Essay: The Role of the Messiah in Judaism and Christianity

The image of the Messiah plays an important role in both the Christian and Jewish religions. On the surface, the role seems to be similar in both religions. However, there are differences, most paramount of which is that Jews believe the Messiah has yet to arrive, while Christians believe he has been here, gone and is coming back.

In Judaism the Messiah is significant, but more endowed with the characteristics of a priest, who is mandated to bring the world into alignment with the word of God. He was prophesied to come from the House of David, and will build the eternal kingdom of God on earth, vanquishing the enemies of Israel along the way. Jewish lore describes the Messiah as laboring with the spirit of the Lord upon him guiding his wisdom and understanding while counseling the poor and the meek. Judaism conveys upon the Messiah many good and important qualities, however they never knew when he was going to appear to work his miracles for the people. In fact, within Judaism there is an ongoing debate over the concept of the Messiah and his meaning. This ongoing debate has evolved and changed over the years in context to the historical goings on of the particular era.

Jesus is the Messiah in Christianity. The Gospel identifies him as the Son of God sent to save the world by absolving people of their sins. In the well known story, Jesus was born to a mortal woman named Mary, a virgin. However, there was never any doubt, according to legend that he was the Son of God. Jesus is similar to the Jewish Messiah in that both act in the name of God. Both plan to build the kingdom of God, that will last forever. Jesus was able to do wondrous things and to perform miracles, making the blind see again, the deaf hear again, the lame walk again or the dead to live again. Jesus, while on earth acted as a judge and counselor to the people, telling them to embrace peace over violence and war. According to Christian lore, Jesus did not confine his ministry to just Israel. He talked to everyone, including gentiles. Jesus was also a scion of the House of David like the Messiah of Jewish legend.

The story of Jesus’ birth, life and death on the cross is well known. The tale of his resurrection is also well known. However, what is not known is when he will return to claim the faithful and the believers. His return is simply described as the End of Days. The faithful are counseled to look for signs of his return, for those signs will tell the hour and the day of his return. An entire cottage industry has grown over the years attempting to follow these so called signs and to predict the exact time of his coming. This aspect of the Christian Messiah does not seem to be present in the tales of the Jewish Messiah. In Judaism, He is coming, yet it doesn’t really seem to be so important, or as important for Him to actually show up, as in Christianity. Jews, apparently are content to wait.

Both Messiah figures are flesh and blood even though both are said to be the Son of God. Jesus was apparently mortal until he died. A final diversion in thought occurs when, according to Christian thought, Israel committed a sin by refusing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, which led up to his persecution, trial and crucifixion. For this reason, Jews will not be saved at the End of Days according to Christianity.