Jesus came to Israel as Messiah, as Jehovah among them, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, and as King of the Jews. All these reference basically the same thing, that Israel’s long awaited Messiah had come, heralded by the baptism and ministry of John.
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
But it is clear from this verse in the first chapter of John’s gospel, that when Messiah came, He was not well received. And if not received, we may say that Messiah was rejected by the nation of Israel as a whole. They would not have Him as their King, the King of Israel, the King of the Jews, but rather instead said, “We have no King, but Caesar!” (John 19:15)
And so Messiah was soundly rejected in His first coming, and in Zion, the place associated so much with the Anointed of Jehovah, He became a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
“Wherefore? Because it was not on the principle of faith, but as of works. They have stumbled at the stumblingstone, according as it is written, Behold, I place in Zion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence: and he that believes on him shall not be ashamed.”
Jesus Christ as Messiah became a source of stumbling for the nation. They were offended at Him, and would not receive Him. In Matt. 21:42 the Messiah is the “stone that the builders rejected…” Further we see that they would not come to Him;
“Ye search the scriptures, for ye think that in them ye have life eternal, and they it is which bear witness concerning me; and ye will not come to me that ye might have life.”
His own people, the Jews, having rejected Him, would bring upon the nation of Israel certain consequences and judgments from God.
Messiah Rejected – Israel Set Aside and Made Desolate by God
In Matt. 23:37-39, Jesus describes how the rejecting of Messiah, in turn, brought about Israel being rejected by God, and set aside as a nation. Also all the Messianic promises to Israel of physical blessing and restoration would be set aside as well.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
The promises associated with Messiah would have to wait. Messiah had been rejected and Israel would be judged and left desolate by God. Jerusalem would be destroyed as well as the temple, and the people scattered into the nations. All would be set aside as associated with the title of Messiah.
In another portion of scripture (John 12:12-50) we may see clearly the rejection of Messiah and the transition to the title, character, and mission of the Son of Man.
“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
The King of Israel!”
Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
In this euphoric moment the people gathered in Jerusalem cried out after Jesus, declaring Him as the King of Israel. This is definitely referencing the Messiah of Israel, and we see daughters of Zion associated with the King. But things soon change, and in this same chapter we see…
“But Jesus answered them saying; The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.”
Here I believe we see something entirely different from the celebratory reception He received. We can see in the Lord’s mind a transitioning from the role of Messiah – His triumphal entry into Jerusalem – to that of the role and character of the Son of Man. When the Greeks come wanting to see Him (v. 20), He knows it would be the distinct mission of the Son of Man that would be God reaching out to the Gentiles (the thought of Gentiles and the Son of Man would be under the scope of the kingdom of heaven, which was at hand, but not yet present). Messiah is a promise to the Jews and Jesus knows that any fulfillment of these promises is now not possible. It was somewhat in the idea of fulfilling all righteousness that God had to present Messiah to Israel, because of the promises to the patriarchs. This had to be done first, in the counsels of God, to the physical seed of Abraham, before God sets the title of Messiah and the promises aside. God then turns to do an entirely different and distinct work among the Gentiles.
The Testing of Israel – God Looking for Fruit
The history of Israel as a nation is for the most part, a story of failure. From the time Israel stood before Jehovah at Mt. Sinai to the coming of Messiah, the pages of Old Testament scripture tell of their rebellion and sin (Ez. 20:1-44). This did not change with the coming of Messiah to them. As a people they were being given one final exam, but all that resulted was failure. In a remarkable way, Jesus tells this story of the history of Israel, in a parable in Matthew.
“Hear another parable: There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and made a fence round it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and left the country. But when the time of fruit drew near, he sent his bondmen to the husbandmen to receive his fruits. And the husbandmen took his bondmen, and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other bondmen more than the first, and they did to them in like manner. And at last he sent to them his son, saying, They will have respect for my son. But the husbandmen, seeing the son, said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him and possess his inheritance. And they took him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him.
When therefore the lord of the vineyard comes, what shall he do to those husbandmen?
They say to him, He will miserably destroy those evil men, and let out the vineyard to other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.”
Whenever God is looking for fruit in the scriptures, it is the measuring of responsibility in man. God had done much for Israel in setting them up, choosing them for Himself, separating them from all other nations and building up a wall around them in the world — Israel was blessed of God and had every advantage God could give man in the flesh, as in the first Adam. With all this blessing comes responsibility and God comes looking for fruit in the vineyard He planted (Isaiah 5:1-7). Earlier in this same chapter, it is the same principle (Matt. 21:18-19). Jesus comes to the fig tree looking for fruit, and finding none, curses the tree saying, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” The fig tree is a type of man in the flesh, but more specifically the nation of Israel. All that the Lord found was leaves, the outward adorning of the flesh by the religion of the Jews. They had borne no fruit and they are judged and cursed as a nation for their failure in responsibility.
God sent many prophets to Israel, and they were beaten and abused. God then sends more, and the same happens to them. Finally, at the end of the testing of Israel, God sends His Son, saying; ‘They will respect my son.’ Messiah, the Son of David, is rejected (the stone that the builders rejected – v. 42). This represents the end and finality for Israel as far as responsibility. It is over, it is finished. God is done looking any longer for fruit from Israel. And what do the scriptures say upon the rejection of the son? “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” Israel as a nation is judged in consequence of their failures, Jerusalem is destroyed, and they are left in desolation. “And he that falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.” This statement is all judgment. As for Israel, and for that matter, all of mankind, it was proven that man in Adam could not produce fruit. Israel was given every advantage, given the law and the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1-2), and yet they were only found disobedient. The works of man in the flesh did not produce fruit unto God, but rather is reserved only for judgment and condemnation.
Israel Restored in the End
It is not that God cannot restore Israel. This He will certainly do in the end, for God is ever faithful to all His promises. This same Messiah, Jesus Christ, will come to Israel again, a second time, the true son of David. He will be their Deliver out of Zion, to remove all their transgressions and sins (Rom. 11:26-27). He will defeat of all their enemies. He will sit on the throne of David, forever reigning over the twelve tribes of Israel restored and prospering in the Promised Land. These are God’s promises to Israel attested to by the prophets of old. And they will surely all come to pass, for God remains faithful and true, even in the midst of abject unfaithfulness in man (Rom. 3:1-4).
But simply said, this will all happen in the end, based on an entirely different principle. It will not be the principle of responsibility in Israel, but rather the principle of sovereign grace in the faithfulness of God. I will not go into the details of this now. Suffice it to say in the end, and surely not until then, God fulfills every promise and word to Israel. He does so strictly by His own infinite power and integrity. This future fulfillment by God has absolutely no dependence on anything Israel has ever done in responsibility, producing fruit before God.
But the parable (Matt. 21:33-41) tells the story of the history of Israel in its failure in responsibility, as does the cursed fig tree that had no fruit. Messiah was not received, but rejected, and that is clear also from the testimony of scripture in John;
“But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
“Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”
Jesus Christ was born under the law (Gal. 4:4) and was known according to the flesh as the Messiah (Rom.9:4-5, II Cor. 5:16). But Paul clearly states, “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer.” Judaism had proper glory as a religion in the flesh, for the presence of God was behind the veil in the tabernacle, and the Christ came to Israel in the flesh as a Jew. It could have been the crowning success of man in the flesh, but rather, in man, that is, in the flesh, there was no good thing to be found. However, Christians regard Him no longer as Messiah who came to His own, that is, to the Jews. We (believers, of Jew and Gentile both, Eph. 2:14), only regard Him now as, the Son of Man glorified, exalted to the right hand of God. As we said, as for Messiah, Christ came unto His own, but His own people did not receive Him (John 1:11).
John 19:19 “Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
With Messiah fully rejected, and Israel destined to be set aside as a nation in judgment and desolation, Jesus says in John 12:23, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. “ And therefore, it is to the title of the Son of Man, and the character and work associated with it, we must now give our attention to, in the counsels of God.