Before we move to the final question of the Hidden Messiah series, let us review and sum up the ideas we have discussed so far, in order to follow the logic of this study. In the series of articles I’ve presented here, we first looked at the Messianic Secret of the New Testament against its Jewish background; we then followed the idea of the hidden and revealed Messiah through Luke-Acts; then finally, we learned the profound lessons found in the transitional chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 24), by discerning the important keys.
Our first post –As Though Hiding His Face From Us – defined the Messianic secret: the fact that in the Gospels, Yeshua is frequently portrayed as seeking to maintain secrecy about his own person and work throughout his public ministry (sometimes even openly discouraging use of the title ‘Messiah’). The messiahship of Yeshua is something the author and the readers know, but the original participants of the Gospels did not know. We began our study by looking at this puzzling feature of the Gospels against its Jewish background and seeking an explanation of this New Testament quandary in the Jewish thought of the time.
That is why, in the next two posts – Transcendental Savior in Heaven and Unrecognized Messiah – we showed that referring to the coming of the Messiah as hidden and revealed could be considered as representative of first century (A.D.) Judaism. In order to prove this statement, we looked at the evidence from different streams and representatives of this Judaism. We saw something very intriguing in these texts: that in the book of Enoch, written in approximately the 1st century BC, Messiah is hidden in heaven, but then in the rabbinic literature beginning from 1AD, we see Messiah already hidden and unrecognized on the earth. We understand, therefore, that the theme of Messiah hidden in heaven and then coming to the earth, was part of intertestamental Judaism. It is at this point that we moved to the New Testament.
Our two next posts were called: Messiah hidden and revealed in Luke-Acts (1 and 2). Here, in the New Testament scriptures, we could see a direct reflection of the same theme that had been dimly reflected in the previous texts: the Messiah from heaven coming to earth (do you remember the song “You came from Heaven to Earth”?)- but still remaining hidden until the appointed time came. The two volumes of Luke provide a unique opportunity to follow the development of this theme of Messiah – ‘before’ and ‘after’ – hidden in heaven from the beginning, comes to earth, but continues to remain hidden until the appointed time, and then, after the appointed time, he is revealed. The same author, while writing about Jesus’ earthly life, consistently portrays him concealing his messianic identity, whereas in Acts he proclaims his messiahship loudly and publicly. In order to explain this sudden change, we needed to suggest two things: First, that some crucial event happened between these two pieces, and second, that for some reason, after this event the messiahship of Jesus was revealed. We all know the obvious answer to the first part: the crucial event that happened between the main part of the Gospel and Acts was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Then, our question became: why? Why did His death and resurrection mark such a clear-cut border, such an obvious demarcation line, between “before” and “after”? Why did Jesus have to remain the hidden Messiah during his earthly life, only to be revealed after His resurrection?
In order to unlock this mystery, we needed the keys. At this point, we turned to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and introduced the five keys of this transitional chapter (Luke 24) – the crucial keys for understanding the story of the hidden and revealed Messiah.
Key number one: restrained eyes: No one but God Himself can restrain or open spiritual eyes. It was His decision and His alone, both in the case of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose eyes He opened and who finally did recognize Him, and in those cases where the eyes of people remained restrained and they did not recognize Him.
Key number two: to make the latent visible: Until the developer does its job, the latent image remains invisible, and it takes God’s Spirit to “develop” the Scriptures; it takes God to retell the story; it takes God to make the latent image visible.
Key number three: as though: The Lord cannot reveal His love until His plan is completed. Hence, often enough God acts as though. However, it is always our decision whether we trust our eyes or our hearts.
Key number four: blessing the bread: Yeshua is recognized while breaking the bread and this became the sign of both His messianic dignity and His suffering. The Messiah had to suffer death and rise again – and only then did the appointed time come for His messiahship to be revealed.
Key number five: and their eyes were opened: This is the culmination, not only of the whole story about the disciples, but of the whole Gospel as well. The striking symmetry between the phrase: their eyes were opened in Luke 24, as against their eyes were opened in Genesis 3, helped us to understand the crucial change in the status of the universe when Yeshua was recognized as Messiah.
Thus in his two volume work, Luke illuminates for us a major, global change which happened between the Gospel and Acts, after Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
The story of Emmaus provides an excellent transition from the first volume to the second volume of Luke’s writing – from one era to another – from Messiah visible, but hidden (not revealed and not recognized), to Messiah revealed (recognized), but invisible. During His earthly life, He had been concealed, and only after the resurrection did His messiahship become, not only well-known to His disciples, but also openly and loudly proclaimed to everybody from the housetops. And this means, first of all, that although he had been visible while He walked on the Land of Israel, He was hidden from His countrymen because their eyes were restrained. They were restrained by the sovereign God alone, because nobody else can restrict the eyes. Thus we arrive to our final question in this study: Why was Yeshua hidden from Israel?