Thursday, June 14, 2012

Did Jesus know?

I have a question about Christ’s earthly ministry.  Did Jesus know that He would stop offering the kingdom to the Jews prior to the start of his ministry; or did he realize it partway through and then change his message to Israel?

Your question is fantastic and I get this a lot.  He knew that he would if they did not receive the kingdom when it was offered.  Jesus knew scripture.  He could read the verses in the old testament that say that if Israel did not receive the kingdom, they would receive the wrath of the Almighty God.  But He also knew that there would be a remnant of Jews who would believe by the testimony of His disciples.

Isaiah 8:16
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

He knew all this, but it was a legitimate offer of the kingdom to Israel.  He knew that there would be a remnant of Jews who would believe on him.

Matthew 21:43
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Luke 12:32
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

John 17:24
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

He knew that some would believe, but that the majority would reject him.  Truth is accepted by the minority but rejected by the majority.  He knew that the minority would be given the kingdom because it was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures.

Did the cross have to happen?  Yes and no.  Did Jesus have to die?  Yes He knew he had to die.

Hebrews 10:5
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

Jesus knew that all those blood sacrifices and types and shadows were pointing to him.  He was obedient unto death.

Philippians 2:8
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The problem was that the death Christ suffered was one of rejection and shame.  The law of Moses and the book of Psalms made it clear that Messiah was to die for Israel’s sins – the New covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  But he was not to die on the cross in rejection because of Israel’s unbelief (the cross means rejection in Israel’s program).  He was supposed to die on the altar in the Temple.  He was to be the lamb of God. 

John 1:29
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

But here is what he was hoping would happen and what could have happened - if Israel had believed on him as their Messiah, the priests in Israel would have taken him and sacrificed him on the altar in the Temple.  The picture of that is found in Abraham and Isaac:

Genesis 22:8
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son…

Genesis 22:2
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

…which is a picture of God the Father sacrificing his only Son.  Remember, Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac on an altar.

The offer of the kingdom didn’t have to be withdrawn.  The religious leaders of Israel could have received Christ and convinced the people of Israel that Jesus was the Messiah and that they should do what they were supposed to do according to the Law:  sacrifice him for their sins and then God would raise him up on the third day.

Luke 24:46
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

Psalm 16:10
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Matthew 12:39
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

Jonah 1:17
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

That sacrifice would have been made, not on a cross, but in the Temple.

But Jesus saw over the course of time that the offer of the kingdom to Israel would be withdrawn for a time.  Remember that Christ in his earthly ministry was God, and he was also man.  He is called Son of God and Son of Man in scripture.

John 3:18
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Hebrews 4:14
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Daniel 7:13
 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

He called himself the Son of Man.

Matthew 8:20
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

As the Son of Man he lived in his humanity and he limited the independent use of his deity (omniscience, etc.) while he was on earth.  In other words, as Jesus of Nazareth he did everything according to the word of God and what his father revealed to him by the Spirit.

Israel could have believed him; he expected them to believe him, but he upbraided them for their unbelief.

Mark 16:14
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

When we preach the truth we expect people to believe it.  We know that everyone won’t, but they can; they have the ability, the free-will volition to believe.  So Jesus was positive and expected Israel to believe and sacrifice him on the altar in the Temple, just like Abraham would have done to Isaac (Genesis 22:10-13).  He expected to die and shed his blood for their sins under the old covenant - the law, and for the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31); and then Israel would receive the kingdom.

You are exactly right that Christ realized his offer of the kingdom would be rejected during his ministry to Israel, so he changed the focus of his ministry.

Matthew 16:20-21
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. [Why?  He’s out there preaching the gospel of the kingdom and his disciples are sharing Christ with the people of Israel, so why would he tell them to “tell no man”?]  From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Up until that point, which is years into his ministry, he had been offering the kingdom; but once he realized that Israel was for the most part rejecting it, he began to focus on going to the cross.  That’s what the cross represents – Israel’s rejection of him.  From that point, he confined his ministry to the little flock of believers  –  his disciples.

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