Was Jesus the Messiah?

"I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"
"Be quiet!" Said Jesus sternly.
(Mark 1:24, 25)
Not only was Jesus not the Messiah, part of his revelation would have been to understand that the whole notion of a messiah was a false hope, even a hindrance to re-establishing a relationship with our Father. It ought to be taken on face value when he stopped some from making rash claims about his identity.

It is more than likely that Jesus was influenced, motivated, fired-up, by the prophet Isaiah, especially the second half of the scroll (what we know now as chapters 40-66.) Perhaps he focused his ministry primarily on the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" because he was particularly moved by Isaiah's identifying a hidden remnant as a "servant" to the nation as a whole.

We might ask, What about the first century Christians - Paul's conviction, for example, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ? Let's not forget that the majority of these men came from a Jewish background; they were pregnant with expectation for a Messiah-figure. It shot through their whole psyche. It was nigh on impossible not to be influenced by that storm in a tea-cup.

Now, two thousand years down the line, what possible good has it done to view Jesus as the Christ? All-in-all it has been more of a divisive influence. For fifteen hundred years Christianity was monopolised by the Catholic church who used their one true religion to subjugate the masses, dominating with fear and enforced ignorance vast swathes of the then-known world. The reformation of the sixteenth century, while promising a new era, opened up the way for state religion, evangelicalism, and fundamentalism, none of which presents "the Christ" in much of a warm and approachable manner. It just leaves him distant and unattainable, in much the same way people perceive God to be.

"How is it this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (John 7:15)

It took no more than a couple of centuries for Christianity to divide into clergy and laity, and it has remained that way for a couple of thousand more, scriptural teaching being dominated by those learned men who have been through seminaries and theological colleges. What happened to religious leaders hearing Jesus and wondering at his being unschooled? Or heeding the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving that they were "uneducated, common men"?

This, then, is what we have to show for claiming that Jesus was the Messiah, or Christ.

There are inherent dangers in identifying Jesus as the Messiah. Firstly, it puts the emphasis on the man and not the message. Jesus had good news to give to people: The kingdom of God was within reach because it was "within you." We have to uncover it - move the mountain of our self-criticism and return to the loving arms of our heavenly Father. Jesus put the power back into the hands of every individual with the exhortation, "Your sins are forgiven!"

Secondly, it puts too much emphasis on the assumption that there is more to come. People's expectations were blown apart by the sudden death of Jesus. This was not the militant Messiah they had hoped for. Instead, Jesus presence became invisible, and his militancy postponed for a later time.

"You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (Mark 10:21)

Jesus wasn't preaching a message of hope for the future, he was trying to give people something they could experience right now. A renewed relationship with God. A fixing of what was broken. In fact, his words to the rich young man emphasised that only by letting everything go was there any real hope of discovering the truth. We view ourselves as spiritually rich, but are, in actuality, spiritually destitute. In other words, "nothing is as you think it is."

Maybe there is more to come, but that is not the point. True faith, springing from a God-centred, healed relationship with our Father, gives us a conviction that God is a God who can lift the earth from chaos. It is in safe hands. We can hold such a firm hope completely free from any anxiety.

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? (1 John 2:22)

Thirdly - and probably most disheartening - belief in "the Christ" encourages dogmatism, and the worst kind of extremism. By the end of the first century even John (or one of his proponents) had coined the term "Antichrist" for anyone that denies that Jesus fulfils that role.

Observe as the placards come out daubed in blood-red paint with the epithet, "1 John 2:22 LIAR!

Viewed in this light, John's first letter becomes the blueprint for everything that is disgraceful about the Christianity of the future; the constant contradiction of love and hatred. It is the one-armed hug. With one hand they embrace, while concealed in the folds of the skirts is the gladius reserved for the antichrist. And yet, why shouldn't this come from the school of the man who suggested raining down fire on a village that refused access to Jesus?

Watch for the outcry, the rage, the self-righteous indignation. See the baying mob fall upon the victim with gnashing teeth, fury, and rocks in their hands. "It is written..." they will cry. Thus, in one stroke, they will undo everything that Jesus stood for.

It is nothing but a return to the days of pre-conversion Paul. If you didn't accept what was written you were classed a "sinner."

There is a world of difference between gaining salvation and a new life through the teachings of Jesus, and gaining salvation on the understanding that you accept that Jesus fulfilled a particular role.

No, Jesus was not the Messiah, and far from this bold claim minimising his impact, shedding an assumption he never even claimed for himself will make him come alive for us, and free us to make the return journey to an ever-expectant God.