Part 5: Recognizing the Messiah

Jesus, or as he was known in Hebrew, Yeshua “The Christ” was a Jew.  He was divinely conceived but born of a Jewish woman.  He was probably of average height, between five and a half and six feet tall.  He was circumcised when he was eight days old according to custom.  On average He probably had black or dark brown hair but there are Jews with red or reddish blonde or brown hair thus the possibility he could have too.  He surely had a beard.  Isaiah 50:6, tells us he had long facial hair.

Jesus wasn’t handsome as we define the term.  He more or less from a visual standpoint blended in with a crowd.  Remember how Judas had to point Him out in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing Him?  That was because Christ didn’t have a standout facial appearance.  It was part of His humility when he became a man.

Being Semitic His skin was olive or brown.  He probably didn’t have long hair like the portraits and films of Him always show him with.  The scriptures give us a hint. 1 Corinthians 11:14, says “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?”  Some confuse Christ as being a Nazirite but in reality he was a Nazarene; something a bit different.  John the Baptist was a Nazirite but Christ wasn’t.  From puberty to adulthood his hands were very probably calloused from years of hard, manual labor.  He spoke Aramaic or Hebrew.

What about His continuance?  We would have seen in His face authority.  Ask any military member about the aura of authority that a four start general has.  That certain air of leadership, discipline, and forthrightness drilled into him or her from West Point on.  We would have also seen Christ’s persona of honesty, wisdom, love, humility, patience, strength and courage too.   He also had a look of seriousness about him.   Isaiah 53:3, says he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  His eyes could look right into someone’s soul.

When he saw people he was moved with compassion.  In his ministry many people suffering leprosy, or who were bleeding, or had all sorts of other unpleasant maladies came to him for healing.  Have you ever seen a person with a horribly burned face?  You wanted to look away!  But not Christ.  Like a trained physician, He could look right past that unpleasantness and ugliness and deal with that person.  He often saw the multitudes and had compassion for them.

Before his crucifixion He didn’t have a glow about or a halo over his head either, meaning if someone was looking for him during his ministry by those signs they wouldn’t locate him.  It was only during The Transfiguration when he showed his real character, a bright light that shown all about Him.  But he still chose to hide most his glorious persona even after his resurrection.  Remember the men who encountered Him on the road to Emmaus?

Christians and those who reject Him will get to see Him one day, in a different but better way.  All will see his perfect humanity and most importantly His deity.  In His earthly walk he humbled himself but on that day we will see his full, glorified state as John the Apostle tries to describe in Revelation 1:13-18.  My favorite description there is how His voice will have a power about it, a sound like many waters.  Imagine what the sound of Niagara Falls is like only magnified many times!  We will finally see Him as he really is, and he will be holding the keys to heaven and, yes to hell.

One final thought about what the Christ looked like and our attempts to capture him in pictures and paintings:  The 2nd of the Ten Commandments says we are not to worship pictures or engraved images.  That applies when it comes to the Christ too.  There was once a soldier who kissed his wife goodbye before he went off to war.  The wife kept her promise to write him often but she had no pictures of her beloved to help her remember him till his return.   So, in one of her letters she said she had a picture of a guy who lived down the street and she would lovingly kiss his picture till her husband returns.  Imagine how that made the soldier feel?  The intentions were good but it must have made him a bit uncomfortable.  Could it be that way with Christ?  Lets err on the side of caution then shall we.

The home that He and his future siblings which eventually came between Mary and Joseph was one of an average Jewish family, with one or two rooms and a dirt floor.  Animal skins covered it for sleeping.  The dwelling’s walls were made of mud reinforced with reeds and rushes.  The windows were bored through openings perhaps with bars of sticks.  The doorway was a small opening cut very low.  The roof was flat and accessible, offering a place to sleep while enjoying the cooler night air.   Livestock shared the interior at night to prevent them from being stolen.  In the winter they helped warm it.  He and his family either sat on mats or reclined against pillows before a table to consume the daily meals of the typical Jew: bread, cheeses, fish and fruits.  If they had meat it was usually because a special guest or family member was visiting.

His daily dress was probably composed of a robe like outer garment, and an inner garment resembling a T-shirt.  These were probably made of wool or perhaps sackcloth.  He wore a girdle which was what we might call a belt, only it was about 4 inches wide going around the waist of the inner garment or the outer garment.  In the colder months he probably wore animal skins.  He may have worn a bracelet or ring; maybe a chain as it was the custom for men and women.  Hebrew men usually cut their hair (but never shaved their heads) so Christ probably did like most, keeping his hair shoulder length to give his head and neck protection from the sun, and he may have had a beard.

He wore sandals composed of a wooden sole with leather straps and he probably walked like everyone along what passed for roads, which were really beaten down animal or cart trails.  When a visitor or guest entered a Jew’s home his shoes were removed and his feet washed by his hosts to remove the dust from his travels.  Christ certainly witnessed and probably helped perform this task, a sign of respect and welcome, many times.

The town of Nazareth where he grew up was like most; its people were steeped in Jewish culture and customs and believed in a promised Messiah.  He never attended a church.  He attended a synagogue.  Sometime between the time Joseph and Mary brought him from Egypt to when he began his ministry they taught him the Jewish traditions, and among other things, the Holy Spirit inspired Torah.  This said, he was surely an educated man.  He not only spoke the common language of his people, Aramaic, but he certainly could read and write Hebrew, the language of the Torah, to conduct his teachings in the Temple and synagogues.  He probably also knew Greek which was the language of the commercial world of his day.

They must have done a very fine job, but of course he was a divine student.  Luke 2: 41-50, tells how his family was returning  to Nazareth after a three day Passover trip to Jerusalem.  Jesus got separated from his parents who didn’t miss him until after a full days journey home.  They must have been terrified as they searched for him high and low; going eventually all the way back to Jerusalem where they finally found him in the Temple wowing the teachers with his knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.  Most certainly, anyone observing this young man must have concluded that he was definitely not just another working class Jewish young man destined for a life of obscurity and common labor.  Thus the concept of teshuvah, which encompassed so much of daily Jewish life, was certainly something he was well aware of making it inconceivable he would expressly condone the elimination of it.  Yet if he did we most certainly would have an account of it in our bibles.

Joseph, his adopted human father was a carpenter and like fathers for generations he trained Jesus in his chosen trade.  It was his duty not just for his son’s future livelihood but to guarantee the family a source of income if the father passed away.  As the eldest son he was likely given the most respect, and expectations for him to care for his family when they reached old age were the highest.   From His request while on the cross for John to care for his mother it’s apparent that Christ lived up to that custom.

We don’t give him the credit he deserves when we referred to him as Jesus, or Yeshua Christ.  That’s because the term “Christ” was and is a title not a proper name.  “Christ” is a transliteration of the Greek word “Kristos” into English.  It isn’t required that we always refer to him as “The Christ” but we should understand the difference.

Who Will Be The Messiah?

The 2nd Temple era Jews were always anticipating the arrival of a Messiah, who would drive off all foreigners from Israel and restore the glory of the days of King David.  Many imposters had come and gone, and usually they died violent deaths.  From about 4 B.C. to 100 A.D., there were half a dozen Messianic movements in Israel so the Jews were always leery of anyone proclaiming such a status about himself, and naturally, were looking for the indicators the Torah gave them to recognize the deliverer.  The Romans and King Herod paid careful attention too to anyone that might bring about an armed uprising to throw off their dominance of the region.

One Woman Had to be Sure

Jews wear a prayer shawl, known as a tallit (ta-leet) when they pray.  This garment was usually long enough to, when worn, with the mid-length centered at the back of the man’ neck, for each end to reach the middle of the man’s shins.  In Numbers 15:38, the Lord commanded that these garments have fringes, or tassels, described in Hebrew as “tzitzits” hanging down from the four corners (or “wings” or the Hebrew word “Kanaph”) of it with blue dye at their ends.  They were believed to have special healing powers.

In Psalm 91:1-4, it speaks about how protection under the “wings” shall belong to the deliverers and they shall give refuge to those who trust in him.  Malachi 4:1-3, says the Sun of Righteousness shall have healing in his “wings.”

So along came a very sick woman, described in Luke 8:43-48, who wanted to touch Jesus’ tallit to be healed.  It’s very likely that she knew the significance of the promises made in the fore mentioned verses in the Torah, the book of Psalms, and predicted by the prophet Malachi, and if Jesus was indeed the Messiah then she would most certainly be cured.

She had been suffering excessive bleeding for twelve years.  She spent everything she had going to and receiving ineffective treatment from any physician she could find.  Naturally, she was probably very anemic but she had another problem.  Because of her condition she was denied entry to worship in the Synagogue, or to participate in any spiritual rituals.  From her perspective all it would take, if this great prophet was indeed the Messiah, was a simple touch of his prayer shawl to cure her.

Her trust in Moses’ entry in Numbers, King David’s in Psalm 91, and Malachi’s reference to the “Suns of Righteousness” was well placed.  As Christ said “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well.  Go in Peace.”

The point I’m attempting to emphasize is just how much the Holy Spirit inspired Tanakh (the Torah, the writings of the major and minor prophets) were relied upon and believed in by the 2nd Temple Jews that inhabited Israel.

Christ’s ministry set him apart from any previous self-proclaimed deliverer.  There were signs that the average Jew would look for to verify that.  Eventually anyone claiming to be the Messiah would have to demonstrate certain characteristics and a thorough knowledge of the sacred spiritual teachings.  The slightest spiritual faux pas would end in condemnation for blasphemy and a quick death.  In all matters (including the topic of forgiveness as the Jews understood it) Christ passed all scrutiny.

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