Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Jewish Hope Rich Nathan December 6-7, 2003 Advent 2003: Jesus in Three-Part Harmony Matthew 1-4

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1 Edited December 10, 2003 Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Jewish Hope Rich Nathan December 6-7, 2003 Advent 2003: Jesus in Three-Part Harmony Matthew 1-4 In the Friday Columbus Dispatch, I wrote an article that may generate a little controversy here in Central Ohio. I wouldn t be surprised to read some very upset letters on the editorial page in response to my article. By the way, there are copies of the article on some tables in the back. You are free to pick one up, if you haven t read it. But in the article I asked the very simple question: Can you still be Jewish if you believe in Jesus? As I point out the question whether you can still be Jewish if you believe in Jesus is an ironic one from a historical perspective. Because of Jesus Jewishness and the Jewishness of Jesus followers, it was simply assumed until the first century that believing in Jesus was a Jewish thing. Most Jews today and most Gentiles, in fact most churchgoers, do not understand how thoroughly rooted in Old Testament Judaism the mission of Jesus, and indeed, the whole New Testament is. A wonderful woman by the name Edith Schaeffer wrote a book a number of years ago titled Christianity is Jewish. She got it just about right. Apart from some of the traditions that the church added, this little Jewish movement spread to the Gentile world. At its foundation, at its roots, Christianity is Jewish. Again, it is important to point out because I think that many of us forget this, Jesus was as thoroughgoing a Jew as anyone whoever lived. In fact, Jesus wouldn t have responded to the name Jesus, if you yelled it across a busy street to him. He was known in his time as Yeshua, which we would translate in English, Joshua. As good and solid an Old Testament Jewish name as ever there was. He was named Yeshua for the Jewish hero, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. And this was a prefiguring of Jesus own mission to lead his own people into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is simply the Greek version of his Hebrew name. But the one we call Jesus was born to Jewish parents. He was raised in a Jewish community. He attended Jewish synagogues weekly. He celebrated the Jewish holidays at the Jewish temple. He kept a kosher home. He almost certainly never ate pork. You will not find Jesus sitting down eating a ham sandwich. He read and studied the Hebrew Bible that we call the Old Testament. He loved and prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He died with the words of the Hebrew Scriptures on his lips. Rich Nathan 2003

2 All of the men Jesus chose as his twelve apostles Jewish! The number twelve, of course, was Jesus clearly symbolic act of calling into being the new Israel with twelve new patriarchs. Just like in the Old Testament during the formation of the first Israel, there were twelve patriarchs. Jesus chose twelve followers to begin his new Israel, and they were all Jews! Thousands of Jews then, and it is conservatively estimated that there are between 200, ,000 Jews today believe that Jesus is the long awaited Jewish Messiah sent by the God of Israel. And do you know that more Jews believe in Jesus today, and this movement is growing at a faster rate, than at any time since the time of Jesus 2000 years ago. It is the fastest growing religious movement in Judaism. Among those Jews who believe in Jesus, I would add myself. Both of my parents are Jewish. I was raised in a Jewish community. I attended a conservative Jewish synagogue every single week while I was growing up. I went to a Jewish Day School as a child, in which I learned Hebrew for half a day, five days a week. Then when I went to public school, I attended Hebrew High School. I was bar mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage, when I was 13. I celebrated all the Jewish holidays growing up major ones like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanna (which is the Jewish New Year), Sukkot (which is the Feast of Tabernacles), Passover, as well as the minor holidays like Hannukah, and Purim. Like the apostle Paul, I would stack my Jewish credentials against most American Jews. The hundreds of thousands of Jews today who believe in Jesus are, to a large degree, an embarrassment to the rabbis. In fact, rabbis would say that I am no longer Jewish. The rabbis would say that you cannot be Jewish, if you believe in Jesus. To which, I would ask, as the apostle Paul who was a Jewish rabbi asked, Who really is a Jew? What makes you Jewish? Is enjoying lox and bagels with a shmear of cream cheese enough to make you a Jew? Is knowing a few Yiddish words, like shmear, and using them appropriately enough to make you a Jew? Is it enough to attend synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur? According to a recent Harris poll, 52% of Jews in America don t even believe in God. 52% of Jews in America have rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet, every Jew who believes in Jesus loves the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Who is the real Jew? The numbers are at least the same in Israel. The State of Israel is a profoundly secular state. Israeli Jews reject the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some Jews practice Eastern meditation, or Zen Buddhism. Some Jews oppose the State of Israel. Yet rabbis single out one type of Jew and exclude them from Judaism Jews who believe in Jesus. Rich Nathan

3 I want to challenge that idea today. I would suggest to you that there is nothing more Jewish than believing in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Let me tell you about a Jewish man you ve probably never heard about. His name was Daniel Zion. He was the chief rabbi of Bulgaria during the Holocaust. He was instrumental in saving thousands of Jewish lives during that horrible time in Jewish history. Some settled in Israel after the war. Yet Zion s name is almost entirely unfamiliar to Jews because Daniel Zion, the chief rabbi of Bulgaria during the Holocaust, was a believer in Jesus, known as Yeshua. During the days of Nazi occupation in Bulgaria, David Zion was publicly beaten and humiliated. And all of this time, he was a believer in Jesus. On one occasion, he received a vision from Jesus in which the Lord told him to warn the Bulgarian King Boris not to submit to Nazi pressure to deliver the Bulgarian Jews over to the Poles and to German death camps. This warning was delivered to the King in writing one day before Boris went to Germany to meet with Hitler. The king refused to submit to Hitler s demands. And of all of the nations in Europe, Bulgaria protected the Jews most of all during the Holocaust and had the fewest Jews murdered. This was due to the work of Daniel Zion. In fact, Daniel Zion was so highly respected by orthodox leaders in Israel, that in 1954 the chief rabbi of Israel, Toledano, offered Daniel Zion a position as a judge in Jerusalem s rabbinic court. The only obstacle was Daniel Zion s belief in Jesus. Rabbi Toledano said that he could be on the rabbinic court, if he kept his beliefs in Jesus to himself. Daniel Zion couldn t agree to that demand. He said, I will give up all of my earthly honors, including this great honor of being on the rabbinic court, for the sake of my Messiah, who I love. Stripped of the title rabbi, in the rabbinic court, he continued to serve as the rabbi of the Bulgarian Jews in Israel until Daniel Zion died in 1979 at the age of 96 firm in his commitment to Jesus as Messiah. He lived life as a Jew, following Jewish traditions, he never considered himself to be a Christian. Can anyone say that Daniel Zion was not more of a Jew than most Jews in America or Israel today? Today I want to offer you a very personal talk. I know the vast majority of you are Gentiles. But I think it is important for you, as Gentiles, to grasp how thoroughly Jewish the mission of Jesus was, and how concerned the New Testament writers were to show that the message and ministry of Jesus was nothing other than the fulfillment of all that the Hebrew Bible, all of what we call the Old Testament, promised. I also want to along the way answer the question: Why have so many Jews like me come to believe that Jesus is, in fact, the Jewish Messiah sent by God? And that following Jesus is the best way, the truest way to experience love for the Rich Nathan

4 God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus is the fulfillment of my Judaism. More than that, Jesus is the fulfillment of my life. I will pray for you today that Jesus would be the fulfillment of your life. I ve called today s talk, Jesus, the Fulfillment of the Jewish Hope. Let s pray. This talk is going to be one of three Advent talks that I ll be doing in this month of December leading up to Christmas. Advent is the word derived from the Latin word adventus, which means the approach or the arrival. Advent is a preparation time and has been celebrated in the church since at least the 6 th century AD, preparing people as an approach or arrival of Messiah into the world at Christmas. What I would like to do in preparing us for the arrival of Messiah is to offer you a three-fold look at Jesus from the different gospel writers perspectives. This week we ll be looking at the perspective of Matthew, which is the most Jewish of the gospels, other than perhaps the Gospel of John. Next week we ll be looking at the gospel writer, Mark s, portrayal of Jesus as the suffering servant of God. Finally, on the weekend before Christmas, we ll examine the gospel writer, Luke s, portrayal of Jesus as the Savior of the world. Why is it that so many Jews throughout history have placed their faith in Jesus? We read in Matthew 1:1, A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. Right out of the gate, Matthew the Jewish writer and follower of Jesus, tells us that his message about Jesus is thoroughly rooted in the Hebrew Bible in the Old Testament. Jesus is the son of David, which is the title that Jews gave to Messiah. He is the heir, the answer to all of the promises God made to King David, the greatest of the Old Testament kings. And Jesus is the son of Abraham. He is a true Jew. Matthew is telling us right from the beginning that he is not reporting about the story of the founder of a new religion called Christianity. He is telling us about the person who fulfills all the promises of the Hebrew scriptures, all the prayers prayed by Jews over thousands of years that God would send his Messiah. Matthew is the bridge book that links together the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the root. The New Testament is the fruit. Or as the old nursery rhyme put it: The new is in the old contained The old is by the new explained. The new is in the old concealed, The old is by the new revealed. Rich Nathan

5 So what does Matthew tell us about Jesus as the fulfillment of the Jewish hope? First of all, Matthew tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messianic hope. Three times in 17 verses Matthew calls Jesus the Christ. S Vs. 1: A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. Vs. 16: And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Vs. 17: Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. The word Christ is not Jesus last name. It is a title. It comes from the Greek word Christos. It is used 531 times of Jesus in the New Testament. It translates the Hebrew word mashiach, which we would say in English, Messiah. It means, anointed one. In the Old Testament, people who were appointed to a special office like the office of King, or the office of priest, or the office of prophet, would often be anointed with oil. In this setting, this ordination ceremony, anointing with oil would mark someone out as a person especially approved by God to fulfill God s mission in the world. Over the course of Jewish history, there was this hope that there would be an ultimate, final anointed one who would fulfill promises that God had made to the Jewish people. Matthew begins his gospel announcing that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the one that we Jews have been looking for throughout our whole history. So why does Matthew immediately go into this long genealogy beginning with Abraham. Vs. 2: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar And so on all the way down to vs. 16: Vs. 16: And Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. The Messiah. Why this long genealogy? The Bible scholar NT Wright says that this genealogy in Matthew s day would have been the equivalent of the roll of Rich Nathan

6 drums, the fanfare of trumpets, a town crier calling for attention. First century Jews would have found this genealogy impressive and compelling. Wright says in his commentary on Matthew that it is like a great procession coming down a city street. We watch the figures in front and the ones in the middle. But all eyes are waiting for the one who comes in the position of greatest honor right at the end. Matthew is portraying for us a great parade of biblical heroes all of the kings of Israel are marching, but we are waiting for the ultimate king, the anointed one, following at the end of the procession. Jesus is the heir to David s throne. All of the great promises made to King David about a kingdom that will live forever, a kingdom that would embrace all people. It is interesting that Matthew groups his genealogy into three groups of fourteen names. In verse 17: vs. 17: Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. There were fourteen names. One can break this down into six lists of seven names. The number seven was one of the most important symbolic numbers in the Hebrew Bible. It appears in almost 600 passages. It was a sacred number. It signified completeness, fullness. The number seven was often associated with God. So what does Matthew do with this sacred number? He is showing that the genealogy of Jesus into six groups of seven, with Jesus the Christ at the head of a new seventh list of seven. In other words, Jesus is the climax of all the lists. He is the completion. He is the fulfillment of the six previous lists. Many Jewish people object to calling Jesus the Messiah. They say, Well, if Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment, all of the hopes of Israel, where is all the worldwide peace that the Messiah was supposed to bring? Is anything more evident than that the world today is torn? That every ethnic group is at every other ethic groups throats? Where is the reign of justice Messiah was supposed to bring? Where is the reconciliation? Where s the end of suffering and tears? Jews say Messiah could not have come. Jesus could not be the Messiah because the world is not now at peace. Rich Nathan

7 A very legitimate response to this suggestion would be to ask: Who says the Hebrew Scriptures only describe Messiah as the one who is going to bring about a worldwide age of peace? You know, if you read through the Hebrew Bible, one thing that you will discover is that prophecies regarding Messiah are not marked out as such. There s no text in the Hebrew Bible that says, Now, get ready. The following verses are about Messiah. Rather, we find descriptions in the Old Testament about the one who is coming, who is sent by God, and we fit those descriptions together forming our picture of what Messiah would be like. One of the saddest things in Jewish history has been the incomplete picture of Messiah that has been drawn out of the Hebrew Scriptures by the rabbis. The Hebrew Scriptures do speak about a king who is coming to establish an age of peace and righteousness, a king who will defeat the enemies of Israel and allow Israel to live securely and at peace, in fact, a king who will bring the whole world under his reign of peace. But there is another strand of teaching regarding the coming one that many Jewish rabbis have reinterpreted or neglected. Most Jews today don t even know about it because it is not taught in the synagogue. This other strand of teaching speaks about the one who is coming who will be rejected, who will suffer at the hands of God s own people. We read in the 53 rd chapter of Isaiah these words: Isaiah 53:3-6 - He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each one of us has turned his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. We find in the Hebrew Bible that it is only part of the biblical portrait of Messiah that he would bring about an era of peace. What Jews have done is take the final act of the play and put it as the first act. The first act of the play is that Messiah would come and be rejected by his own people. He would suffer. He would be pierced. That God would put on Messiah the iniquity of us all. That he would be the sin bearer. He would make atonement for our sins, bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation between God and us. As Messiah King he would extend his dominion person-by-person, heart-by-heart, to anyone who embraces Jesus as his or her Messiah and King. Rich Nathan

8 And one day he will return. This is the second strand of scripture the final act in the story of Messiah. In fact, he will return to execute judgment on this earth and establish his kingdom in fullness. He ll bring about world peace. I say this with great grief, but how can there be peace when we Jews have rejected the one sent by God to be our Messiah? How can there be peace when Gentiles across the world have by and large rejected the peace and reconciliation and forgiveness offered them by God through his Messiah Jesus? The Talmud is a massive Jewish commentary of the Hebrew Bible. The Talmud states if the people of Israel are worthy, Messiah will come with the clouds of heaven, quoting Daniel 7:13. If the people of Israel are not worthy, Messiah will come lowly and riding upon a donkey quoting Zechariah 9:9. Days before he died, Messiah Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey with the crowds hailing him as King Messiah. But the people turned on him. Is it possible that Messiah came lowly riding on a donkey, just as the Talmud states, and we were not worthy of his coming? But in the future he will come. We will recognize him as Messiah coming on the clouds of heaven. To Matthew, a Jewish follower of Jesus, Jesus messiahship was particularly marked by his suffering and crucifixion. Turn with me to Matthew 27:11. When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, he was asked a specific question about whether he was Messiah King. We read: Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, Are you the king of the Jews? Yes, it is as you say, Jesus replied. This is kingship received. Turn with me to verse 27 of Matthew 27. Then the governor s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then wove a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. Hail, King of the Jews! they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Mocked as the King of the Jews. In verse 37 we read: [When Jesus hung on a cross] Above his head they placed the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Rich Nathan

9 It was in three languages Aramaic, Greek, and in Latin. Mocked by the Romans. Mocked by his own people, the Jews. In verse 41: In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. He saved others, they said, But he can t save himself. He s the king of Israel. Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He s the suffering Messiah. The genealogy of Jesus tells us something else. Messiah has not only come for the Jews, but for the whole Gentile world as well. Not just for the reputable and upstanding, but for the disreputable. He s come for those who have blown up their lives with stupid mistakes. For those who have been caught up in the traps laid for us by this world. Messiah didn t just come for those who have always lived on the straight and narrow, but for those who have gone off the path. Look at the four women Matthew lists in his genealogy for Jesus. In verse 3 he mentions: Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Tamar dressed up as a prostitute and deceived her father-in-law, Judah, to sleep with her in order to be impregnated. verse 5: Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Rahab, the Hebrew Bible tells us, was by profession a prostitute. verse 5: Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Ruth was a Gentile, not a Jew, but a Gentile from the nation of Moab. The fourth woman is mentioned in verse 6. verse 6: David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah s wife. He is referring to Bathsheba, with whom King David had an adulterous relationship. Prostitutes, adulterers, Gentiles. Matthew mentions four women who were in the genealogy of Jesus. But he does not speak about the four Rich Nathan

10 matriarchs of Israel: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah. He mentions Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Why? He is telling us that Jesus the Messiah is not just for the Jewish people, but for the whole world. Messiah includes and welcomes all who come to him in his Messianic kingdom. In other words, inclusion of the Gentiles in God s Kingdom has not been an afterthought of God. It s been God s plan from the beginning to gather you Gentiles together with us Jews. To bring together the reputable and the disreputable, the righteous and the unrighteous in forming one new people. All of us together, Jews and Gentiles, can be called children of God. All of us can be sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Have you put your trust in him? Have you submitted to him as your King? Or are you doing what they did in the first century, which was rejecting him? To ignore him and turn their backs on him? Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the Messianic hope, but he is also the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy. Michael Brown, who is a Jewish believer in Jesus and who received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literature from New York University, wrote a wonderful book set of books titled Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. There are no better books that I m aware of that specifically address Jewish questions regarding Jesus than Michael Brown s volumes, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. We have these books in the bookstore. The third volume of Michael Brown s work concerns Messianic prophecy from the Old Testament. I know of no better book that goes into detail regarding the meaning of Messianic prophecy. It speaks to all of the Jewish objections to interpreting texts a certain way, Michael Brown s book, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol. 3. I want to encourage some of you who are interested in the subject of Messianic prophecy to check out this book. Brown points out that often times the rabbis preconceived notion of what Messiah would be like determines their interpretation of predictions of Messiah. Again, there is no announcement in the Hebrew Bible saying, Now, listen up. The following passage is a prophecy concerning Messiah. And one of the challenges in studying prophecies about Messiah in the Old Testament is come at the text without our preconceived biases that Messiah will be like such and such. We need to form a complete view of Messiah, that the coming one would not only bring about a reign of peace and righteousness, but also he would be one who would suffer and be rejected and mocked. And that ultimately he would be pierced for our transgressions. Hundreds of thousands of Jews have come to faith in Jesus as Messiah after reading prophecies in the Old Testament about what Messiah would be like. Here s what we read in Matthew 1:18-23 Rich Nathan

11 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us. Matthew tells us that the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of God s Word to the prophet Isaiah, verse verses 22-23: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us. Matthew, this Jewish gospel writer, loves saying, thus was fulfilled what was spoken to the prophets. Thus was fulfilled the scriptures. Dozens of times he shows us that Jesus fulfills the prophet s predictions of what Messiah would be like. Matthew said: The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us. Matthew is quoting from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. In that particular portion of scripture, Isaiah 7, the prophet Isaiah came to one of the Old Testament kings named Ahaz. King Ahaz was facing a military crisis. The Northern kingdom of Israel was going to attack Ahaz s Southern kingdom of Judah. Ahaz is afraid. Ahaz is about to turn to another world power, Assyria, and form a military alliance with Assyria to meet this particular military challenge. God speaks through the prophet Isaiah and says, Don t form this sinful alliance. Israel, do not partner with this pagan nation. The threat against you will pass. Just believe that in this current crisis I can provide for you. You don t have to disobey me, King Ahaz. Believe. God saw that Ahaz had trouble believing in his provision and so he said, Ahaz, I will provide you with a sign to bolster your faith. I offer to provide you a sign as evidence of my power to provide for you in this difficult situation. God said, I will provide any sign you want. I want you to know that I can help you and that you Rich Nathan

12 don t have to disobey me. You do not have to enter a sinful relationship. You do not have to enter a sinful alliance. God said, Go ahead. Put me to the test. See if I won t answer. We read in Isaiah 7:10: Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. Ask me and I will strengthen your faith, the Lord says. Ahaz refuses in his stubbornness and his rebellion. He says, No. I won t believe. Verse 12: Ahaz said, I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test. I won t ask for a sign. I will go my own way and form an alliance with the Assyrians. We read in verse 13: Then Isaiah said, Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sigh: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. God says, I m going to give you a sign anyway. It s going to be a sign not only for you, but for anyone else who struggles with believing. Here s the sign. A virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. You struggle with believing. You struggle with trusting what God has done in Jesus. What does it mean for you that God stepped into this world through the Virgin Mary? What kind of sign will God give you when you are unbelieving? Think about this with me. God comes to Ahaz, when King Ahaz had run out of his own human resources. Ahaz is about to do something disobedient to God. He didn t believe that God would provide for him, if he simply trusted God and walked in obedience. And God says to Ahaz, Listen, I m with you. You don t have to enter that sinful relationship. I am with you. Tonight [today] there are many of you who feel like you are threatened by some power or circumstance, or situation that is too great for you. Some situation is overwhelming you. You feel like in your situation that you ve run out of resources. And in your unbelief, you may be tempted to say like Ahaz, I can t obey God any longer. I have to make my own way through this crisis. Even Rich Nathan

13 though my own way might be disobedient to what God tells me in the Bible. I can t trust God to provide for me. Maybe you ve run out of resources in your marriage. Maybe you have run out of love. You ve been trying to love your spouse, but there s been so much hurt, there s so much water under the bridge, there s so much damage that we can t go on. I know it says in the Bible that I m not supposed to separate. I know it says in the Bible that I m not supposed to divorce apart from adultery or abandonment, but I see no other way. If I m going to survive, I ve got to make my own way out of this, even if it involves disobeying God. God would come to you in your unbelief and say to you what he said to Ahaz. I will be with you. I am Immanuel. I can provide you with the resource. I can help you with the love. I can change your heart and enable you to get through this, if you will just trust me. Are you going to be like King Ahaz, or like Joseph, Jesus adoptive father, who we read about in the story in Matthew; Joseph who opened his heart to God and said, okay, God, I will trust you. Maybe you are facing some overwhelming financial crisis this Christmas. You feel like you are going under. You don t have enough resources. Maybe you are facing the temptation to do something dishonest. Maybe you are faced with the temptation to take a job that is inconsistent with your Christian profession. Maybe you are tempted to cut corners, your taxes, or to puff up your resume to make you sound better than you are. I won t give to God s kingdom because I m short. I have to lie to a client, or lie to a family member, or lie to someone in the church about my situation in order to get the help I think I need. God says, Will you trust me that I am with you? Will you be like Ahaz who rejected my sign of Immanuel, or will you be like Joseph, who struggled with his situation, but when the Spirit of God spoke to him, he obeyed? And can I ask you an honest question? Is there something in your life that you are afraid of now? Is there a situation that is overwhelming you? Is there a place in your life where you just feel like throwing up your hands saying, I have run out of answers? I am out of solutions. Is there any situation in which you feel totally out of control and overwhelmed? Maybe you are single and you feel like you have to lower your moral standards or the standard of what you know Christ would have you do in terms of making an intimate, close connection with another person. God wants to say to you the same word that he said to Ahaz, and the same word he said to Joseph: I am with you. I can supply what you lack. Don t rebel against me. Don t turn your back on me. Don t shut the door in my face. Rich Nathan

14 Do you understand, friends, that throughout the scriptures, Immanuel, God with us, is the answer to all of our fears and all of the forces that overwhelm us? In Psalm 23, King David said, Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will not fear, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. In Isaiah 43 the prophet Isaiah repeats the promise made to Ahaz. The prophet says: Fear not, when you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. God was with Joseph when he endured the taunts of his friends that his fiancée, Mary, had cheated on him. That she was pregnant not by the Holy Spirit, but by some other man. God was with the children of Israel when they passed through the waters of the Red Sea. God said others might burn up in the fire, but not my children, not Daniel and his companions. They will not be burned up, because I am with you. Of every single major figure in the Bible it is said that God was with them. God was with Abraham. God was with Isaac. God was with Jacob. God was with Joseph. God was with Joshua. God was with Gideon. God was with David. God was with Solomon. God was with Daniel. He was with Hezekiah. He was with Peter and Paul in prison. Over and over God says to them and to you, Don t be afraid. I am with you. At the end of John Wesley s life, (John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church), he found it difficult to speak. He may have suffered a stroke. He was about 87 years old in his bed struggling to speak. His close friends were around. Right before he died, Wesley sat straight up in bed and waved his arms in the air. He cried out, Best of all, God is with us. He collapsed back into his bed. He sat straight up and struggled to speak. He waved his arms back and forth silently. He cried out, Best of all, God is with us. Don t you want that kind of confidence in life and in death? Don t you want this deep seeded assurance that you are going to get through whatever you are going through? Open your heart up today and trust God. In any area that you ve been saying no to God like Ahaz did, in any place where you ve been unbelieving, why not repent today and say, God, if I could just have you that will be enough. God, if I could just be intimate with you, if I could just know your Rich Nathan

15 friendship, if I could just have you as my companion. You can see me through my situation. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. And finally, Jesus is the fulfillment of the story of Israel. To use a theological term, he recapitulates in his own experience the whole history of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. Everything in the Old Testament pointed to him, anticipates him, speaks about him. We read in Matthew 2:13-15 [After the magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. The coming of Messiah King into the world was not just a religious statement, it was a revolutionary act. It was a political statement. King Herod had spies all over Israel making sure that there were no threats to his one-man rule. The announcement of the birth of Messiah King Jesus would have come to King Herod like the announcement of the return of the son of the Czar immediately following the Russian revolution. The announcement of the birth of Messiah King Jesus would have been similar to the return of the son of the deposed King of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. He was a tyrant. When his brother-in-law was becoming too popular, his brother-in-law suffered a drowning accident. He was found dead in a very shallow pool of water. When he suspected two sons plotting against him, he had them strangled. Five days before his own death, he had another son executed. And so when Herod heard about the newborn baby King Jesus, he sent out people to kill him. We read in verse 14: So he [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: Out of Egypt I called my son. Matthew was quoting the prophet Hosea from Hosea 11:1. Hosea is speaking of the calling of Israel out from the land of Egypt in the Exodus. When Matthew thinks of Messiah King, he thinks of the nation of Israel coming in one person, in one final representative, Jesus. Jesus life was a retelling of the story of Israel. He went through all of the various experiences of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. He is Israel in person. Sometimes you hear on the radio Christians preachers say, If you want to find the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, keep your eyes on the nation of Rich Nathan

16 Israel. To which I say, if you want to find the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don t fixate on the events in the Middle East, or latest newspaper headlines. Open your Bibles and keep your eyes on Jesus. He was sent to Egypt as a refugee, just as in the Old Testament Jacob and his whole family went down to Egypt as refugees. Jesus was called out of Egypt, just like the Israelites were called out in the Exodus. Matthew goes on in his text to say: When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Matthew was quoting from a prophecy in Jeremiah 31. In its original context, these verses dealt with the invasion of Judah by the Babylonians and the exile of Jews to Babylon. When you read on in Jeremiah 31, the end of the story is not exile, but in Jeremiah 31 we read about God s gift of a new covenant to his people Israel, God s plan to intervene and bring people back from exile. Israel, for a period of time, would weep and mourn and grieve, but rescue was on the way. And so Matthew sees in the person of Jesus the end to Jewish exile and the beginning of a new covenant between God and human beings. We read further in Matthew 2:19: After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child s life are dead. So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: He will be called a Nazarene. Jesus is the forerunner to the new Exodus: Out of Egypt I called my son. Jesus is the forerunner of the end of the exile and the beginning of the new covenant: Rachel s tears will be wiped from her eyes. And Jesus is also the Messianic branch. The word Nazarene is derived from the word nazir. In Isaiah 11 the prophet Isaiah prophesied that a Rich Nathan

17 branch would grow out of the root of Jesse. A new beginning would be made for the royal house of David. Matthew sees in the life of Jesus a story of Israel told event by event. In Matthew 3 Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan, just as the nation of Israel went through the water of the Red Sea and was given the law confirming their status as God s sons and daughters. So Jesus goes through the water of the Jordan and receives God s Spirit confirming him as God s Son, Israel, in person. In Matthew 4 Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days recapitulating the 40 years of Israel in the wilderness. But rather than succumbing to the temptations that Israel succumbed to in the wilderness, Jesus overcomes the devil. He is the righteous and faithful Israel. Hence, my eyes are not on the Middle East. My eyes are on Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of my hope. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the hopes we Jews have regarding Messiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Jesus is the fulfillment of the story of Israel. What shall we do with this Jesus, the fulfillment of the Jewish hope, and indeed, the fulfillment of the hope of the world? I think it is important to point out in closing that no one is born a Christian. Or to use a Jewish term, no one is born a Messianic, a follower of Messiah Jesus. Becoming a Christian, becoming a Messianic, a follower of Jesus, is something that every human being has to make a decision about. Every human being, Jew and Gentile, whatever your parents were they may have been Catholic or Lutheran, you may have been raised in a Baptist church, you may have been raised agnostic or unchurched, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or you may be coming from a New Age background but every human being is faced squarely with this issue: what am I going to do with Jesus? Will I receive him as the one who God sent into the world to be King and Savior? We become a follower of Messiah, a Christian, through repentance and faith. Repentance simply means to turn around. In other words, I ve been going my own way in life, calling the shots, demanding control, boxing God out of my life, and I turn around and go God s way. I allow God to call the shots. I turn control of my life over to God. I welcome God into my life to be my Lord. Faith means that I trust God s provision of Jesus is enough to gain me salvation. Faith means that I trust that I do not have to earn my way into God s good graces. Faith means I stop trying to save myself through my own self-help methods or ways of trying to improve my own life. I trust that Jesus alone, his life, his death on the cross, and his resurrection is enough to gain for me forgiveness from God, salvation, and the gift of a new life. Rich Nathan

18 Friends, today I want to speak to two groups of people whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, whatever your church background is, today if you ve never come to Jesus the Messiah in repentance and faith, in a moment I m going to ask you to stand and do so. Some of you may have, in the past, turned to Jesus as King and Savior and then have turned away from him. In a moment, I m going to ask you to stand and bring your life under his kingdom rule, by asking him to rescue you from your sins. I want to also offer an invitation for those of you who have opportunities to share your faith with a Jewish friend, a Jewish co-worker, a Jewish classmate or professor, someone in your family who is Jewish, a parent, a sibling, an in-law, someone related to you by marriage. You ve heard today s message that Jesus is not just for Gentiles, but he s for Jews. He s for the whole world. If there is someone in your circle who you know is Jewish, and you desire to be an instrument that might allow this person to embrace Jesus as their Messiah, I d like you to come up and receive prayer. Rich Nathan

19 Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Jewish Hope Rich Nathan December 6-7, 2003 Advent 2003: Jesus in Three-Part Harmony Matthew 1-4 I. Jesus: The Fulfillment of My Hope II. Jesus: The Fulfillment of Messianic Hope (Matthew 1:1-17) A. Jesus the Glorious Messiah (Matthew 1:1, 17) B. Jesus the Suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53:3-6) C. Jesus the Welcoming Messiah (Matthew 1:3, 5, 6) III. Jesus: The Fulfillment of Prophecy (Matthew 1:18-23; Isaiah 7:10-14) IV. Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Story of Israel (Matthew 2:13-23; 3:11-17; 4:1-11) Rich Nathan

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