Alfred Edersheim on Disappointment of Jewish Messianic Expectations

The children of that generation expected quite another Elijah and quite another Christ, and disbelieved and complained, because the real Elijah and Christ did not meet their foolish thoughts.  They were like children in a market-place, who expected their fellows to adapt themselves to the tunes they played.  It was as if they said:  We have expected great Messianic glory and national exaltation, and ye have not responded (“we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced”); we have looked for deliverance from our national sufferings, and they stirred not your sympathies nor brought your help (“we have mourned to you, and ye have not lamented”) [Mt. 11:17, Luke 7:32].  But you thought of the Messianic time as children, and of us, as if we were your fellows, and shared your thoughts and purposes!  And so when John [the Baptist] came with his stern asceticism, you felt he was not one of you.  He was in one direction outside your boundary-line, and I, as the Friend of sinners, in the other direction.  The axe which he wielded you would have laid to the tree of the Gentile world, not to that of Israel and of sin; the welcome and fellowship which I extended, you would have had to “the wise” and “the righteous,” not to sinners.  Such was Israel as a whole.  And yet there was an election according to grace: the violent, who had to fight their way through all this, and who took the Kingdom by violence — and so Heaven’s Wisdom (in opposition to the children’s folly) is vindicated by all her children.  If anything were needed to show the internal harmony between the Synoptists and the Fourth Gospel, it would be this final appeal, which recalls those other words:  “He came unto His own (things or property), and his own (people, they who were His own) received Him not.  But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (right, authority) to become children of God, which were born (begotten,) not . . . of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:12].

–Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, rpt. 1981 (1883), 2-volume edition, vol. I, pp. 670-71.


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