Monday, October 29, 2012

This Jesus Is The Christ (part 2 of 2)

However, this did not mean that now all the other men who had gone to their deaths as the head of messianic movements were now to be looked back upon and viewed as potential messiahs, because part of Paul’s argument from Scriptures was to show that the Messiah must not only suffer and die, but that He also must rise from the dead.  Naturally, Paul argued unceasingly for the fact of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and it was this fact, supported by correct understanding of the Scriptural prophecies of Messiah in regards to having to suffer and die on behalf of the covenant people of God, that proved that He alone was the Messiah and should be recognized as such. 

We can imagine here that Paul went into a dissertation in regards to the resurrection much like we find in the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians, recounting the over five hundred eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ that could be produced to offer testimony of that fact.  In addition, Paul would most likely have pointed to the fact of the empty tomb and the implausible theories put forth to explain that empty tomb, as evidence in favor of a living Jesus. 

With this now placed in proper perspective, what was the result?  “Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women” (17:4).  So not only were some of the Jews convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (the Christ), but some Gentiles were convinced of this as well.  Gentiles were agreeing to the claim of Jesus as Messiah.  They were believing in Jesus.  They were believing in the Messiah that, in predominant Jewish thought, was supposed to be the Messiah for Israel, and Who would set Israel over all nations and all peoples.  With this development, it was no wonder that we find that “the Jews were jealous…set the city in an uproar” (17:5), and attacked the house where Paul and Silas were apparently staying. 

Strangely enough, these Jews that are mentioned here were saying of Paul and Silas that “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (17:6b).  While it is true that the message of the Gospel was turning the world upside down (breaking down all class and social barriers through the proclamation of a universal kingdom of which Jesus was Lord), we probably have to imagine that the thinking behind this statement, considering the source, was a bit more provincial, carrying with it the connotation that the expectations of the Jews, of Israel, in regards to what would happen when the Messiah came---when their God acted to exalt Israel above all nations---is what was being turned upside down. 

Rather than being a Messiah for the Jews only, it appeared that this Jesus was being a Messiah for all peoples (redeeming all people from exile), thus dashing superior, nationalistic hopes.  In that light, echoing what was said to Pilate in order to convince him to condemn Jesus and send Him to the cross (John 19:12b: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar”), these men added, with an odd and ironic turn of events, that “they are acting against all the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (17:7b), acting as if they cared about Caesar in the least little bit, when all of their messianic hopes included rebellion against Caesar and a desire to see him deposed from his throne.         

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