I was on a plane from Houston to New Orleans and a older man sat down in the seat next to me. He seemed friendly and we struck up a conversation about the usual stuff (What do you do? etc.). I picked up from the conversation that he was Jewish and active in his synagogue. So I politely asked, “Is there still talk in your synagogue about the coming of the Messiah?” To my surprise he stated that he expected the Jews to eventually recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
I hope he is right. I remain a little doubtful, however.
The Messiah is a person who is foretold in the Old Testament. The number of passages referring to the Messiah is a debated issue. I have heard some claims of over 400. Naturally, the scope of how many passages are considered Messianic shapes one’s expectations of what the Messiah is to be like and what he is to accomplish. Messianic passages don’t necessarily use the word “Messiah” in them.
This topic could be seen as strictly a Jewish concern. But if a person can clearly fulfill a series of prophecies written hundreds if not thousands of years before his birth, everybody should sit up and take notice. Jesus clearly does this, but some would argue that he doesn’t fulfill passages that refer to a victorious Messiah. These passages lead Messiah-seekers to expect a more political if not military-type figure.
Prophecy is not subjective like getting your fortune told. It has very specific details. Still, prophecy is meant to give hope to those who precede the fulfillment but not enough details that they or Satan could interfere with the fulfillment. For those who are contemporaries of the fulfillment or come after it, prophecy allows you to have hindsight that opens your eyes to the working of God. Pre-supposing that you know exactly what a prophecy means before it happens can often lead to blind spots.
So it is with those who reject Jesus as the Messiah. Their presupposition that the Messiah would only serve Jewish political interests greatly diminishes what God had planned. The Messiah came to save all people from the real enemy–Satan himself. His victory was accomplished in a very unconventional and unpredictable fashion–by sacrificing himself for sin. It is all there to be seen in hindsight.
Some elements of the Messiah’s work are still to come. Prophecy can be like a picture without depth. It describes events together that are actually separated by a great deal of time. God’s view of time is very different than ours.
The prophecies foretelling the timing, location, circumstances, miracles, suffering and death of the Messiah would be impossible to fulfill for a mere wanna-be. Jesus is the one who did it.
See a great treatment of specific Messianic prophecies here:40 Prophecies