Been looking at the first couple chapters of Luke during advent and epiphany, today really just setting the stage for what comes next.
Beginning with the psalms, especially psalm 2 but others as well, then carried on by the prophets, there began to develop a picture of what Messiah would be. Messiah in this case means “Mashiach”, the anointed one. Anointed as in “to christen”, it’s actually where we get the word “Christ” from. “Anointed one” means “Messiah” or “Mashiach” in the Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek. Same word, two different languages.
In ancient times of Israel, kings were not crowned, they were anointed. It was not a crown that signified royalty, but oil. The prophet Samuel took a horn of oil and anointed Saul the first king of Israel. Later, he would anoint David king. Very specifically, Messiah means “anointed one”, as in anointed to be king.
In the psalms and prophets, there developed a five-fold expectation of what the Jewish king, the Messiah, would accomplish. Yes, there were kings, but Israel was waiting for a special king who was going to come. He would be like the Son of God. He would be the coming king that would accomplish great things that would change the world.
There were five overarching expectations of messiah. However, none of these expectations went anything like this – “We are waiting for Messiah to come so he can die on a cross, be raised on the third day, so we can be saved and go to heaven when we die.” No one thought anything close to this. This is no where any part of the expectation for Messiah. The Jews, rather, derived their anticipation of messiah from the psalms and prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Old Testament.
Here is the fold job description of Messiah.
1). Messiah would rescue Israel from the tyranny of wicked, evil empires and dictators. Through Israel’s long history they’d often been threatened and dominated by a succession of empires and dictators. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Syrians, the Romans had all joined in on the succession of empires and dictators dominating God’s chosen people. The expectation was that Messiah would rescue Israel from that.
2). Messiah would rebuild the temple. The idea is that the king is closely connected with the structuring or rebuilding of the temple. This is why Herod was so interested in greatly enlarging the temple. Though he was king, Herod was only half Jewish. In other words, Herod was in no way qualified to be king of Israel, but the occupying force appointed him anyway. However, Herod was a great builder. He was a master architect. Maybe as an attempt to establish himself as a true king of Israel to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Herod spent 46 years rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Not because he was a godly or pious man interested in religious things, but because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Jews, and establish that maybe, just maybe, he was, after all, the true Messiah.
3). Messiah would restore righteousness. Righteousness in the Bible can be understood as faithfulness to the covenant. Israel had a long history of being unfaithful to covenant they had with Yahweh, this is why prophets would often refer to Israel as an unfaithful wife, an adulterous woman. Israel was unrighteous in the sense of being unfaithful to the covenant. One of visions of messiah is that he is an Israelite who would act righteously and lead the rest of Israel back into covenant faithfulness with Yahweh.
4). Messiah would rule over the nations. The vision is not just that Messiah would be the king of Israel, but Messiah would have a kingdom to dominate all the other kingdoms. Every knee would bow and every tongue confess Israel’s true king as Messiah. His would be the one world government to overcome all the other governments.
5). Messiah would reveal God to the Gentiles. Not just any God, the the God of Israel, Yahweh, the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Only Israel worships Yahweh. The rest of the nations had a myriad of gods. Messiah would make the God of Israel famous. Gentiles would turn away from Zeus, Baal, Mars, Apollion. Knowledge of Yahweh would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
So we see that Messiah had a big job description. He was to rescue Israel, restore righteousness, rebuild the temple, rule over the nations, and reveal God to the Gentiles.
Luke opens his gospel with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. We also see many signs, Zechariah’s prophecy, Mary’s Magnificat, the angelic announcement to the shepherds, the temple prophecies of Simeon and Anna, all these things indicating the long awaiting king is about to appear.
They’ve been waiting for a thousand years for this very special king to come. Now we have a great rush of activity. The birth of the two babies, all the signs, the flight to Egypt recorded in Matthew. Then all goes quiet again for about thirty years. John and Jesus have to grow up.
When we next see John, he is living out in wilderness. This is in itself is significant. John is the son of Zechariah. His father is a Levite, a priest. The way things work, John is supposed to be a priest, he’s supposed to follow his father in his priestly calling. Yet John lives his lone, ascetic lifestyle. There is a form of protest in this. There is much we don’t get to see in the story as it is given to us. Is his father Zechariah disappointed in John for not living into the family tradition? Is John protesting the temple and priesthood? Is he declaring in his minimalist lifestyle out in the wilderness that the temple is corrupt and he just won’t be a part of it?? I think this is exactly what he is doing…
Jesus is living in Nazareth as the son of a carpenter. Everything is waiting. Israel’s waited a thousand years, so much happened, then it grew quiet again, all is now waiting, waiting. Then Luke Chapter three comes, and as we might say in the twenty first century, it’s on!! Beginning Luke chapter three, things are happening. What happens next is most important stuff to ever happen in the history of the world. After a thousand years of waiting, thirty years after these two babies are born, the world is about to be changed forever.
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'””
Luke 3:1-6 ESV