As it should be, Christmas for believers in Jesus is often a time when preaching and teaching focus on the fulfilment of messianic prophecies in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Finding teachings about the importance of Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah as prophesied in Micah 5:2 or the meaning of „alma“ in Isaiah 7:14 will take all of 3 seconds using the search engine of your choice. And there are of course those commentators of a skeptical or non-Messianic-Jewish persuasion who will leap on the fact that Jesus is not now sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem as proof that he is not the Messiah. How do we who know Jesus as Messiah respond to this?
One approach is to focus on the future fulfilment of such prophecy, as spoken by Jesus himself in Matthew 25. Messiah does not rule the world from the city of his father David…yet. But he shall. This approach will by necessity then lead to a further exploration of prophecy and its fulfilment, including the restoration of the nation of Israel, the return of the Jewish people to their biblical homeland, as a fulfilment of end-times prophecies from Isaiah.
This is certainly a valid response. The problem that I see with it is that it depends on the fulfilment of a prophecy we may not live to see. Sure, faith is that answer to that quandary, the evidence of things (as yet) unseen. But there is another way to respond to the skeptical objection that Jesus does not rule the world in any kind of obvious, demonstrable way, and the key to that reading of prophetic, too, can be found in prophecy, specifically, this one from Isaiah 49:
And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am[a] honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
This passage not only foretells the – obviously fulfilled–return of the Jewish people to the physical land of Israel, but that Israel will be a light to the gentiles, shedding the light of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the entire world. This has demonstrably, observably happened. Today in 2021, the whole world, with the possible exception of the officially atheistic Communist block of China and North Korea, shares many if not all of the basic moral precepts taught by the Torah and the New Testament, i.e. prohibitions against stealing, adultery, murder, revenge, mistreating the stranger and foreigner, even greed (a mental/spiritual state, not an act) are universally condemned and forgiveness, faithfulness, non-violence, generosity, the brotherhood of humanity (ala Revelation 5) are universally celebrated. New Testament scholar, concentration camp escapee, and Orthodox Jew, Pinchas Lapide put it this way, speaking of moral development in terms of „evolution of thought“:
And more to the point, the hope that Messiah is has become a universally shared hope. To quote Lapide, again:
Lapide is but one of several well-known Jewish intellectuals and public figures, among them are also Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Jael Eckstein, Rabbis Daniel Lapin and Meier Soloveichik, have expressed a similar appreciation of the role of Christianity, which is to say, of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, has played in reforming and improving the world. This leads me to my final and indeed main point, the other counter-argument to the “Jesus isn’t king” objection one hears from those who aren’t (yet) persuaded that he is Messiah: Yes, he is king. Wherever he is acknowledged as king, he truly does rule, and moral foundations based on his teachings, which are the same moral teachings carried in the Tanakh, undergird all global civilization today. To put it another way: There are at last count 192 nations on this planet. In every single one of them, without exception, some sub-set of the populace, ranging from a few score to hundreds of millions, will, today, in 2021, call Jesus, that “Rabbi from Nazareth” their king, the king of their souls and their lives. Geographically, that’s a lot more territory than King David ruled over at the apex of his power and in terms of population, far more subjects than King David ever could have had at any time in his life. Today, in the here and now, in (partial) fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, Jesus is King over more than 2 billion people who live in every single country on the face of the Earth. He does indeed rule over the Gentiles and has in fact spread the light of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob over the face of the whole world.
And he’s not done, yet, either. „Of the increase of his government there shall be no end.“
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