Readings: Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 9, Matthew 16:13-20
It has been seven decades since the exile of Judah began—the year 538 B.C., in Babylon, the new home of the prophet Daniel. He was taken captive from Jerusalem as a young man and is now aged, prominent in Babylon, and desperately seeking hope from God for his wayward people “by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3b).
And here, in Daniel’s private prostration before the Holy One of Israel, is the Christ first named Messiah.
The word messiah simply means “anointed one” in Hebrew, so it shows up in a few earlier instances in the Old Testament, but usually in reference to a human king of Israel. The angel Gabriel is the first to use it as a title of the One who will be the ultimate—but not immediate—answer to Daniel’s prayer. Its Greek equivalent is, of course, Christ—the name that Andrew eagerly followed and shared with his brother Peter, the name that Peter boldly proclaimed in Matthew 16 when Jesus asked “Who do you say that I am?”, the name that the soldiers mocked as He was being tortured at the demand of the Jews.
It’s this name that got Him crucified. Israel was ready for “Messiah the Prince,” not the Messiah who would “be cut off and have nothing” (Daniel 9:26). They expected God’s ultimate answer to be immediate, and they expected His immediate purpose to be ultimate; they were unprepared for the possibility that the long-term goal might be astronomically bigger (and significantly less glamorous) than the overthrow of Rome - or that God might use their circumstances of oppression as a tool to set the whole world free.
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”