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Messianic expectation in the Gospels

by Anton Stier

Many believers unfortunately do not notice the fact, that the coming of the Lord Jesus to this earth was first of all a confirmation of God’s promises to Israel. (Rom. 15:8). And those promises looked forward to an earthly Kingdom under dominion of the Son of David.
The New Testament begins with ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.’ In contradiction to the chronological order, He is first named the Son of David and then the Son of Abraham. The Lord Jesus first will have to set things right in this world as Son of David before He can fulfil as Son of Abraham God’s promises to Abraham, among which is the promise of the land (Gen. 15:8). The concept ‘son’ in the Scriptures is not only an indication for a biological relationship, but has primarily the meaning of heir (see Gal. 4:7).

The announcement of Johns’ birth
When the angel Gabriel, after his revelation to Daniel of God’s plan of salvation with Israel in the well known ’70 year weeks’ (see Daniel 9), announces the birth of John the Baptist, his calling is clear right away: “And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah1, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) John had to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. And with that, the New Testament seamlessly connects to the Old, of which the last words are: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Mal. 4:5-6) These closing words of the Old Testament make clear how Israel’s conversion was of life importance in the perspective of the coming of the King. The warning as it happens is: “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”. Therefore Peter’s warning to the people of his nation in relation to Christ’s coming and the establishment of all things: “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people”. (Acts 3:23; compare Deut. 18:15-19).
The prophecy of Zachariah and Mary
The prophesy of Zachariah also proves clearly the Old Testament anticipation of Israel’s earthly deliverance and recovery: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: that He would grant unto us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear” (Luke 1:68-74).
And then of course Gabriel’s birth announcement to Mary, that also has the theme of His Kingdom and Israel’s recovery: “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33); compare 2 Samuel 7:12, 13; Isaiah 9:5-7; Psalm 132:11). Mary also describes the earthly blessings of His coming Kingdom: “He hath shown strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.” (Luke 1:51-55); compare Is. 52:10; Ps. 107:40,41; Ps. 98:3; Ps. 105:6-10).

Anticipation (Expectation) of the Messiah
Finally, we notice how much the expectation of His coming and the recovering of Israel was present among the believers in that time. The wise men from the East had seen His star (acc. Num. 24:17) and came to worship the King of the Jews; Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25); Anna, the prophetess spoke about Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). How many believers these ‘all’ do represent, we don’t know, but we can draw from the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-39 that Jesus’ coming was preceded by many false messiahs, that at least shows the stressful Messianic expectations in that time. Simeon prophesies, with the Child Jesus in his arms: “for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
His glory revealed
Even though Simeon’s prophecy about the glory of Israel will be fulfilled at Christ’s coming, it is telling that Jesus’ first sign (water became wine) was meant to reveal His glory (John 2:11).