"If Messiah has come, why is there no world peace?"

A Christian man is witnessing to a Jewish colleague. As the Christian is explaining the gospel, his Jewish friend goes to the window, opens it, looks out and says, “No; everything is the same out there. Messiah can’t have come”. This objection to the gospel – that Jesus has not brought the “world peace” of which the prophets wrote – is possibly the one we hear most frequently in our ministry. When two polite Israeli ladies recently approached our book table in Sydney, they told us, “We have heard that Messiah rebuilds the Temple, re-gathers the Jews and brings world peace
By and large the rabbis have succeeded in conveying the idea of a triumphalistic Messiah who “strides the world stage like a colossus”, turns Israel and the nations back to God and introduces a remarkable era of world peace which affects all creation. Little thought, however, is given to how this will take place. Hence, the concept many Jewish people have of the Messiah is of someone who, like Mary Poppins doing her housework, magically and instantaneously ushers in his kingdom. The rabbis all but ignore those passages of Scripture which point to a Messiah who suffers rejection and death to establish his rule in God’s world.

We opened our Hebrew Bible and pointed the Israeli ladies to passages such as Isaiah 49 and 53, which describe Messiah suffering for our sins. We also suggested that if Messiah truly is the “Son of David” then we would expect him, like David, to suffer rejection and attempts on his life, and have to fight to establish his kingdom.

In this context the ladies asked, “Where is Jesus?” We explained the biblical order of things that, after his work of teaching, healing and making atonement, Messiah ascends to heaven to rule and extend his kingdom among the nations, as recorded in Psalm 110. Then, at a point in the future, he returns to complete all the promises made through the prophets of a creation filled with righteousness and peace. From the same Psalm we showed that the growth of Messiah’s kingdom involves a warfare, with some submitting to his rule while others rebel. Psalm 110, therefore, gives no impression of a “Hey Presto!” instant arrival of universal peace.

Few Jewish people think about how Messiah’s kingdom expands, even though biblical history reveals that the Lord extends his kingdom by people hearing his word, believing it and obeying. Why should the extension of Messiah’s kingdom be any different? People must hear about him, learn from him, trust him and obey him. That is not a work of five days, five years, or even five hundred years. Despite the many failures of Christianity, many among the nations have heard about the God of Israel and believed in him. Indeed, a Jewish friend of mine was led to seriously study the claims of Jesus, simply on the basis that his teaching and the efforts of his followers have been the means of turning multitudes to the one true God.

This article first appeared in the September 2004 edition of the Herald

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