To start with “the Messiah”, the Greek Christos, if a pollster had interrogated the men in the street in Palestine two millennia ago, asking for a definition of “Messiah”, he would have heard people mumbling about the greatest Jewish king, who would defeat the Romans. The more religiously minded would have added that the Messiah would also be just and holy, and would subject all the nations to Israel and to God. In more peripheral circles, such as the Dead Sea sect, several Messiahs were expected, one royal, one priestly and possibly one prophetic.
But even the don’t-knows would have had an idea about the messianic age, filled chock-a-block with miraculous events. According to the words put into the mouth of Jesus, this would be the time when “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear?.?.?.” (Mt 11:5).
Did Jesus present himself or did the evangelists portray him as a warlike royal pretender? The answer must be no. Jesus always forbade his disciples to proclaim him the Messiah, and when confronted with the question “Are you the Christ?”, his regular reply was evasively negative: “That’s what you call me,” he kept on saying, “not I.”
By contrast, the non-bellicose wonderworking figure standing in the shadow of the messianic age fits him perfectly. It tallies with the picture of the Galilean healer, exorcist and preacher so prominent in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. In his answer to the question of John the Baptist whether he was the one who was to come, Jesus simply pointed to the events surrounding him: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are healed (Mt 11; Lk 7:22).
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