The Messiah Question

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Posted January 22, 2009

Across America conservatives and liberals have mused or mocked the notion of a messianic president.

On February 18, 2008 Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Claire Hoffman posted a blog on Newsweek magazine's "Under God" religious section titled: Is Obama a (or the) Messiah?

The blog began: "Is Obama the Messiah? People are asking these days and it's not so hard to understand why: the desperate throngs, the tears, the great awakening of a slumbering demographic…The Messiah question is a loud one coming from all corners."

Ms. Hoffman is not the only reporter to address the issue. In June of 2008 columnist Jonah Goldberg said that a simple Google search would pop up nearly 3.5 million hits for the words "Messiah" and "Obama."

Unfortunately, across America conservatives and liberals have mused or mocked the notion of a messianic president. Many left-leaning media figures populated the electronic waves with their transfixion on the president-messiah concept. No doubt observers around the world also participated, though probably less vociferously.

The meaning of "messiah"

"Messiah" is rooted in the Hebrew language, meaning "anointed one," the savior-deliverer of the Israelites. After the twelve tribes of Israel split into two nations in 930 BC—the House of Israel in the north and the House of Judah in the south—the Jews began anticipating a messiah to deliver them from their enemies.

Over a millennium later, Christianity grew into a world religion by believing that Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the Messiah of all mankind. The Jews however did not view Him as such, so they continue to anticipate the arrival of the one and great Messiah.

In popular culture "messiah" denotes one who will save and deliver a nation or tribe from its enemies, troubles and discouragement, making them into a great—or the greatest—people on earth.

Messiah or dictator?

Unfortunately, that desire when misguided has propelled to power many unscrupulous rulers. Typically, the messiah-like leaders of the modern era have been among the world's worst dictators. Characteristically such a messianic figure:

  • Viewed himself as his nation's "anticipated one."
  • Represented himself as the only leader able to solve his nation's problems.
  • Insisted on being regarded as the absolute greatest person in his nation.
  • Exalted himself as the sole source of authority to his people.
  • Governed by his rules only—not by the rule of law.
  • Demanded absolute loyalty—under pain of prison or death.
  • Recruited his blindly loyal supporters to enforce his whims.
  • Claimed to be the only one able to make his people great—which usually included an attempt to pretty much take over the world.
  • Had his picture or a statue prominently displayed wherever he ruled.

You know of these modern messianic dictators: Adolf Hitler in Germany, Josef Stalin in Soviet Russia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao Tse-tung in China to name a few. Some did some good for some people—but at great sacrifice for so many others.

True messiahs they were not! Jesus Christ spoke of such leaders.

Rulers of the gentiles

Technically, "gentiles" in the Bible refers to "the nations" of people who are not Israelites. Sometimes Jesus' disciples argued with unbiblical, gentile-like logic about their future roles under Him. "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the Gentiles lord it over them [often tyrannizing their subjects], and those who are great exercise authority [as dictators] over them'" (Matthew:20:25).

Jesus' bottom line is: Messiah-complex leadership by mere humans is not and never has been of God. He responded plainly, "It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew:20:26-28, New Revised Standard Version).

Answer to the Messiah question

Should we look for a messiah from the rank and file of planet earth? Not so, my friends. Then who is the true Messiah, the actual Savior-Deliverer, and how will He lead His people—all people?

The politics of the true Messiah—Jesus Christ—is the service-to-others "politics" of the future Kingdom of God, not the paltry, tawdry, self-serving leadership that all too often crops up as part of political infighting of this world.

Christ alone is the "Anointed One." Nobody else can be the Messiah, just Him!

So what does the messiah question mean for you? Like with His first disciples, Jesus Christ desires for you to participate in His quality service to others. Learn how that can become a reality. Simply request or download our free booklet: Jesus Christ, the Real Story .

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