You asked: “Jesus never referred to Himself as the Messiah. So we have to conclude Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah. Is this a correct understanding?”
Thanks so much for this important question to us here at TruthBook. There is still speculation regarding this issue among sincere religionists, and so it’s a good time to revisit it here. I appreciate the opportunity.
Your understanding that Jesus was not the “Jewish Messiah” is correct. If you have read The Urantia Book—particularly Part IV, the Life and Teachings of Jesus—you will have gleaned this understanding. I would like to validate your understanding, and show you the lifelong progression that took place with Jesus, as he gradually understood the peoples’ expectations of the Messiah; even though he was not that Messiah, still he had to somehow decide what his role in that regard was to be as he assumed the outworking of the details of his true mission to Urantia.
Perhaps you have already read this section: Concepts of the Expected Messiah, but it would be good to look it over again, to help us both understand just what this concept of “Messiah” was all about.
Here are a couple of pertinent ideas from that section:
“The Jews devoutly believed that, as Moses had delivered their fathers from Egyptian bondage by miraculous wonders, so would the coming Messiah deliver the Jewish people from Roman domination by even greater miracles of power and marvels of racial triumph.
“The majority of the Jews believed that they continued to languish under Roman rule because of their national sins and because of the halfheartedness of the gentile proselytes. The Jewish nation had not wholeheartedly repented; therefore did the Messiah delay his coming. There was much talk about repentance; wherefore the mighty and immediate appeal of John’s preaching, “Repent and be baptized, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And the kingdom of heaven could mean only one thing to any devout Jew: The coming of the Messiah.
“There was one feature of the bestowal of Michael which was utterly foreign to the Jewish conception of the Messiah, and that was the union of the two natures, the human and the divine. The Jews had variously conceived of the Messiah as perfected human, superhuman, and even as divine, but they never entertained the concept of the union of the human and the divine. And this was the great stumbling block of Jesus’ early disciples…The incarnation of the Creator in the form of the creature had not been revealed beforehand. It was revealed only in Jesus; the world knew nothing of such things until the Creator Son was made flesh and dwelt among the mortals of the realm.”
And so, with those things in mind, we can continue with the exploration of this idea.
Beginning with Gabriel’s visitation to Mary, the revelators made mention of the Messiah:
122:4.2 In all these visitations nothing was said about the house of David. Nothing was ever intimated about Jesus’ becoming a “deliverer of the Jews,” not even that he was to be the long-expected Messiah. Jesus was not such a Messiah as the Jews had anticipated, but he was the world’s deliverer. His mission was to all races and peoples, not to any one group.
As early as Jesus’ 14th year of life, as Jesus was becoming aware of who he was, the Messiah concept held his interest and gained his consideration:
126:0.3 As he grew older, Jesus’ pity and love for the Jewish people deepened, but with the passing years, there developed in his mind a growing righteous resentment of the presence in the Father’s temple of the politically appointed priests. Jesus had great respect for the sincere Pharisees and the honest scribes, but he held the hypocritical Pharisees and the dishonest theologians in great contempt; he looked with disdain upon all those religious leaders who were not sincere. When he scrutinized the leadership of Israel, he was sometimes tempted to look with favor on the possibility of his becoming the Messiah of Jewish expectation, but he never yielded to such a temptation.
By the time Jesus was 16 years-old, Jesus was certain that the role of Jewish Messiah was not to be his:
127:1.7 By the end of this year he had just about made up his mind that he would, after rearing his family and seeing them married, enter publicly upon his work as a teacher of truth and as a revealer of the heavenly Father to the world. He knew he was not to become the expected Jewish Messiah, and he concluded that it was next to useless to discuss these matters with his mother; he decided to allow her to entertain whatever ideas she might choose since all he had said in the past had made little or no impression upon her and he recalled that his father had never been able to say anything that would change her mind.
Following his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus retreated to the hills to formulate a code of conduct as he prepared himself for his public ministry. During that time, he came to certain decisions:
136:6.6 Jesus knew the sort of Messiah his compatriots expected, and he had all the powers and prerogatives to measure up to their most sanguine expectations, but he decided against such a magnificent program of power and glory. Jesus looked upon such a course of expected miracle working as a harking back to the olden days of ignorant magic and the degraded practices of the savage medicine men. Possibly, for the salvation of his creatures, he might accelerate natural law, but to transcend his own laws, either for the benefit of himself or the over awing of his fellow men, that he would not do. And the Master’s decision was final.
136:7.2 Jesus knew his fellow countrymen were expecting a Messiah who would be above natural law. Well had he been taught that Scripture: “There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Would this sort of presumption, this defiance of his Father’s laws of gravity, be justified in order to protect himself from possible harm or, perchance, to win the confidence of his mistaught and distracted people? But such a course, however gratifying to the sign-seeking Jews, would be, not a revelation of his Father, but a questionable trifling with the established laws of the universe of universes.
136:7.3 Understanding all of this and knowing that the Master refused to work in defiance of his established laws of nature in so far as his personal conduct was concerned, you know of a certainty that he never walked on the water nor did anything else which was an outrage to his material order of administering the world; always, of course, bearing in mind that there had, as yet, been found no way whereby he could be wholly delivered from the lack of control over the element of time in connection with those matters put under the jurisdiction of the Personalized Adjuster.
136:7.4 Throughout his entire earth life Jesus was consistently loyal to this decision. No matter whether the Pharisees taunted him for a sign, or the watchers at Calvary dared him to come down from the cross, he steadfastly adhered to the decision of this hour on the hillside.
Also, please read THIS SECTION of Paper 136, which is all about Jesus’ decision to side-step wonder working, which was the hallmark by which the Messiah might be recognized, and Jesus’ thinking about it. In this section, we read:
“In rejecting these methods of enhancing the coming kingdom in the eyes of the expectant Jews, Jesus made sure that these same Jews would certainly and finally reject all of his claims to authority and divinity. Knowing all this, Jesus long sought to prevent his early followers alluding to him as the Messiah.”
Jesus had particular difficulty convincing his apostles that he was not the expected Messiah; so, after long and prayerful deliberation he decided to try to fulfill John the Baptist’s prophecies about this deliverer by simply not denying it, and to leave the consequences to God. This answers another part of your question as to whether Jesus ever referred to himself as Messiah:
137:5.3 That night Jesus did not sleep. Donning his evening wraps, he sat out on the lake shore thinking, thinking until the dawn of the next day. In the long hours of that night of meditation Jesus came clearly to comprehend that he never would be able to make his followers see him in any other light than as the long-expected Messiah. At last he recognized that there was no way to launch his message of the kingdom except as the fulfillment of John’s prediction and as the one for whom the Jews were looking. After all, though he was not the Davidic type of Messiah, he was truly the fulfillment of the prophetic utterances of the more spiritually minded of the olden seers. Never again did he wholly deny that he was the Messiah. He decided to leave the final untangling of this complicated situation to the outworking of the Father’s will.
Then we come to the feeding of the 5,000; Jesus deliberately performed this miracle, and we get the idea that Jesus thought about it before acting, and we imagine that he communed with the Father:
152:2.8 For a moment Jesus stood in silence. There was a faraway look in his eyes. The apostles said nothing. Jesus turned suddenly to Andrew and said, “Bring me the loaves and fishes.” And when Andrew had brought the basket to Jesus, the Master said: “Direct the people to sit down on the grass in companies of one hundred and appoint a leader over each group while you bring all of the evangelists here with us.
It’s important to note here that the performance of this miracle did not violate Jesus’ previous decisions regarding miracles. This miracle was not an affront to natural law; it was a multiplication of the food by “the elimination of the time factor and the visible life channel.” As mentioned above “Possibly, for the salvation of his creatures, he might accelerate natural law,” but he did not violate that law by performing this miracle.
152:2.10 “And this is the first and only nature miracle which Jesus performed as a result of his conscious preplanning. It is true that his disciples were disposed to call many things miracles which were not, but this was a genuine supernatural ministration. In this case, so we were taught, Michael multiplied food elements as he always does except for the elimination of the time factor and the visible life channel.”
152:3.1 The feeding of the five thousand by supernatural energy was another of those cases where human pity plus creative power equaled that which happened.
153:2.6 “”…long have you been taught that the Messiah, when he should come, would work those wonders which would make life pleasant and easy for all the chosen people. It is not strange, then, that you who have been thus taught should long for the loaves and the fishes. But I declare to you that such is not the mission of the Son of Man. I have come to proclaim spiritual liberty, teach eternal truth, and foster living faith.
Later, and following Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Son of God, we learn:
157:5.2 Jesus had sought to live his life on earth and complete his bestowal mission as the Son of Man. His followers were disposed to regard him as the expected Messiah. Knowing that he could never fulfill their Messianic expectations, he endeavored to effect such a modification of their concept of the Messiah as would enable him partially to meet their expectations. But he now recognized that such a plan could hardly be carried through successfully. He therefore elected boldly to disclose the third plan—openly to announce his divinity, acknowledge the truthfulness of Peter’s confession, and directly proclaim to the twelve that he was a Son of God.
For three years Jesus had been proclaiming that he was the “Son of Man,” while for these same three years the apostles had been increasingly insistent that he was the expected Jewish Messiah. He now disclosed that he was the Son of God, and upon the concept of the combined nature of the Son of Man and the Son of God, he determined to build the kingdom of heaven. He had decided to refrain from further efforts to convince them that he was not the Messiah. He now proposed boldly to reveal to them what he is, and then to ignore their determination to persist in regarding him as the Messiah.
158:7.3 In answer to Andrew, Jesus said: “My brethren, it is because you have confessed that I am the Son of God that I am constrained to begin to unfold to you the truth about the end of the bestowal of the Son of Man on earth. You insist on clinging to the belief that I am the Messiah, and you will not abandon the idea that the Messiah must sit upon a throne in Jerusalem; wherefore do I persist in telling you that the Son of Man must presently go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be rejected by the scribes, the elders, and the chief priests, and after all this be killed and raised from the dead.
At the beginning of his last week of life, Jesus decided to deliberately capitalize on the Jewish peoples’ understanding of Messianic prophecies by fulfilling the Scriptural prophecy of the Messiah coming on the donkey. Again, he did not claim to be that Messiah, but he did act in somewhat accordance with peoples’ expectations of that Messiah
172:3.2 All morning Jesus had thought about his entry into Jerusalem. Heretofore he had always endeavored to suppress all public acclaim of him as the Messiah, but it was different now; he was nearing the end of his career in the flesh, his death had been decreed by the Sanhedrin, and no harm could come from allowing his disciples to give free expression to their feelings, just as might occur if he elected to make a formal and public entry into the city.
And here is an exchange between Jesus and Annas during that last week of Jesus’ life, where again, he finally refused to either confirm or deny that he was the Messiah:
184:1.8 When he returned, going up to the Master’s side, he said, “Do you claim to be the messiah, the deliverer of Israel?” Said Jesus: “Annas, you have known me from the times of my youth. You know that I claim to be nothing except that which my Father has appointed, and that I have been sent to all men, gentile as well as Jew.” Then said Annas: “I have been told that you have claimed to be the messiah; is that true?” Jesus looked upon Annas but only replied, “So you have said.”
I want to thank you again for your question. As you can see, the Messiah idea is one that threads through Jesus’ entire life. It was a very important concept, given the times of Jesus’ appearance. I think that, as you read over the parts of the book that I have referenced in this reply, and read these sections again, you’ll see the skill with which Jesus fit himself into his times and the lengths to which he went to bring his true mission to fruition. To use modern parlance, it seems that Jesus was an expert in “going with the flow..”
It has been a great opportunity for me to go back over these things in an attempt to assist you in your understanding of the concept of Jesus as Messiah. It has been as helpful to me as I hope it has been helpful to you. I’ve given you a lot of section references; I hope you’ll go into the text and read about these things again so that you can settle it in your own mind. That way, you can be a help to others who might have the same question.
Date published: 2014-06-02 16:39:10
Author: Truthbook Staff