As some of my readers will no doubt remember, we discussed a messianic secret of the Gospels some time ago, termed the Hidden Messiah. Last week, we went back to this topic and realized, once again, that Jesus had been avoiding the title of Messiah throughout the Gospels. We saw Jesus carefully avoiding this title even while talking to his disciples: When he asked them: “But who do you say I am”? – and Peter answered and said, “The Christ (Messiah – JB) of God”, instead of confirming Peter’s revelation, as we read in Matthew, in Luke he strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things…” Even with his disciples, He was still very careful not to say: The Christ (Messiah) must suffer many things – as one might expect him to say.
Of course, we asked the question: Why? Why didn’t He call himself Messiah? Why did He prefer to express His mission in different terms – by the term of “Son of Man”? As we began to address this question, we realized that the answer was related to the Messianic expectations of Israel: Jesus was not the ‘Messiah’ of Jewish conception, He didn’t come to fit the Jewish expectations of Messiah; as Messiah, He was hidden from Israel, and that is precisely the reason why He didn’t call Himself Messiah.
This discrepancy between the ministry of Jesus and messianic expectations of His contemporaries can be seen in all the Gospels. In my opinion, however, nowhere does it become clearer than in the first chapters of Luke’s Gospel. More than any other Gospel, Luke presents Jesus against the background of His own people and their expectations, and as his story unfolds, this disparity becomes more and more obvious. At the very beginning of this Gospel, we still see the full correspondence between the promise given to Miriam (Mary) by the angel Gabriel, and the popular expectations of a royal Messiah from the line of David. Two streams coming out from the same spring, but gradually diverging one from another: Jewish understanding of the prophecies given to Israel, and that which became Christian understanding of these prophecies and their fulfillment, – are still together here. At this point, the difference is almost unrecognizable: the promise given by the angel to Miriam fits perfectly with the expectations of the people: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
However, on the very next page we can see the seeds of the coming discrepancy. When being filled with the Holy Spirit Zacharias prophesies over his newborn son Yochanan (John the Baptist), he is saying that “God hath visited and redeemed his people… That we should be saved from all our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.” Like almost everyone in Israel, Zacharias believed that Messiah would save the land and the people from all their enemies and oppressors and would bring complete redemption and restoration to Israel.
We find the same picture in the second Chapter. It was a very hard period in Israel at that time; the hand of Rome was heavy upon God’s people, and the nation could barely carry the yoke which Rome and the High Priest had placed upon them. No wonder everybody was speaking about the coming of Messiah—hoping and believing that the footsteps of the deliverer had been heard already. When, along with Joseph and Miriam, we enter the Women’s Court of the Temple in Jerusalem to present the baby to the Lord, as they offer a sacrifice for their firstborn according to the Torah of Moses, we find there righteous and devout people waiting for the consolation of Israel, like Simeon and Anna. For those waiting every moment for a messiah to come and to save Israel, they certainly would not have recognized God’s “salvation, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”, in this tiny baby. When we see Anna thanking God and bringing good news to all them that looked for redemption in Yerushalaim, we understand that there were many such people. When Jesus stepped into the world of His people, this waiting for the consolation of Israel and looking for redemption were indeed the main characteristics of this era! And whatever people around Him might have thought of this special child, as he waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, no doubt it was in full accord with the typical Jewish hope for a Messiah who would bring redemption and restoration to the people of Israel. While we see Him against this hope of His people – while Jesus is thought to be the answer to these messianic expectations – He was increasing in favour, not only with God, but also with men.
But in the third chapter something new and unexpected happens, as though the narrative acquires a new dimension. According to Jewish thought, the Davidic Messiah would be human, like all mortals: “He is a thoroughly human being whose kingdom will be established upon the earth with its center in Jerusalem.” (Justin Martyr put this clearly into the mouth of Trypho the Jew, thus: “We Jews all expect that the Messiah will be a man of purely human origin.”) But here, Heaven opens over Jesus and the voice coming from Heaven – Bat-Kol – proclaims: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Ata Bni Yadidi – God Himself confirms the supernatural, transcendent, heavenly nature of this man. From now on, Jesus would never fit the messianic expectations of the people around Him; the whole story of supposed-to-be redeemer takes on a new dimension that nobody thought to have in this story. All of a sudden, this worldly, national and political picture of Messiah is flooded by the heavenly light of eternal and transcendent Savior—and this light changed the picture completely. The ministry begun at this point, and presented by the prophet from Nazareth, differed completely from the general conception which the Rabbis had formed of the Messiah – the conception clearly based on Hebrew Scripture. Out of faithfulness to God and His Word, the people of Israel simply could not accept Jesus as their Messiah, since, in their understanding, this would have contradicted their Scriptures. This was the veil restraining their eyes, and this veil could be lifted or removed by God alone: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
From this time on, we see the growing conflict between what the Messiah was expected to do by the people, and what Jesus’ ministry really was.. As the Gospel proceeds, it becomes more and more obvious that He is not the Messiah of Jewish conception, but He describes His mission in completely different terms, and derives it from a completely different source. What could this source possibly be? In our next post, we will seek an answer to this question.
 Luke 2:25
 Luke 2:38
 Luke 2:40
 Luke 2:52
 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Ch.49
 Luke 3:22