highly successful in making converts but is failing miserably to disciple the people in the principles and values of Jesus Christ. Evidence that although Christ-like behavior is the litmus test of true Christianity, it has to be understood from the outset that He produces the ‘Christlikeness’ in believing, obedient people. Oswald Chambers taught that, ‘All I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be holy.’
A Christ-centered Value Based Society
- Intrinsic worth & dignity of every person
- Non-partisan, Non-racist, Non-violent, Non-adversarial
- Relationship Centered
- Freedom of choice
- Sanctity of all life
- Personal Responsibility, and Stewardship towards Generational multiplication
- Common Good for all
- Work to bless and to give
- Justice & equity for the oppressed
When followers of Christ begin to follow His path, and way of life, they will face persecution. For the world who is in the sway of the wicked one, prefers the darkness over the light. Thus the realization that we do not expect a permanent perfect utopian state, but rather a mirror-reflection of light and redemption in the midst of darkness.
[i] Oosthuizen, J. (2018). A narratological approach to an aspect of practical theology: Scrutinizing the relationship, role and individual responsibility of the South African Farmer and Farmworker against a Christological Standard. Masters of Arts. THE WESTERN ORTHODOX UNIVERSITY.
[iv] Wallis, J. (2014). The (un)common good. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press.
[v] Enosh Anguandia Adia Edre, Christian Nominalism within church membership a case study of the church in the town of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South African Theological Seminary, 2015.
[vi] Gorski. John F, Christology, Inculturation, and Their Missiological Implications: A Latin American Perspective, M.M. International Bulletin of Mission Research Vol 28, Issue 2, pp. 60 – 63 First Published April 1, 2004.