How do we know that Jesus is the Messiah?

LENT 2020 – Day 37

Readings: Gen 17: 3-9; Ps 104: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Jn 8: 51-59

The Jews of Jesus’ time swore by Abraham, from whom came the Chosen Race. However, they followed him more in letter than in spirit. When Abram became Abraham as part of the covenant that God had renewed with him, the Almighty promised to make him the father of a multitude of nations. He also expressed His desire to establish “an everlasting covenant” with Abraham’s descendants and to continue as their God. Finally, God promised them all the land of Canaan “for an everlasting possession”.

Understandably, change of name was a testimony to God’s promise and the patriarch’s new mission. But what are those “nations”? We know that Israel is the only nation that has descended from Abraham; so we may interpret “nations” here as the children that Israel would have produced spiritually had they followed God’s command in letter and spirit.

It’s a pity that, by rejecting the Messiah, Israel let go the great spiritual opportunity they had to be the Chosen Race. Finally it was Jesus who announced the Good News directly to the peoples of the world and became the Light of the Nations. By that rejection they unwittingly relinquished the land of their sojourning, “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession”. Some say Canaan took the name of the grandson of Noah, a pre-Israelite land whose people had moved away from the Lord and whom He therefore moved into captivity. Thus, those who had foregone their spiritual duties forfeited the temporal blessings.

Jesus’ contemporaries in Israel were stuck in a rut. They took exception to our Lord’s statement that anyone who keeps His word “will never see death.” Jesus was talking about death by sin, which takes us to eternal damnation. Wasn’t it disturbing that quite a slanging match followed? The fact is that the people couldn’t understand the meaning and significance of what Jesus was saying to them. On the other hand, to Jesus, His identity was at the core of His message. Those who didn’t understand where He came from would not understand who He was and the purpose of His coming. No wonder they saw in Him a demon; they couldn’t figure out how He could be greater than Abraham!

How would you and I have reacted had we heard Jesus speak in that manner? It would depend on our world-view. We would have reacted positively, if we had known the true God and walked in His ways. Jesus fit the old Scriptural descriptions of the Messiah that the country was waiting for.... On the other hand, the rabbis and others who knew this well considered Him a thorn in their side. Many others thought the Messiah would be a political heavyweight who would free them from the Roman domination. Yet others fell into the temptation of judging based on externals. It was wrong on their part to say Jesus wasn’t yet fifty to “know” Abraham.... Before the patriarch of the Jewish people was, Jesus Is!

Can you and I now be sure that Jesus is indeed the Messiah? We surely can, for as the scientist, inventor and theologian Blaise Pascal said, “We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.” Jesus brings us a unique, well articulated life-giving message. We can also judge the tree by its fruits - the many miracles of Jesus, especially the raising of the dead and His own Resurrection. Or as the Book of Proverbs recommends: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (3: 5-6)