Some people have the mistaken idea that if the Jews had not rejected Jesus Christ, He would have initiated His glorious earthly reign as the prophesied Davidic King. The New Testament makes it clear that this is not so.
Jesus offered the Jews something they were not ready to accept. What He offered was prefigured in Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) and became clear following His death and resurrection (Luke 24:26-34). It was revolting and unacceptable to even His closest friends:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).1
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken (Luke 18:31-34).
The apostle Paul later summarized the typical Jewish reaction to the idea of a crucified Messiah:
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).
To Jews, the cross was incomprehensible. The only way Jesus could have gained their acceptance would have been to present Himself as the conquering hero they expected—the Davidic King. This was something He never intended to do at the time of His first coming. Although He presented Himself as their King, He made clear that His kingdom would not come about in the way they expected. He was a King who would suffer and die as a servant.
Jesus didn’t “postpone” His kingdom because of Jewish unbelief. He inaugurated a kingdom far greater than the national kingdom they envisioned. From the beginning of His ministry, a sacrificial death was at the center of His messianic calling.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36).
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:14-17).
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
[Jesus], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death
When Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God/heaven was near (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15), the Jews assumed He was about to establish the earthly messianic kingdom. If He had offered Himself as the Davidic King they expected, they would have followed Him. When He performed the miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes to feed the multitude, many were ready to declare Him king; but He gave them no encouragement (John 6:1-15). His pattern of discouraging others from viewing Him as the conquering Davidic King continued up to the time of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Though truly their King, He would not fulfill their expectations (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus not only failed to fit Jewish expectations for a conquering national king, He also shocked and scandalized them by establishing a kingdom that wasn’t Jewish but universal.
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:19-23).
Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way (Luke 4:24-30).
The kingdom Jesus offered at this time was based in God’s moral and spiritual power and authority, not earthly political power.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:36-37).
The authority of Jesus’ kingdom was not from this world, but from above. The unexpected manner of Christ’s first coming offers the prime example of how important it is to follow His warnings against using prophecy to forecast the future (Matthew 24:36-39,50; 25:13; Luke 12:46; 21:8; Acts 1:6-8). Prophecy is ambiguous before it is fulfilled (See the ATQ articles: Can We Know if Current Events Are the Fulfillment of Prophecy?, Why Aren’t Unbelievers Amazed by the Many Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled?and How Often have People Misapplied Prophecy?).
Though Jesus’ warnings make it clear that it’s unwise to make specific predictions regarding future events, we know that Jesus will return to establish His kingdom. When He does, He will be Lord.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:29-31).
- Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Back To Article