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Relevant Christianity: Being the collective messiah versus waiting for one?

https://youtu.be/ywyq5pV9OWg
https://soundcloud.com/janoosthuizen/die-hedendaagse-mesiaanse-werk

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?[1] 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) 

Greater things 

“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.


[1] https://momentmag.com/ask-the-rabbis-are-jews-still-expecting-a-messiah/?utm_source=pocket_mylist


[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.

[ii] https://www.netwerk24.com/landbou/Nuus/agrisa-kenner-grondhervorming-moet-uit-hart-kom-20190305

[iii] https://chalmers.org,  Corbett, S. and Fikkert, B. (2014). When Helping Hurts. Chicago: Moody Publishers. 

[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. 

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Following Jesus, the greatest life ever lived.

Many people know the name of Jesus, like knowing the name of one famous actor, but do they know Him? We preached Christ crucified, resurrected and ascended but equally important is His incarnation.  Principally as the model and example of our lives, we need to focus on his daily lifestyle and suffering (1 Pet 2:21) not His heavenly reign.
Jesus is the best life ever lived.
This was the primary reason why He became flesh, to be an example! To show us it is possible as humans to also live without sin. Many Christians aspire to have His reign, seated in heavenly places, ruling and triumphant without the crucifixion of self. (Gal 2:20; Mat 16:19; Rom 6:11; Rom 12:1) He became flesh so that we will have a priest who have compassion, and mercy. (Heb 4:14-16) Remember 90% of his life was hidden, 30 years obeying and submitting to earthly parents. (Luk 2:13)
Many pastors and church leaders have put themselves on a throne, and want to be treated as kings and lords. But the King of King, and Lord of Lords came as a servant! Some church leaders change their voices, and wear fancy robes, to distinguish themselves, when He came as God Emmanuel, here-with-us.  Some men see themselves as the head of the wife (Eph 5:21) and thus the king ruler of the house. They assume the right to command and demand their wives to submit, and also making decisions without their consent or knowledge. Some men do not play with their children, they also assume this high position in their attitude towards them. Speaking down and belittling them. Parents must discipline their children but never without showing them respect and dignity. To shame them is not to discipline them.
We are called to reign in this life.  Rom 5:17 We reign over sin, destructive habits, emotions and our flesh.  We reign over difficult circumstances! We reign in spite of persecution and suffering for the sake of the gospel.  But we do not Lord over another! Like Jesus the king became flesh to serve mankind and do good.
They way Jesus lived His earthly life, is the way, the life and the way.  He modelled the Bible, making it flesh. So by learning from his earthly life, we unlock the secrets of living with purpose.  In studying the gospels we discover: His forgiveness, (Luk 23:34) His abhorrence of false hypocrisy (Mat 6; 15:7; 22:18), the way he treated women (John 4) and children (Mark 10:14), the way he touched the untouchables (Mark 1:40), His compassion for the lost (Mat 18:11), and much much more!
According to James Martin in his book the “Jesus a Pilgrimage” the newest archeological studies has revealed the Nazareth was “on the fringe of the Roman Empire, both geographically and politically.” Only two to four hundred people lived there in Jesus’s day.
Today the ruins of the houses in Nazareth are scant, but the archaeological evidence has revealed small dwellings built with local stones (basalt or limestone) that were stacked roughly atop one another. The floors were of packed earth and the roofs thatched, constructed over beams of wood and held together with mud. Families lived in small houses clustered together around a “yard” where common activities were performed.
Evidence from the rooms points to little privacy for the inhabitants, but a great sense of community. Everyone knew each other, is this not the carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55–56).
A more correct rendering of this word is artisan. Which means he actually belonged to the ancient middle-class.  Artisans from this period in Galilea, were mostly masons and carpenters, or both as these skills was interrelated to the building of houses. Jesus makes more reference to buildings than specific woodwork practice.  Rebuilding the temple in 3 days (Mat 27:40), house build on a rock (Mat 7:24-25), he is the door (John 10:1-9), He is the cornerstone rejected (Mat 21:42). Again showing his knowledge of how building was constructed.
But being an artisan was not work done in isolation, it was mostly team work because no heavy moving equipment existed in this time. He was skilled with his hands, taking his time to make a whip, learned from his trade, as ropes was standard equipment in his trade.
The little village was “filthy, malodorous and unhealthy” by contemporary standards.
Most skeletal remains predictably show iron and protein deficiencies, and most had severe arthritis. A case of the flu, a bad cold, or an abscessed tooth could kill. Life expectancy, for the luckier half that survived childhood, was somewhere in the thirties. Those reaching fifty or sixty were rare.
Life was hard, and people lived perilously close to the edge, economically and socially. People did not travel afar much, since it was both dangerous and expensive. When they did— for example, for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem— they did so in larger groups so as to ward off bandits. Life was, “predominantly local.”
Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. Nor is it mentioned in the Talmud, which lists sixty- three other villages in Galilee, or in the writings of Josephus, who names forty- five other Galilean villages. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” asks Nathanael. (John 1:46) In that Gospel passage Nazareth is, quite literally, a joke. And yet, just four miles from Nazareth was Sepphoris, a bustling city of thirty thousand, which was being rebuilt at the time by Herod Antipas.
One archaeological team wrote about Nazareth: “The principal activity of these villagers was agriculture. Nothing in the finds suggests wealth.” In his parables and stories Jesus frequently makes use of images not from carpentry, which one would expect, but from farming— the sower and the seeds, the mustard seed, and the weeds that grow up alongside the wheat and about laborers.
This background was Jesus’ training ground. His school of Life, where He learned to do nothing unless His Father shows Him.  The working class has this characteristic embedded, no pomp, no wasting time with image and self-consciousness, for it is all about survival.
But the greatest mystery of Jesus life was Paradox. He is earthly, human, simple, with a fine sense of humor and playfulness, justice and fairness, always reasonable.   He got tired, possible would sweat, have normal earthly urges, became angry John 11:38 (brimáomai – to roar, storm with anger, to be enraged, indignant, to express indignation against someone) but not loose His temper. On the other hand, he cast out demons (Mat 12:28), summons the wind (Mar 4:39), walk on water (Mat 14:25), and heal the sick (Acts 10:38).  These supernatural acts and conduct makes Him heavenly and divine.
Remember He was our example, and thus expect us to also walk in this same paradox.  Being humanly frail and vulnerable, yet spiritually strong and temperate.
This lifestyle is only possible once He has removed all duality of a sinful nature, and we walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:19) A better metaphor for this kind of life, is to become like a child. Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 18:4) Children are playful and unconcerned. They forgive quickly, and live in the now. They do not carry emotional baggage from the past, and is unconcerned about the future. They love unconditionally and are passionate. They have no self-awareness or self-consciousness.
There is so much to learn and discover of His life, studying the OT references to Messianic prophecies. His different names, and how it reveals his character and personality. His teachings, on values, insight and perspectives.  The power of His resurrection, enables us to overcome sin.  His Miracles and various healings shows us how he was connected with the Father and heaven.  His suffering, rejection and grief shows us how to life through life’s obstacles and challenges.  The sumtotal of His life, gives us all we need to grow in godliness!