Psalms 118 – Messiah Characteristics

Psalms 118 probably comes in a close second behind Psalms 22 in getting the most attention for Messiah prophecies in Psalms, but for opposite reasons. Psalms 22 is front and center because of its controversial nature being consistent with a Roman crucifixion described in the Gospels. Psalms 118, on the other hand, gets attention for its significant uncontroversial prophecies defining the characteristics of the Messiah.[1]

Common ground is found in Psalms 118 among Jewish and Christian religious entities who are typically fierce opponents. Judaism, a renowned Jewish Rabbi sage, Jesus of Nazareth and Christian authorities – all recognize the Psalm defines characteristics about the Messiah.

Judaism regards Psalms 118 as the concept of salvation pointing to the arrival of the Messiah and is, in fact, part of the traditional Jewish Hallel.[2] A stalwart Jewish authority says of Psalms 118:[3]

“The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah (see Midr. Teh. to Ps. cxviii. 17, 21, 22; comp. Matt. xxi. 42).” – Jewish Encyclopedia

“Hallel” in Hebrew means “praise” and in Judaism it is comprised of Psalms 113-118. The Hallel was recited by Levites during the Passover sacrifice and continues to be recited or chanted during the family night celebration of Passover and some other Jewish holidays.[4]

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, is one of the three annual pilgrim festivals required by the Law handed down to Moses. The holiday, often referred to as the “season of our Rejoicing,” serves the dual purposes of celebrating the harvest as well as the Hebrews emerging from the 40 years of wondering in the Sinai wilderness where they had lived in temporary shelters or tents called tabernacles.[5]

In past times during each day of the Sukkot festival, a marching procession would wave branches of palm, myrtle and willow.[6] The seventh and final day of Sukkot is called “Hoshanna Rabbah” meaning “Great Salvation.” [7]

A reduced version of the Hallel is chanted the final day of Sukkot consisting of only the final verses of Psalms 118 begins with verse 20.[8] Originating from Psalms 118:25 is the Hallel phrase, “Anna Adonai hoshi-‘ah-nna,” shortened to a single word, “hosanna.”[9] Tracing back to ancient Jewish tradition, “hosanna” is the customary joyful shout of celebration.

“Hosanna” is the same word shouted by the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey the Sunday before he would be crucified. All four Gospel authors write about that day considered in Christianity to be a triumphal event now known as  Palm Sunday.[10] Jewish Encyclopedia confirms the account in the Gospel of John:

“According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm — and then called him “the King of Israel.” – Jewish Encyclopeda

JN 12:12-13  “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”” (NKJV)

Backstory to John’s account of the triumphal arrival into Jerusalem involves the account in Luke‘s Gospel of a previous encounter with the Pharisees. They had warned Jesus that Tetrarch Herod Antipas was seeking to have him killed. Not concerned about Herod Antipas, Jesus responded in part by foretelling a future event quoting from Psalms 118:26:

LK 13:35 “…assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”” (NKJV)

PS .118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (NKJV)

Leading up to his prophecy, Jesus told a parable about a winery rented to tenants by the landowner.[11] Twice the owner sent his servants to collect the rent from the tenants and both times they were harshly rebuffed and beaten.

On the third attempt, the owner sent his only son thinking they would surely respect him, but the tenants actually killed his son. Interpreting the meaning of the parable referenced in all three synoptic Gospels, Jesus quoted Psalms 118:22-23.[12]

MT 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? (NKJV)

PS 118:22-23 “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.” (NASB, NJKV)

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi wrote his famed commentaries of the Scriptures about a millennium later. In his commentary of the Micah 5:1(2) Bethlehem Messiah prophecy, the Rabbi also quoted from Psalms 118:22. Breaking down the prophecy, Rashi interpreted the meaning of the phrase “from you shall emerge for Me“: [13]

from you shall emerge for Me: the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.” Rabbi Rashi

Psalms 118, according to Judaism and Christianity alike, refers to the Messiah. Was Jesus the Messiah being referenced in this Psalm?

 

Updated March 7, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1]The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad.org. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htmJewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bible> Last accessed 20 Apr. 2021.
[2] “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13051-salvation>
[3]“Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna>
[4] “Passover Sacrifice.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11934-passover-sacrifice>  “Hallel.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7800-hodu>  “Holy Days.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7814-holidays> Posner, Menachem. “What is Hallel?” Chabad.org. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4181720/jewish/What-Is-Hallel.htm>
[5] Deuteronomy 16:9-17. Leviticus 23:33.  Bogomilsky, Moshe. “Our Season of Rejoicing.” Chadbad.org. 2022. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2829274/jewish/Our-Season-of-Rejoicing.htm>  Pochtar, Israel. “Sukkot – The Feast of Tabernacles.” VoiceofJudahIsael.” n.d. <https://www.vojisrael.org/2020/09/30/sukkot-the-feast-of-tabernacles>   “The Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles.” OneforIsrael. May 31, 2016. <https://www.oneforisrael.org/holidays/the-meaning-of-the-feast-of-tabernacles>
[6] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Rich, Tracey R. “Sukkot.” JewFAQ.org. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm> “What is Sukkot.” Chabad.org.>
[7] Lawrence, Natan. HoshanaRabbah.org. “Origin of “Hoshana Rabbash.”” 11/15/2019. <https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2019/11/15/origination-of-hoshana-rabbah> Rich. “Sukkot.”
[8] “Hallel.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.
[9] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Sukkot.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7814-holidays> Psalms 118:25. BibleHub.com. Lexicon. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/118-25.htm>
[10] Matthew 21: 9, 15; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:35-39; John 12:12-13.
[11] Matthew 21:33-40, Mark 12:1-8, Luke 20:09-16.
[12] CR Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17.
[13] Micah 5:1. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true> “Rashi.” Your Dictionary. n.d. <https://biography.yourdictionary.com/rashi>  “RASHI Biography.” OxfordChabad.org. n.d. <https://www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/329653/jewish/RASHI-Biography.htm>

 

Cleopas – An Eyewitness Resurrection Encounter

Eyewitness statements carry significant weight both in ancient and modern law as well as in the eyes of God.[1] The Law of Moses handed down by God defined that two eyewitnesses were required to establish a fact.[3]

Luke’s investigative Gospel contains one of the greatest eyewitness statements of anyone who encountered Jesus.[3] The eyewitness statement of Cleopas is quoted in Luke chapter 24.

Cleopas and his traveling partner, possibly his wife, were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday.[4] They were joined on the road by a stranger who asked what they were so intently discussing?

Incredulous, Cleopas asked, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”[5] The man asked, “What things?”[6]

Answering the question, Cleopas provided a succinct witness statement of events to the stranger. He began by identifying a man known as Jesus of Nazareth whose powers caused people to recognize him as a prophet. Summarizing the events that had transpired over the Passover weekend, Cleopas said:[7]

LK 24:19-23 “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” (NKJV)

Resurrection accounts of all four Gospels are corroborated by the statement of Cleopas – Matthew, Mark and Luke predicting Jesus would rise again on the third day and of angels greeting Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna and Mary the mother of James at the empty tomb; and Luke and John account descriptions of two Disciples, Peter and John, verifying that the tomb was empty as reported by the women from Galilee.[8]

Cleopas had expressed hope that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel. Now it was the third day after the crucifixion and his hope was renewed by the reliable reports of a resurrection. Yet, to his knowledge, no one had yet seen the resurrected Jesus.

Most translations of the Greek word anoetos quote the stranger responding to Cleopas by referring to him as a fool or foolish. Anoetos is derived from the Greek word noeo with the primary meaning “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.”[9] The antonym primary definition of anoetos is “not understood, unintelligent” while the secondary definition is “not understanding, unwise, foolish.”[10]

In essence, the response from the unidentified man was bemoaning the lack of understanding by people of the prophesies concerning the Messiah. The man continued by asking, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”[11]

Most significantly, the man did not dispute the statement of Cleopas indicating his acceptance that the account was accurate. Had the account been inaccurate, it would be expected that a man with full knowledge of the events would correct or dispute the statement if he knew it was incorrect – the statement of Cleopas was not disputed.

Instead, beginning with Moses and the prophets who followed, the stranger interpreted the prophecies written in the Scriptures.[12] Still, the couple still did not connect the dots that they were talking to the resurrected Jesus. Why should they?

Consider the circumstances – they were not one of the chosen Disciples; they were outside of Jerusalem; most of what they knew was second-hand information; and no one to their knowledge had seen the resurrected Jesus who had been crucified and buried. It was probably not even conceivable to them that the identity of the stranger who joined them was the resurrected Jesus.

Getting late in the day, the concerned pair invited the man to their home in Emmaus. He accepted their offer and stayed during supper preparations. When they sat down to eat the meal, the man blessed the food, broke the bread and served it. “At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight.”[13]

Something that the man said when he prayed caused the Cleopas pair to realize that the identity of the stranger in their midst was, in fact, the resurrected Jesus.[14] What did Jesus say? His words are not recorded in the Gospels; however, their recognition of Jesus was confirmed when he simply vanished right before their eyes.

Did the Cleopas pair believe they had just encountered Jesus? Their actions provide a very strong clue. The pair took on the challenges of an immediate walk back to Jerusalem – a 7-mile trek by foot near sunset on a hilly, unpaved road.[15]

Arriving back in Jerusalem at the location of the eleven Disciples and other followers, they learned “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!”[16] Cleopas told them about their encounter consistent with his previous statement that it was not until Jesus prayed before their meal that they recognized him.

Comparing and sharing their experiences, there was more to come… “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’”[17] Neither Cleopas nor his partner disputed that it was the same person they had encountered previously in Emmaus who was now standing before them again in the room in Jerusalem.

First Jesus showed the group the healed crucifixion wounds in his hands and feet suggesting that they touch them to see for themselves that he was flesh and bone. Further, to prove he was real and not just an apparition, Jesus ate some fish.

Consistently with what he had told Cleopas and his partner on the road home to Emmaus, Jesus affirmed to the group that what had happened to him was predicted by Moses, the prophets and in the Psalms. “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day …” this time adding “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[18]

Gospel accounts are in sync, consistent and corroborated by the Cleopas eyewitness statement. Does his eyewitness statement of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection events ring true?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Ketubah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 9a, 30a, 32a-b, 49b, 56a-b. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html> Foster, Brittany. LegalDepot. “Witnesses in a Legal Document.” 2018. <https://www.lawdepot.com/blog/witnesses-in-a-legal-document>  “A Notary Official Signature.” American Association of Notaries. 2019. <https://www.notarypublicstamps.com/articles/a-notary-official-signature>
[2] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30.
[3] “Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him.” Yeshua in Context. 2010. <http://www.yeshuaincontext.com/2010/10/cleopas-why-you-should-know-him>
[4] “Clopas.” Abarim Publications. 2021. <https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Clopas.html>  “Cleophas.” Catholic Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04048b.htm> Jones, Victoria Emily. “The Unnamed Emmaus Disciple:  Mary, wife of Cleopas?” Art & Theology. 2017. <https://artandtheology.org/2017/04/28/the-unnamed-emmaus-disciple-mary-wife-of-cleopas>
[5] Luke 24:18. NRSV.
[6] Luke 24:19.
[7] Luke 24:19-24, 31.
[8] Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:3. CR Matthew 27:62-63; Mark 8:31-32, 9:31; Luke 18:31.
[9] “noeo <3539>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3539> “G3539> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/3539.html>
[10] Luke 24:25.  “anoetos <453>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=453>  “G0453.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/0453.html>
[11] Luke 24:26. NASB.
[12] Luke 24:27, 32.
[13] Luke 24:31. NET.
[14] Luke 24:31, 35.
[15] Luke 24:33. “Topography of Jerusalem Looking from the South.” Generation Word. 2005. <http://www.generationword.com/nt_maps/136_topography_of_jerusalem.jpg>
[16] Luke 24:34.  NET, NASB.
[17] Luke 24:36. NKJV.
[18] Luke 24:46. NASB. Luke 24:47. NSRV.

Jewish Leaders – Recognition of the Messiah?

Jewish leadership acknowledged the supernatural abilities and authority of Jesus of Nazareth…some even recognized him as the Messiah. It began at the time of his birth.

Magi saw signs that a special King of the Jews was to be born and began a quest traveling hundreds of miles not knowing exactly where to find him. None other than King Herod gave the Magi the birth location of the Messiah as it was provided to him by the Jewish religious experts.

Herod’s question to the chief priests and scribes was simple – where is the Christ (Greek for Messiah) to be born?  His question was based not on “if,” rather an assumption of fact asking “where” the Messiah was to be born? Their answer:  “In Bethlehem of Judea.”[1] Accordingly, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem where they did indeed find the child, Jesus.

Eight days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary took him to the Temple in Jerusalem a few miles away to comply with the Jewish laws to formally name him, to be circumcised, offer a sacrifice and for his father to bless him.[2] Simeon met them in the Temple, took the babe in his arms and blessed Jesus, too, saying:

LK 2:30-32 “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.” (NIV)

Previously Simeon had received a vision that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon acknowledged to God that His promise had been fulfilled and he was now ready to die. Before the new family left, Simeon foretold what to expect for the life of their child, Jesus:

LK 2:34-35 “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NIV)

Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the Asher tribe. Her husband had died after only seven years of marriage leaving her a widow for the next 84 years. Living a reclusive life, she never left the Temple fasting and praying day and night.[3]

Seeing Joseph, Mary and Jesus, Anna came up to them and began giving thanks to God. The prophetess then spoke of Jesus to all who came into the Temple interested in the “redemption of Jerusalem.”

Several groups of Jewish religious leaders are referenced in the Gospels typically in opposition to Jesus during his final three-year ministry – the rulers of the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the chief priests, the legal experts and the elders. While opposing Jesus as a threat to fundamental Judaism, they acknowledged the supernatural abilities and powers of Jesus through their criticisms thereby inadvertently corroborating that he possessed the characteristics of the prophesied Messiah.[4]

Sanhedrin was the ruling political body of the Jewish theocracy originally established by Moses.[5] The High Priest was the head of the Sanhedrin and political leader of all the Jewish people.[6]

Scribes were the legal experts of Jewish law, the lawyers of the day.[7] Chief priests were religious leaders from the Temple and members of the Sanhedrin.[8] Elders were valued in Jewish society for their wisdom in consultations.[9] Herodians were a minor religious faction although they shared a common enemy of Jesus.[10]

Chief priests, legal experts and elders acknowledged Jesus had the supernatural power and authority to cast out demons and to perform “signs” often translated as “miracles.” [11] Asking Jesus to identify the authority of his power “to do these things,” they could not answer a legal riddle posed to them and, in return, Jesus neither answered their question.[12]

Pharisees one of three predominate religious factions in Jerusalem and most noticeable throughout Judea and were  the primary nemesis of Jesus in the Gospels.[13] Inexplicably, they viewed Jesus as being on their level calling him “teacher” who taught “the way of God in truth” and took offense when Jesus dared to eat with the “sinners.”[14] Admitting Jesus performed “signs ” so amazing that “the whole world has gone after him,” they sought to kill him.[15]

Arresting Jesus, the Jewish leadership put him on trial when he admitted under oath to being the “Son of God.” The High Priest in charge of the trial, Caiaphas, reacted to the admission by tearing his clothes in a customary display of grief for hearing blasphemy exclaiming, “Why do we still need witnesses?”[16]

Not all the Jewish leadership shared the same disdainful views of Jesus. In one instance, Jesus was invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon.[17] While dining, an uninvited guest – a local woman “sinner” – washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and hair. Jesus forgave her many sins causing Simon and his guests to wonder who is Jesus to be able to forgive sins?[18]

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were identified as Jewish rulers who followed Jesus.[19] Nicodemus had met secretly with Jesus and once pushed back on unfair accusations of his ruling peers.[20] Joseph asked Pilate for the crucified body of Jesus and both Jewish rulers together buried him in Joseph’s unused tomb.[21]

King Herod believed as a result of the Magi’s visit through the words of his royal Jewish council that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. At the Temple, a Jewish prophetess and a priest recognized baby Jesus as the Messiah. Later, archenemies of Jesus acknowledged his supernatural abilities to heal, perform other miracles, and his authority of power over evil. Was Jesus the prophesied Messiah?

 

Updated April 16, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Matthew 2:5.
[2] Luke 2:21-33.
[3] Luke 2:36-38.
[4] Exodus 18:25-26; Deuteronomy 1:15-17, 16:18-20; Matthew 12:9; Mark 11:18; Luke 6:6-11; John 11:46-48. Sanhedrin 49b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_49.html “Chief Priests.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests>
[5] “Sanhedrin.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12291-portalis-comte-joseph-marie>
[6] “High Priest.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7689-high-priest>
[7] “Scribes.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13831-sofer>
[8] “Chief Priests.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests>
[9]“Elder.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2021. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/elder>
[10] “Herodians.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011.  <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7605-herodians>
[11] Mark 2:6; 3:22; Luke 6:7; John 11:47.
[13] “Pharisees.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articl s/12050-perushim >
[14] Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:13-16. Luke 5:30, 7:39, 15:2: John 8:3.
[15] Matthew 12:9, 22:15; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 5:21, 6:2, 11, 11:53; John 7:31-32, 11:47-50; 12:19.
[16] Mark 14:61-63. NET, NRSV. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Luke 22:70-71. O’Neal, Sam. Learn Religions. 2019. <https://www.learnreligions.com/why-people-in-the-bible-tore-their-clothes-363391>
[17] Luke 7:44.
[18] Luke 7:36-35.
[19] John 3:1, 7:50-51, 19:38-39.
[20] John 7:50-51.
[21] Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42.