The Messiah - who are ya?
As I said earlier, the word Messiah means the 'Anointed One', someone, chosen by God, who would redeem (set free) his people. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) were full of references to this person.
The trouble is that there seemed to be a contradiction. This Messiah was either to possess two totally different personalities, or was to be two different people. On the one hand the Messiah was to be one who will be humbled and will suffer for his people, but on the other hand he was to be one to be exalted and who will rule his people. How can that be?
How could this be one man? He can't be a prince and a pauper at the same time? How confused the Jews of those days must have been! The suffering Messiah could be found within the pages of the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah. He is also found in the Talmud, a collection of other Jewish traditional writings.
Within the Bible, in Zechariah, chaper 9 and verse 9, we read, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." This is the Messiah being referred to, as the whole point of this person is to be one who has the power to save. But he's a humble man, gentle and riding on an animal that was hardly associated with things regal.
In Isaiah chapter 53 he's described in very clear, unambiguous terms. " .... despised ... rejected by men ... man of sorrows ... familiar with suffering ... took up our infirmities ... carried our sorrows ... smitten ... afflicted ... pierced for our transgressions ... crushed for our iniquities ... oppressed ... cut off from the land of the living ... "
Read this passage for yourself in a Bible. It is fair to say that this is the most contentious passage of scripture in the lively debate between the 'anti-missionary' Rabbis and Christians. The debate is long and complicated but the identity of this suffering Messiah is absolutely key.
More about that later.