To some, Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) seems like an unlikely candidate for the promised Messiah of Israel. Nearly 2,000 years ago, he was executed by Roman crucifixion after being rejected by the ruling council in Israel. His followers claimed he rose from the dead, fulfilling prophecy in the Tanakh. He then departed from Israel (and the rest of the world) but with a promise to return.
Messianic hope has centered around G-d’s Anointed One being a political deliverer who would free Israel from gentile oppression and usher in a never-ending period of Israeli (and worldwide) peace. If Yeshua was the Messiah, he certainly did not fulfill that hope. How, then, could he possibly be G-d’s Anointed?
Another way to pose the question is to ask: Did G-d give any scriptural evidence that the Messiah would initially be rejected by Israel, then depart from her for a long span of time, and finally return as her Redeemer?
Interestingly, the lives of two prominent Hebrews closely fit such a pattern …
Joseph was rejected by his brothers, the sons of Israel. As a result of this rejection, he was separated from them for many years. When they saw him again, the sons of Israel did not initially recognize him as one of their own, but rather as merely a gentile ruler. And the one whom they had rejected became their savior in the end, making provision for the entire house of Israel during a time of great famine. Joseph concluded that what his brothers had meant for evil, G-d had meant for good.
Moses’ life followed a similar pattern. The children of Israel considered him merely a gentile ruler, and not as one of their own. He, too, like Joseph, was initially rejected. As a result, he went away for many years and was separated from his people. When he finally returned to them, G-d used him as their redeemer, freeing them from Egyptian bondage.
Are G-d’s back-to-back accounts of the lives of Joseph (Genesis 37-41) and Moses (Exodus 1-12) merely coincidental in their similarity? Both men were initially rejected by Israel; both were separated from their people for many years; both were used by G-d to redeem Israel in a time of great need. Could not G-d have been using the lives of Joseph and Moses to point to the ultimate Redeemer of Israel?
The biblical accounts of Joseph and Moses would explain how the true Messiah of Israel could be rejected by His own people, leave them for many years and yet one day return as their national Deliverer. The life of Yeshua of Nazareth fits that scenario, closely paralleling the lives of Joseph and Moses. In fact, a Grecian Jew of the first century CE, named Stephen, used the lives of Joseph and Moses as testimony (two witnesses) before the Sanhedrin that Yeshua was indeed the promised Messiah, and that his life was perfectly foreshadowed in the Tanakh (see the Book of Acts, chapters 6 and 7).
But what of Yeshua’s crucifixion? Did G-d give any scriptural evidence that His Anointed One (His Son; see Psalm 2) might be executed?
An example that Yeshua himself used was the bronze snake which Moses nailed to a pole (Numbers 21:5-9). Whenever an Israelite was bitten by a poisonous serpent, he or she could look at the bronze snake and live. This event, Yeshua said, was a foreshadowing of his own death by crucifixion (being nailed to a pole). He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) and became a sin offering for us (Isaiah 53). The contrast to the story in Numbers is that those who look to Yeshua would be granted eternal life rather than physical life.
Even stronger evidence comes in the binding of Isaac. Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his son whom he loved, his one and only son. The New Covenant Scriptures use the exact same language to speak of the sacrifice of Yeshua. G-d was sacrificing His one and only Son (Psalm 2; John 1:14), whom He loved. And, just as Yeshua carried the wooden beam for his execution, Isaac carried the wood that would be used for his sacrifice. Many other parallels exist between the two accounts. Most striking is that when Isaac asked about the animal for the offering, Abraham responded that G-d Himself would provide the lamb (Genesis 22:8). G-d indeed stopped Abraham from going through with the sacrifice of Isaac and provided an animal substitute, but the animal was a ram, not a lamb. Could Abraham’s prophetic word have been fulfilled, then, by Yeshua the “Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)?
There are many scriptures from the Prophets which Yeshua’s life fulfilled. But we close by considering the sacrifice system under Moses. This, like the binding of Isaac, could have been G-d’s way of showing that the Messiah would be sacrificed. The Pesach lamb, the kippurim and the many bulls and goats used as part of the sacrificial system show that salvation had to come by way of sacrificial blood. As we know, one could not enter G-d’s presence (the Holy of Holies) without a blood covering. Of Yeshua it is said …
“For Messiah did not enter a holy place made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of G-d for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:24-26
Yeshua of Nazareth is the perfect candidate for the Messiah of Israel. The lives of Joseph and Moses are indications of what the Messiah’s life would look like. The Messiah must be initially rejected by Israel and go away for many years before He will redeem her. Also, the binding of Isaac and the sacrificial system are indications of what the Messiah would do. He must offer His life for the salvation of others.
“Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son’s name? Surely you know!”Proverbs 30:4