By Gregg Bing
Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to present Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah. “As He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes'” (Luke 19:41-42). He came to His own people, Israel, but they did not know Him (Acts 13:27). They knew the promise of a Messiah found in the Old Testament Scriptures, but they did not accept Jesus as that Messiah. Could they have known Him? The answer is “Yes,” for “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man” were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Luke 18:31).
Israel could have known WHERE their Messiah would be born. The prophet Micah wrote, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The Jews might have reasoned that this One anointed to be their Deliverer and King would be born in the capital city of Jerusalem, or at least one of the larger, more important cities. This is what the wise men from the East expected (Matt. 2:1-2). But, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, one of the thousands of small towns in Judah, just as God’s prophet foretold.
Israel could have known HOW their Messiah would be born. Isaiah, called by many “the prince of prophets,” wrote, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Israel’s promised Messiah was to have a miraculous birth, conceived and born of a virgin. He was to be called Immanuel, which means “God with us,” for the Messiah was to be the Son of God made flesh (John 1:14). The virgin birth meant He would be “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4) and, thus, would not inherit the sin or sin nature passed down from Adam (Rom. 5:12), something that was critical for what He came to do.
Israel could have known WHO their Messiah was. We have already seen from Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 that Israel’s promised Messiah was to be very God Himself, but Isaiah declared this fact even more strongly: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). The coming of their Messiah would be marked by the birth of a Child, but it would also be the giving of a Son, God’s Son. This is why He would be called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” The Messiah was certainly to be Israel’s King, the “Prince of Peace” who would sit “upon the throne of David” (Isa. 9:7), but He was much more than just a Man—He was the eternal Son of God. Yet, the Jewish rulers, who had the greatest opportunity to study the Scriptures of the prophets, did not understand this truth (Matt. 22:41-46).
Israel could even have known WHEN their Messiah would come. Daniel prophesied that seventy weeks (literally “sevens”), or 490 years, were determined upon the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24-27). This time period began when the command was issued to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls and streets of Jerusalem in 445 B.C. The end of the 69th seven occurred 483 years later with “Messiah the Prince” in A.D. 29, when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and officially presented Himself as Israel’s Messiah. But when “He came to His own, His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
Israel could have known WHAT their Messiah would do. The prophet Isaiah, speaking as the voice of Israel’s promised Messiah, wrote: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord …” (Isa. 61:1-2a). Jesus read this very passage of Scripture in the synagogue in Nazareth, the town He grew up in, and then declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). During His three year earthly ministry, Jesus did all the things Israel’s Messiah was sent to do: He preached good tidings, the gospel of the kingdom, to the people of Israel; He healed all kinds of disease and infirmity; He cast out demons from those who were possessed; He provided liberty and freedom to those bound by sin; He proclaimed “the acceptable year of the Lord.” Yet, neither the people of Israel nor their rulers accepted Him.
The fact that Israel would not know their Messiah and would, therefore, reject Him, is a key part of WHY their Messiah came. God used Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ to accomplish His ultimate purpose in sending His Son into the world—to die on the cross as a sacrifice for sins. Even this truth is prophesied in the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. Verses 1-3 describe how the Messiah would be rejected by men (cf. John 1:11). Verses 4-6 state that the Messiah would suffer for the sins of others (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24). Verses 7-9 stress that the Messiah would voluntarily lay down His life for His people (cf. John 10:11-18). Verses 10-12 conclude with the fact that the Lord would be pleased with His sacrifice and through it many would be justified (cf. Rom. 3:24-26).
Israel did not know Him, though the prophets foretold in great detail the coming of their Messiah. They rejected Jesus and crucified Him, thus accomplishing what God purposed through Him. Sadly, today, when we have the full revelation of God’s Word and clear teaching of the meaning of the Cross, when the events prophesied to Israel concerning their Messiah are now historical facts, we find that most people in the world still do not know Him.
Christmas, the day set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior, has become merely a time for family gatherings, office parties, food, drinks, gift-giving, and sales quotas. Most people, even many who consider themselves Christians, while they speak of and sing about the Babe in the manger, don’t see Him for who He truly is, the eternal Son of God, and they don’t understand what He came to do, die on the cross for our sins.
Just as the Jews of Jesus’ day, the majority of people in the world today “don’t know the things which make for their peace.” They don’t understand that the only way to have peace with God and peace in their hearts is through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1-2).
Do you know this wonderful Person, not just as a Babe in the manger, but as your personal Savior? If you don’t, you can come to know Him today and be saved from your sins, not through your own goodness or through your own good works, but by simple faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is the gift of God, but it must be received by faith, by believing the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world and “died for your sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).