3 - The Earthly Messiah

There was a misunderstanding among the Jews of biblical times (and continues to this day for the majority of Jews) as to what the Messiah would be like when He came to earth. Many prophecies foretold of a conquering king who would free the Jewish people from oppression. However, there were also prophecies that spoke of a different kind of Messiah. It is these latter prophecies that I will discuss in this and the next chapter.

God gave the prophet Isaiah many prophecies concerning the Messiah. He refers to the Messiah in various places as the "Branch" of the Lord and the "Servant" of the Lord. I will deal with the former appellation in this chapter and Chapter 7 and the latter in the next chapter.

I will be quoting two sections of prophetic passages from the Book of Isaiah. They are representative of the prophecies concerning the Messiah's life on earth.

Isaiah wrote:

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the Spirit of

the LORD shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and

understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit

of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD."

- Isaiah 11:1-2

The first part of this verse declares that the Messiah will be of the lineage of King David whose father was Jesse. It goes on to say that the Messiah will have God's Holy Spirit dwelling inside Him and that it will be manifested through Him. This can only mean that there will be something unique about Him. God will clearly be seen as working in the Messiah. He will have God's Spirit, God's wisdom, God's understanding, God's power, God's knowledge, and an understanding of whom God is.

Fulfillment by Jesus Christ:

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of

David, the son of Abraham...And Jesse begat David the

king...And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of

whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."1

The Gospel of Matthew gives an abbreviated genealogy of Jesus that shows He descended from Jesse and his son King David. The next passage will demonstrate that God's Spirit was indeed manifested in Jesus:

"Then came Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be

baptized of him...And Jesus, when He was baptized, went

up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were

opened unto Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending

like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from

heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well


"And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from

Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being

forty days tempted of the Devil...And Jesus returned in

the power of the Spirit into Galilee and there went out a

fame of Him through all the region round about."3

The people of Jesus' day recognized that He had the fullness of God's Spirit residing in Him. They also clearly saw God's wisdom working through Him. Jesus had gone to the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles and was teaching the multitude. As He finished speaking the Jewish Temple guard sought to arrest Him but instead were in awe at the wisdom of His words:

"So there was a division among the people because of

[Jesus]. And some of them would have taken Him; but

no man laid hands on Him. Then came the officers to the

chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why

have ye not brought Him? The officers answered, Never

man spoke like this man."4

Even the enemies of Jesus recognized that God was speaking through Him. It was after this divisive teaching that some of the Jews declared Jesus to be the Prophet spoken of by Moses.

That Jesus had the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God was revealed to those who did not believe in Him:

"But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and

reasoning in their hearts, Why does this man thus speak

blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only? And

immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so

reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, Why

reason you these things in your hearts?"5

"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they

might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him

their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we

know that Thou art true, and teach the way of God in truth,

neither care Thou for any man: for Thou regardest not

the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest Thou?

Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus

perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye Me,

you hypocrites?"6

Jesus understood exactly what others were thinking and feeling. This type of knowledge is only possible by the Spirit of God.

Jesus manifested the might or power of God in many ways. I will mention only a couple of them.

"And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve

years, And had suffered many things of many physicians,

and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered,

but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came

in the press behind, and touched His garment...And

straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and

she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And

Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had

gone out of Him."7

Only the power of God can miraculously heal health problems that human beings have suffered since the beginning of man's history. This woman had been to many doctors yet in this case, they had been unable to heal her. She was healed by simply touching Jesus' garment because of who He was.

Jesus exhibited another aspect of God's power that resided in Him while He was with the disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee:

"And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples

followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in

the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the

waves: but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him

and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And He

said unto them, Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?

Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and

there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying,

What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the

sea obey Him!"8

There is a saying that everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it. In the verse above, eyewitnesses saw Jesus miraculously change the weather, an act that is only possible by the power of God.

Events such as these led the disciples of Jesus to believe that He had the power of God and was the Messiah. The New Testament records many miracles that Jesus performed while He was on the earth. The apostle John mentions many miracles that Jesus did that were not written down, "This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written"9 It was the miracles that Jesus' followers had personally observed that caused them to willingly die for these beliefs because they knew they were true.10

The last point on this section has to do with Jesus' knowledge of God, knowledge that Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would have.

Jesus had just finished miraculously feeding a multitude of more than five thousand men, women, and children with just five loaves of bread and two fish. This miracle once again led some of the Jewish people to declare that Jesus was the Messiah spoken of by Moses: "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone."11 The next day Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee where He once again taught the multitudes. He is telling them about His relationship with God, His Father:

"For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will,

but the will of Him that sent Me...No man can come to

Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him: and I

will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the

prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man

therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father,

comes unto Me. Not that any man has seen the Father,

except He which is of God, He has seen the Father."12

In the Old Testament Moses had made a request of God to see His glory. God responded: "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And He said, You can not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live."13 Jesus was born of a human woman yet He was able to see the Father and live. As I pointed out in the last chapter, there was a divine aspect to the birth of Jesus. He had come down from heaven where He had seen and known the Father.

The following verses illustrate that Jesus had a unique knowledge of God such as the Messiah would have according to Isaiah:

"I am one that bears witness of Myself, and the Father that

sent Me bears witness of Me. Then said they unto Him,

Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, You neither know

Me, nor My Father: if you had known Me, you should have

known My Father also."14

"Then said they unto Him, Who art thou? And Jesus said

unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the

beginning. I have many things to say and to judge of you:

but He that sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those

things which I have heard of Him. They understood not

that He spoke to them of the Father. Then said Jesus unto

them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall

you know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but

as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. And He

that sent Me is with Me: the Father has not left Me alone;

for I do always those things that please Him. As He spoke

these words, many believed on Him."15

"As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father: and I

lay down My life for the sheep."16 

"If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I

do, though you believe not Me, believe the works: that you

may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in


"Jesus said unto Him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:

no man comes unto the Father, but by Me. If you had

known Me, you should have known My Father also: and

from henceforth you know Him, and have seen Him."18

Jesus had knowledge of God unlike anyone before or since He came to earth. After hearing Him and seeing the miracles that He performed, many people did indeed declare Him the Messiah.

Another prophecy of Isaiah foretold of the acts that the Messiah would perform when He came to earth:

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the

LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the

meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to

proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the

prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable

year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to

comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn

in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy

for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of

heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified."

- Isaiah 61:1-3

As we saw in the first prophecy listed above, the Spirit of God was to be manifested through the Messiah. Here again Isaiah prophesies that the Spirit of God would be seen in the Messiah.

The interesting wording of this passage is written in such a way that the Messiah is speaking in the first person here. The key phrase is "the LORD has anointed Me". The word "anointed" is translated from the Hebrew word "mashach" which is the root of the Hebrew word "mashiach". It is from this second word that we get the English translation "Messiah". The translation of this latter word into Greek is "christos" from which we get the English word "Christ".

According to this passage, the Messiah will preach the good news (i.e., "gospel" in the New Testament) to the humble. He will also heal those that are hurting and proclaim freedom to those who are in bondage. He will give hope to those who are downcast and grieving. He will announce that the time of God's will for suffering humanity is at hand.

Fulfillment by Jesus Christ:

At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ quoted this prophecy in a synagogue in Nazareth:

"And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought

up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on

the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was

delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And

when He had opened the book, He found the place where it

was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He

has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has

sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance

to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set

at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable

year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it

again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all

them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him.

And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture

fulfilled in your ears."19

The last line of this verse was earthshaking to the Jewish listeners in the synagogue. Jesus was clearly claiming that He was the fulfillment of this Messianic prophecy. This did not sit well with the Jews who were there. Their wrath and indignation welled up within them and they grabbed Him and led Him to a nearby cliff to throw Him off the edge. The Gospel writer merely states that Jesus was able to depart from the midst of them and go His way.

The New Testament testifies clearly that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus. As I already noted, Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit20 and thus was always full of the Spirit during His life. However, it seems that God gave Him a special anointing of the Holy Spirit at His baptism to begin His ministry: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."21

After this episode, Jesus went about accomplishing the things that Isaiah spoke of. He started His ministry in Galilee which was the fulfillment of another prophecy given to Isaiah, "Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined."22

"Now when Jesus had heard that John [the Baptist] was

cast into prison, He departed into Galilee; And leaving

Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is

upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and

Nephthalim...From that time Jesus began to preach, and

to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."23

It was in Galilee where Jesus started preaching the "good tidings" to the people and started healing "the brokenhearted" and delivering "the captives" from sin and sickness:

"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their

synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and

healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease

among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria:

and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken

with divers diseases and torments, and those which were

possessed with devils, and those which were lunatics, and

those that had the palsy; and He healed them."24

The Gospels in the New Testament are full of healing miracles that Jesus performed while He was on the earth. However, I will not take the time to list them here. Suffice it to say, there were many eyewitnesses to miraculous deeds that Jesus did.

I do want to mention one other event that took place to illustrate how religious leaders of that day misunderstood Jesus' mission on earth. It pertains to the last section of the prophecy under discussion here which states that the Messiah will: "...comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness...".

There was a tragic woman who was overcome by the sins that she had committed in her life. She came to Jesus distraught by the life that she had lived. The Gospel writer Luke relates the story:

"And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat

with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house, and sat

down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was

a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the

Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

And stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to

wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs

of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with

the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden

Him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, This man, if

He were a prophet, would have known who and what

manner of woman this is that touches Him: for she is a

sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have

somewhat to say unto you. And he said, Master, say on.

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the

one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when

they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell

Me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon

answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave

most. And He said unto him, You have rightly judged. And

He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou

this woman? I entered into your house, you gave Me no

water for My feet: but she has washed My feet with tears,

and wiped them with the hairs of her head. You gave Me no

kiss: but this woman since the time I came in has not

ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil you did not anoint:

but this woman has anointed My feet with ointment.

Wherefore I say unto you, Her sins, which are many, are

forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven,

the same loves little. And He said unto her, Your sins are

forgiven. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say

within themselves, Who is this that forgives sins also? And

He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in


The saddest part of this story is that the religious leader, Simon, did not see past his own understanding of what the Messiah would be like. He, like most of the religious leaders, was probably expecting the Messiah to come and triumph over the Roman government. He ignored or rationalized prophecies such as this one in Isaiah that spoke of the Messiah being merciful and compassionate to the downtrodden.

There were however, those people who did see in Jesus' ministry the work of the promised Messiah:

"And many of the people believed on Him, and said, When

Messiah comes, will He do more miracles than these which

this man has done?"26


Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus manifested the wisdom of God, the knowledge of God, the power of God, the mercy of God, and the love of God. All of these characteristics were a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament.

In the next chapter, I will show that not only would the Messiah not come in triumph the first time but also that He would suffer and be killed at the hands of humanity.


1   Matthew 1:1-16

2   Matthew 3:13, 16-17

3   Luke 4:1-2a, 14

4   John 7:43-46

5   Mark 2:6-8

6   Matthew 22:15-18

7   Matthew 5:25-27, 29-30

8   Matthew 8:23-27

9   John 21:24-25

10  -The New Testament records the death of the apostle James,

     son of Zebedee: "Now about that time Herod the king

     stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And

     he killed James the brother of John with the sword"

    (Acts 12:1-2).

     -The Jewish historian, Josephus, described the death of

    James, the brother of Jesus:"...Ananus, who, as we have told

     you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his

     temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the

     Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all

     the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when,

     therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had

     now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus

     was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he

    assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them

     the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was

     James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and

     when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers

     of the law, he delivered them to be stoned" ["Antiquities of

     the Jews", Book XX, Ch. IX, Sec. 1].

    - The early church historian Eusebius (ca. 300 A.D.) wrote of

     the apostle Peter's death: "Meanwhile the holy apostles and

     disciples of our Saviour were dispersed throughout the world

     ...Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia,

     Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion.

     And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-

     downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this

     way" ["History of the Church", Book 3, Sec. 1].

     -The secular Roman historian Tacitus recorded the persecution

     of the early Christians by Nero who made them the scapegoat

     for the fire that burned Rome in 64 A.D.: "But all human

     efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the

     propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that

     the conflagration was the result of an order [i.e., by Nero].

     Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt

     and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for

     their abominations, called Christians by the populace.

     Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the

     extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of

     one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus" ["The Annals",

     Tacitus, ca. 109 A.D.]

11  John 6:14-15

12  John 6:38, 44-46 

13  Exodus 33:19-20

14  John 8:18-19

15  John 8:25-30

16  John 10:15

17  John 10:38

19  John 14:6-7

19  Luke 4:16:21

20  Matthew 1:20

21  Matthew 3:13-17

22  Isaiah 9:1-2

23  Matthew 4:12-13, 17

24  Matthew 4:23-24

25  Luke 7:36-50

26  John 7:31

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