In the 1980’s, as a self-centered and arrogant Jewish 29 year-old, I discovered something I was not looking for and the course of my life was completely and forever altered. I found out that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. I learned that he was the one spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures, that he was God’s way of salvation for Jew and Gentile alike, and that through him my life could be transformed — even though I did not want it to be transformed.
One result of this revelation was a desire to get to know the God of the Bible better who, I discovered, had gone to great lengths to reveal himself. So I did something that would classify me as foolish, if not mentally deranged, by most contemporary New Yorkers: I began to study the Bible. As a Jewish new believer in Christ, the reality of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy resonated through every corner of my soul.
I understood on a profound level that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Everything about him was Jewish. He was born a Jew, raised in a Jewish community, lived and worked as a Jew among Jews, worshipped in the Temple as a faithful Jew, taught as a Jew and ultimately died as a Jew with the Hebrew Scriptures on his lips. And I discovered that the New Testament, though reputed to be an anti-Semitic book, was in fact written by Jews, for Jews and about Jews. I also learned that a continuous theme that weaved its way throughout the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures was that of a Messiah, or special anointed one, who would one day set foot onto the stage of human history. And the more I read and studied the Bible, the more fascinated I became at this extraordinary unfolding plan of God’s. Consequently, I also came to understand that Jews, more than any other people, should believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. For only then can they be completely true to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in harmony with the Hebrew Scriptures.
I also discovered to both my surprise and dismay that many Gentile Christians, including many who had been followers of Christ for decades and attended church regularly, though very knowledgeable of the New Testament, were often profoundly unacquainted with the rich Old Testament roots of their faith. This was particularly surprising to me because the primary point of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah of the Old Testament.
Old Testament messianic prophecy and New Testament fulfillment is also one of the most compelling evidences of the Christian faith. As a Jewish man, this evidence was central to my own acceptance of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. The New Testament did not simply come down to us in a vacuum, but rather is the culmination of God’s great promise to send a Messiah or anointed one — a promise foretold hundreds, and in some cases, over one thousand years before it actually came to pass.
These promises or messianic prophecies are our sure reliable guide, a bedrock of our faith, the written assurance that Jesus indeed is the “expected one” (Mattew 11:3), and the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. In order to get his disciples to understand his coming, Jesus continually referred them back to the authority of their own Hebrew Scriptures. He was in essence saying: All of Scripture points to me. The whole of the Scripture (i.e., what we now call the Old Testament), finds its focus and fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Israel’s Messiah. The disciples themselves then used the Old Testament to substantiate Jesus’ messiahship to others. When the messianic expectations are truly understood, it becomes clear that Jesus, and only Jesus, can fulfill these requirements.