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Monday, January 2, 2023

Why Jesus' Disciples Didn't Recognize Him as Messiah


Why didn't Jesus' closest disciples recognize that He is the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation of their Hebrew ancestors? Here are some possible explanations:

1. The Lord’s working with His first disciples was a progressive revelation of who and what He is. His glory is such that we are granted glimpses until such a day that we are ready for His eternal kingdom. A.W. Tozer explained, "God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

Hebrews 1 speaks of this: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”

2. Jesus did not fit what the disciples expected of a Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Roman rule. The zealots of their day perpetuated a hope of a military leader who would throw off Roman domination and restore the glory of Israel under the Davidic Dynasty.

3. The Disciples were self-absorbed. Their preoccupations kept them from seeing the truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us. Again, self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

4. The teachings of the rabbis had obfuscated the faith of their early Hebrew ancestors who expected one of their own to be conceived by divine overshadowing, to die and rise on the third day, and to be God incarnate. Instead, the rabbis focused on the Jewish narrative which diminished belief in the Son of God. This is why Jesus posed the riddle of Psalm 110:1 - "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Jesus called on Psalm 110:1 as His Witness: “If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:45)

5. Some aspects of Jesus' life and ministry were purposely hidden. The Gospel of Mark attempts to keep Jesus’ identity as Messiah and the Son of God a secret. This so-called “Markan mystery” is about the hidden Son, who commanded his followers to keep silent about his identity. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus' identity is recognized in the ancient island city of Tyre, not on a mountain as in Matthew's Gospel. For Mark, the Messiah’s appearing means the beginning of the restoration of Paradise. Perhaps the evangelist was thinking of this passage from Ezekiel 28 – “Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created."

The theme of the hidden is expressed in the Seder. The three matzahs are enveloped and the middle one is broken and hidden from the others. It is found after a search and returned to its natural group. The three matzahs are called the Unity, but we might as appropriately refer to the unity as Three in One, or a Trinity.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.) believed that the writers of scripture practiced a "prophetic and venerable system of concealment." He explained: "For many reasons the scriptures conceal their meaning; primarily, with the aim of making us diligent and unresting in our study of the words of salvation and, secondly, because it is not in the province of all men to examine their meaning, lest they should receive hurt through a mistaken interpretation.” (Clement of Alexandria by R.B. Tollinton. 1914. Volume II, p. 302.)

The curious seek to know. They investigate what is veiled. The Creator invites us to draw closer to the mysteries hidden in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:6). The pattern of hidden sons in Scripture points to Jesus Christ, the Son hidden in the Father's bosom from before the ages. He inherits the kingdom that is not of this world and of his kingdom there will be no end.

5. The disciples had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit to illumine them and to give them the courage to proclaim the Gospel.

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