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.

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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.

Reactions to the Risen Dead

Jesus of Nazareth raised three people from the dead, according to the Gospels, each under very different circumstances. Two are uniquely recounted by a Gospel author and one was documented by three Gospels. No comments are recorded from those who received back their life; instead, reactions to the risen dead came from the witnesses.

Nain is a small town a few miles southeast of Nazareth, identified in Luke for a great miracle Jesus performed there.[1] Followed by his Disciples and a large throng, they encountered a long funeral procession leaving through the city gate.

Upon the funeral bier was the body of the only son of a widow. Seeing the most sad situation, Jesus felt compassion and comforted the distraught mother telling her not to cry.[2] Touching the bier, the funeral procession stopped and Jesus commanded, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”

Sitting up, the young man began to talk and Jesus handed him back to his mother. [1] Fear struck the crowds yet they shouted praises, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people.”[4]

Crossing back across the Sea of Galilee from the region of Gerasenes after performing an exorcism on the demon named Legion, Jesus was met by a man asking to heal his dying daughter who was 12 years old.[5] Mark and Luke identify the man as a synagogue ruler named Jairus; Matthew did not identify the man by name.[6]

Heading toward the house of Jairus, the crowd pressed against Jesus delaying his arrival.[7] Along the way, a woman with a worsening 12-year long hemorrhage worked her way through the throng believing that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed…[8]

Immediately when she touched his outer garment, she was healed and Jesus could feel it. With the masses around him, he asked, “Who touched My clothes?”[9] Answering a question with a question, his Disciples asked how it was possible to know this because of the surging crowd?

Realizing she could not escape without notice, fearful and trembling the woman fell down at the feet of Jesus confessing what she had done.[10] Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”[11]

As these words were being spoken, people arrived from the house of Jairus to report his daughter had died suggesting that Jesus should no longer be bothered because it was too late.[12] Hearing the comments, Jesus said, “”Do not be afraid; only believe.”[13]

Arriving at the house, Jesus declared the girl was only asleep, but people derided him for saying such a thing.[14] Everyone was sent out of the house excepting Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John.

Taking the hand of the girl, Jesus commanded her to get up. The girl got up, began walking around the room and Jesus instructed that she be given something to eat.[15] Jairus and his wife, were completely “astonished.”[16]

John solely chronicles one of the most famous miracles of Jesus, one that served to be the catalyst for his crucifixion. While in another town, probably across the Jordan River east of Jericho, Jesus received a message from friends of sisters Mary and Martha in Bethany that their brother, Lazarus, was sick.[17] Bethany was a small hamlet suburb of Jerusalem and no further message was received.[18]

Commenting that Lazarus’ sickness would serve to glorify God, Jesus then stayed two more days at his present location. Jesus then informed his Disciples that Lazarus had “fallen asleep” and he wanted to go there to awaken him.[19] Worried that enemies wanted to kill Jesus, the Disciples urged him not to go not thinking he was dead, it would be an unnecessary risk because Lazarus would wake-up and recover on his own.[20]

Seeing that the Disciples didn’t understand what he meant, Jesus plainly told them, “Lazarus is dead.” Explaining further, he said the reason he must go there now was go give people yet another opportunity to believe.[21]

Approaching Bethany, Jesus was met outside the village by Martha who was very upset with Jesus complaining that if he had been there earlier, her brother would not have died.[22] Martha sent word to Mary asking her sister come out to meet Jesus, too.

Mary, along with other people from their family’s house, joined Martha outside of Bethany. She, too, candidly blamed Jesus for her brother’s death because he had not been there earlier.[23] Some people grumbled aloud that if Jesus could heal a blind man, he certainly could have saved Lazarus.[24]

Deeply moved by the great sorrow of his friends, Jesus himself wept and went to the tomb of Lazarus. It was covered by a stone and he asked that it be removed. Martha pointed out the obvious – by now, after four days, the body of Lazarus would have the bad smell of death.[25]

Addressing the people, he told those gathered at the tomb they would now witness the glory of God. Looking toward Heaven, Jesus thanked God for the miracle he was about to perform because it would demonstrate that he was sent to them by God.

Standing outside the tomb, in a loud voice Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus emerged from the tomb alive still wrapped and bound in the burial strips of cloth with the facial cloth over his head. Jesus told them to unwrap Lazarus to free him.

Many believed Jesus was sent by God testifying to what they had witnessed that day. Some told the Pharisees who, as clearly evidenced by their words and actions, also believed Lazarus had been raised from the dead.[26]

Pharisees worried the celebrity status of Jesus would now be even greater – the people would believe Jesus is their savior and if they didn’t do something, then Rome would take action against them for circumventing the government. It prompted High Priest Caiaphas to say it was better for one man to die than the entire nation.

Traveling to Ephraim north of Jerusalem, the public ministry of Jesus ended with the resurrection of Lazarus.[27] Six days before the Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany for dinner when none other than Lazarus joined the dinner party.[28]

To see Lazarus for themselves, the man who had been raised from the dead, a large group of people gathered in Bethany. When word got back to the Jewish leadership, they decided they wanted to kill Lazarus, too.[29]

The next day, a large portion of the crowd who had been in Bethany greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem, known in Christianity as Palm Sunday.[30] Many people were still talking about the miracle of Lazarus that day.[31]

If Jesus could raise others from the dead with power granted by God, is it conceivable Jesus would then have the same power to rise from the dead himself if that power was granted by God, the creator of all life?

 

Updated April 14, 2020.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] “Nain.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. 2021. <https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Nain> “Nain.” Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/nain.html>
[2] Luke 7:13.
[3] Luke 7:14-15. NASB, NRSV, NKJV.
[4] Luke 7:16. NASB, NJKV.
[5] Mark 5:42; Luke 8:42.
[6] Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-24, 38-42; Luke 8:40-56
[7] Mark 5:24: Luke 8:42.
[8] Mark 5:28. CR Luke 8:44.
[9] Mark 5:30; Luke 8:45.
[10] Mark 5:33; Luke 8:47.
[11] Mark 5:34. CR Luke 8:48.
[12] Luke 8:49.
[13] Mark 5:36.
[14] Mark 5:40.
[15] CR Luke 24:36-43. CR Luke 24:28.
[16] Mark 5:42; Luke 8:56. CR John 21:9-14.
[17] John 10:40, 11:7-8.
[18] “Bethany.” Encyclopædia Britannica.. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Bethany-village-West-Bank>  “Bethany.” Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/bethany.html>
[19] John 11:11-12.
[20] John 11:8, 16.
[21] John 11:1; 14.
[22] John 11:21.
[23] John 11:32.
[24] John 11:37.
[25] John 11:39.
[26] John 11:45-53; 12:19.
[27] “Map of New Testament Israel.” Bible History. Map. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-first-century.html>  “Ephriaim.” BibleHub. n.d. <https://bibleatlas.org/ephraim.htm>  “Ephraim in the wilderness.” Wikipedia. 2020. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim_in_the_wilderness>
[28] John 12:2.
[29] John 12:10.
[30] John 12:17.

Roman Authority Encounters with Jesus

Celebrity status of Jesus of Nazareth quickly spread. Inevitably the news of his famous miraculous healing abilities would extend outside of Judea.[1] Many people, including those who were not Jewish, trusted enough in what they had heard or witnessed that they too believed Jesus could help them — including some Romans.

Soon after delivering the celebrated sermon of the Beatitudes, Jesus was in Capernaum.[2] It was the town where Jesus made his new home after being run out of Nazareth when he proclaimed in a local synagogue that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling of the arrival of the Messiah.[3]

A Roman military officer sent some Jewish elders to approach Jesus with his request to heal his beloved servant.[4] Still at the Roman’ officer’s home, his servant was paralyzed, in terrible pain and near death.

Original Greek text word hekatontarches used in both Matthew and Luke is most frequently translated as “centurion” although it is not the specific Greek word, kenturion, for “centurion.”[5] The actual meaning of hekatontarches is a generic reference to “an officer in the Roman army.”[6] Whether centurion rank or not, he was a high-ranking Gentile officer in the Roman military.

As Jesus neared his home, the Roman military officer sent friends to tell Jesus he was not worthy to allow him into his house, but he recognized a common trait shared with Jesus — each had “authority” to command. The Roman officer believed Jesus could heal his servant by merely commanding it.

MT 8:8-10: “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.

Marveling at the officer, Jesus told the crowd he had never seen such faith as this in Israel. Jesus told the friends of the Roman officer his servant would be healed just as he believed. It was confirmed the servant was healed immediately.[7]

MT 8:10, 13 “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment.” (NASB)

Next encounter with Roman authority was Procurator Pilate who served as the Roman government judge weighing the charges leveled against Jesus by the Jewish leadership. No friend of the Jews, Pilate had twice offended the nation; once by bringing Roman ensigns with effigies of Caesar into Jerusalem and the other by using the “sacred money” of the Jews to construct a Jerusalem aqueduct.

Pilate had to walk a fine line to avoid drawing the negative attention of Tiberius who had committed to honor the decrees of Augustus even though Tiberius himself detested the Jews.[8] Previously, Caesar Augustus had issued a standing decree chiseled into a pillar of the Temple of Caesar to treat the Jews with moderation where anyone who transgressed the decree would be severely punished.[9]

On the surface, it would seem that Pilate would relish being able to crucify a Jew, no less at the behest of the Jewish leaders themselves under the accusation of insurrection and tax evasion. Instead, Pilate repeatedly tried to free Jesus.[10] Crucifixion of Jews was commonplace by the Romans making Pilate’s treatment of the case of Jesus highly unusual.

Taking the accused aside, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?”[11] Jesus confirmed he is a King, but not one of this world. Pilate went back to the Jewish leadership, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” The Jewish leaders, however, continued to press Pilate.

Hearing that Galilee Tetrarch Herod, a son of the late King Herod, happened to be visiting Jerusalem, Pilate sent Jesus to him to be judged under the Tetrach’s Galilean authority. Interrogating Jesus for a considerable length of time while the Jewish legal experts “vehemently” accused him, Herod determined that Jesus had committed no crime and sent him back to Pilate. Addressing the Jewish leadership again, Pilate said:

LK 23:15-16 “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.” (NASB)

Traditionally at the Passover, Rome would pardon a prisoner and as such Pilate represented a choice to the Jewish crowd – a robber, plunderer and murderer named Barabbas or Jesus called the Christ.[12] The crowd shouted back they wanted Barabbas released. Not having any crime to charge, Pilate asked what was to be done with Jesus?[13]

Crying out, “crucify him,” Pilate pushed back on the crowd’s demands again asking, “Why, what evil has He done?”[14] Reaching the point he had no other choice to avoid a riot, Pilate made one more public statement to absolve himself of the mob-motivated killing of an innocent man:[15]

MT 27:24 “So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’” (NRSV)

Jewish religious leaders succeeded in getting what they sought, the execution of Jesus; yet upon seeing the sign on the cross announcing the charge for which Jesus was being crucified, they disliked the sign’s verbiage. Written in the three prevalent languages of Judea – Latin, Arabic and Greek – it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”[16] Complaining to Pilate, they wanted him to add “he said” to the sign, but Pilate refused.

Lastly was the Roman encounter at the crucifixion of Jesus. The Roman centurion, kenturion, in charge of the execution squad became a central figure.[17] The sun failed, the earth quaked and hearing the final words of Jesus, the hardcore Roman centurion made an excited utterance at the death of Jesus:[18]

“Truly this was the Son of God!”

Joseph of Arimathea approach Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus, but Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead and wanted wanted confirmation. It was the responsibility of the centurion in charge of an execution to officially reported to Pilate that, in fact, Jesus was dead. Once his early death was confirmed by the centurion, Pilate approved the centurion to the release of the body of Jesus to Joseph.[19]

Romans typically despised Jews, yet three witnessing Roman government authorities said otherwise. One military commander recognized the authority of Jesus to miraculously heal; another serving as a Roman judge found no guilt in Jesus; and the centurion in charge of his crucifixion exclaimed Jesus was truly the Son of God, killed by crucifixion.

Are the statements of these Romans consistent with the Gospel’s teaching that Jesus is the Messiah?

 

Updated April 14, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Matthew 4:24-25.
[2] Matthew 5-7, 8:5; Luke 7:1.
[3] Isaiah 61:1-2; Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:16-30.
[4] Matthew 8:5-6; Luke 7:2-10.
[5] Mark 15:44. kenturion <2760> Net.Bible.org. n.d. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2760>  “G2760.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2760.html> CR Luke 23.47.
[6] hekatontarches <1543> Net.Bible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=1543>  “G1543.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/1543.html>
[7] CR Luke 7:10.
[8] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XVIII, Chapter III.1-2. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Augustus&f=false>  Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter IX.3-4. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Augustus&f=false>  Calmet, Augustin. Calmet’s Great Dictionary of the Holy Bible. Pilate. 1813. <https://books.google.com/books?id=FgM2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP305&lpg=PP305&dq=Pilate+banished,+Vienne&source=bl&ots=fIZ2ZHY3xl&sig=ACfU3U101WIrN_RVsnslwXcQIHIdEdILGw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiJxYrQpYbnAhUJOisKHZ5HB1gQ6AEwEHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=Pilate%20banished%2C%20Vienne&f=false>
[i9] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities. Book XVI, Chapter VI.2.
[10] Luke 23:2-5, 22; John 18:37; 19:12.
[11] Matthew 27:11; John 18:33.
[12] Matthew 27:15-21; Mark 15:6-11; John 18:39-40. CR Luke 23:18-19.
[13] John 18:38-40.
[14] Matthew 27:23.
[15] Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:22; John 19:1.
[16] John 19:19-22. CR Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38.
[17] Mark 15:44. kenturion <2760> Net.Bible.org. n.d. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2760>  “G2760.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2760.html>  CR Luke 23.47.
[18] Amos 8:9-10; Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39.
[19] Mark 15:44-45. CR Matthew 27:58; Luke 23:52.