One of the ironies of prophecy is that when it comes to pass there are people who refuse to believe its fulfillment. Sometimes we construct a warm and comfortable nest of ideas around a prophetic hope without realizing that those ideas have become more precious than the hope itself. Fulfillment requires the dismantling of what was intended as temporary. Some people object to that. That was the case when Jesus fulfilled messianic expectations.
The conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders intensified during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus angered them when He healed a man on the Sabbath, declared that He was the light of the world, and claimed God as His Father. He also confronted their unbelief. Finally, Jesus said that if anyone obeyed Him, he would never die.
The Jews said to [Jesus], “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:52-53)
Jesus answered their scoffing question with a thinly veiled claim to divinity. “Abraham rejoiced to see my day.” And, “Before Abraham was born, I am.”1 Jewish writings suggest that, during his vision in Genesis 15, Abraham had peered into the messianic age. In His answer, Jesus had grabbed the Jews’ treasured prophetic charts, thrown them in front of them, and pointed: “Here’s where we are on the map. Look at the landmarks!” The Jews considered it unbelievable effrontery.
On a previous occasion, Jesus had confronted Jewish unbelief in reference to His message and His wisdom. The Queen of Sheba had recognized King Solomon’s wisdom; the wisdom of the Son of Man was greater. The people of Nineveh had repented at the message of Jonah; Jesus’ words were far more important. Yet, few people were ready to accept that Jesus was greater than Jonah and Solomon.2
Only a despised Samaritan woman had been able to pose the objection as a searching question, “You are not greater than our founding father, are you?” Jesus’ unspoken but resounding answer was “Yes.” Later she reached out with more faith, “Could this be the Messiah?”3
As God’s Messiah, Jesus is greater than any of our heroes, traditions, or home made expectations. So we should ask ourselves whether we cherish them more than Him. And, when it comes to longstanding prayers, promises, or words of prophecy, are we ready to live in the new world that comes with their fulfillment?
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