Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Hagee Heresy: Jesus Was Not The Messiah For The Jews

This blog [ ] has as its motto, “Always Reforming to Scripture.” The key text is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which reads, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Scripture is not only profitable for teaching but also for rebuking and correcting false teaching. As a Christian and pastor, I am accountable to the same standard.

John Hagee is a popular preacher both on TV and in printed form. A few weeks ago I was getting dressed in the morning and happened to flip on the TV. A commercial with John Hagee caught my attention. He was promoting his new book, In Defense of Israel. I was shocked at some of the statements he made, so I bought the book to check out further what he said. A few weeks later, before I had even started reading the book, I saw another commercial of Hagee promoting, In Defense of Israel, but this time it was on Youtube. Here are two attention getting quotes from the commercial: Hagee said his book, “will prove that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah” and that “…since Jesus refused by word and deed to claim to be the Messiah, how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered.” After watching the short video clip [ ], I got the book out and started reading.

Hagee believes he has a call on his life to bring Jews and Christians together (p. 14-15). His book addresses this, and for the first one hundred and thirty pages is pretty harmless. He talks about Israel and the anti-Semitism that has gone on in history. But then the book takes a wrong turn. Beginning on page 134 and following, I could hardly believe what I was reading.

Pg. 134 “The message of the gospel was from Israel, not to Israel!” (I will deal with this at the end of the review.)

Pg. 135-136 Under the heading “I’ve Come to Die!” Hagee states,“Five major points must now be made that are crucial to understanding that the Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah.”

1. Jesus had to live to be the Messiah
2. If it was God’s will for Jesus to die from the beginning. . .
3. If it was Jesus intention to be obedient unto death. . .

It seems that Hagee’s thought is that if Jesus was intending to be the Messiah for the Jews then he would not have come to die. The truth is that the Jewish messiah was to be a suffering servant who would die a penal substitutionary death (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Ironically, Hagee even quotes that Jesus told his disciples, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:26). In the great Messianic confession passage of Matthew 16:15-21, where Peter confesses to Jesus, "You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16), Jesus tells his disciples that he had a death to accomplish. The text says, “From that time Jesus began to show 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 up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21).

Hagee’s next two points:
4. If there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says Jesus came to be the Messiah. . .
5. And if Jesus refused by his words or actions to claim to be the Messiah to the Jews, then how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?

Hagee’s logic is that the Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah “if there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says Jesus came to be the Messiah” (p.136). Hagee’s first supposed proof is under the heading, “Give Us a Sign!” (p.136). His point is that the “Jews were accustomed to their leaders demonstrating their call from God with supernatural signs” (p.136). Hagee goes on to show that God gave Moses signs to convince the children of Israel that he was their messiah. Hagee says, “if God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah, just as Moses had done?” (p.137)

John the Baptist wanted some proof as well when he was in prison. Matthew 11:2-5 says, “Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Here is the supernatural signs that Hagee is looking for, “4 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” The Apostle John, in his gospel, gives us his purpose for writing. It is stated in John 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Has Mr. Hagee read the Gospel of John? John’s purpose statement for writing the gospel account was to tell about the supernatural signs that Jesus performed and that these “signs” pointed to his messiahship, being the Son of God. So to answer Hagee’s assertion, “if God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah, just as Moses had done?” He did! He did many signs to prove that he was the Messiah. Here are some of recorded supernatural signs: He turned water into wine (2:1-11); He healed the royal official’s son (4:43-54); He healed a lame man (5:1-15); He fed more than five thousand people with bread and fish (6:1-15); He walked on the water (6:16-21); He healed a man born blind (9:1-41) and He raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44).

After Hagee asks the question, “if God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah” the very next sentence is “The Jews, knowing of Moses’s signs to Israel, asked for a supernatural sign that Jesus was indeed their Messiah” (p.137). Hagee has this quote for Jesus’s answer, “No sign will be given…except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40). Then Hagee asserts, “Jesus refused to give a sign.” Let us look at the text again,

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (p.137).
In their continual rejection of Jesus’s claims, Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees (Jews) that they will only get the sign of Jonah. This sign of all signs is his death and resurrection. Jesus goes on to say that those who were rejecting his claims would be condemned at the future judgment (Matthew 12:41-42).

The next subheading is “Herod Asked for a Sign” (p 138). Hagee writes, “When Jesus went on trial, Herod “had desired for a long time to see Him…and he hoped to see some miracle [sign] done by Him” (Luke 23:8). Jesus refused to produce a sign for the national leadership of Israel in an attempt to prove he was the Messiah because it was not the Father’s will, nor his, to be Messiah.” Unbelievable! Out of the entire account of the trial of Jesus, Hagee uses this little quote of Herod’s. First of all, Jesus was not at the call of Herod. Jesus did not need to perform for Herod. In regards to Jesus at his trial, we need to look a little closer. Hagee quotes Luke 23:8 and says, “Jesus refused to produce a sign for the national leadership of Israel in an attempt to prove he was the Messiah because it was not the Father’s will, nor his, to be Messiah” (p.138). It is hard to believe Hagee wants to equate Herod with the “national leadership of Israel” and then overlook the rest of the trial of Jesus. If we look at Luke 22:66-68 we have Jesus standing in front of Jewish leaders and they ask him if he is the Messiah. The text says, “66 When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, 67 "If You are the Christ [Messiah], tell us." But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer.” For the last three years Jesus had been preaching and performing miracles. It was ironic that they would ask because if Jesus told them they still would not believe. In Mark 14 we have a dramatic court scene where Jesus stands before the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas, and other Jewish leaders as they throw questions at him,

Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? (Mark 14:61-63)
There you have it. Jesus, when asked if he was the Messiah, testified in the Jewish court that he indeed was. Case closed.

The next subheading is “Tell No One!” (p. 139). Hagee starts out saying, “If Jesus wanted to be Messiah, why did he repeatedly tell his disciples and followers to “tell no one” about his supernatural accomplishments?” Hagee’s big point is that in the Gospels “The people wanted him to be their Messiah, but he absolutely refused.” How did he refuse you might ask? Well, according to Hagee’s logic, Jesus repeatedly told people to “tell no one” (Matthew 8:1-4; Luke 4:41; 8:56; Mark 7:36; 8:26, 29-30). Hagee’s last statement in this section is, “The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews” (p 140).

As far as the “Tell No One!” policy goes, here are some things to think about. In regards to the Matthew 8:1-4 passage where Jesus tells the leper to “tell no one,” D.A. Carson’s comments are insightful. He points out that, “the synoptic parallels (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:15) as well as other similar occurrences in Matthew demonstrate that these commands to be silent have other functions—to show that Jesus is not presenting himself as a mere wonder-worker who can be pressured into messiahship by crowds whose messianic views are materialistic and political. Jesus’ authority derives from God alone, not the acclaim of men; he came to die, not to trounce the Romans. The people who disobeyed Jesus’ injunctions to silence only made his mission more difficult.”[1] In regards to Luke 8:56, Walter L. Liefeld states that there is not a messianic secret going on here but rather “in actuality Jesus often tried to avoid publicity to prevent premature or misguided declarations of his messiahship from being made.”[2]

Concerning the Mark 7:36 passage Walter W. Wessel weighs in with the same line of thought as Carson and Liefeld. He states that, “His reason for enjoining silence here was probably the same as in 1:44. He did not want a false concept of him as only a miracle worker to spread lest it touch off a messianic insurrection and prevent him from accomplishing his God-appointed mission.”[3] Wessel also has some good comments in regard to Mark 8:29. He says, “Peter’s confession revealed real insight into the nature of Christ’s person and mission, but his concept of Jesus’ messiahship was far from being perfect. Peter still had much to learn of Messiah’s suffering, rejection, and death, as the incident immediately following reveals.”[4] Regarding Mark 8:30, Wessel states, “Jesus injunction of silence arose out of his knowledge of the disciple’s defective view of his messiahship. They still needed instruction about it before they would be given permission to proclaim it without restraint.”[5] The following context of Mark 8:31-33 verifies Wessel’s view:

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

It is as if Hagee has bought into the false idea of many of the Jews of Jesus’ day. That idea being that if he was going to be the Messiah of Israel he must rule and reign with power and release them from Roman control. Yet the Bible is clear that his mission the first time was to be a suffering servant who would die for sins (Isaiah 53; Matthew 16:21; ).

The next subheading is “Jews for Jesus” (p.140-141). Hagee mentions Jesus feeding of the five thousand, walking on water and raising Lazarus. Then he says that, “He performed these miracles to minister to the needs of people; they were not intended to be a demonstration of supernatural signs to prove he was the Messiah.” Where is the verse for Hagee’s assertion? Once again it is hard to believe that Hagee would say something that is the opposite John 20:30-31, “30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” You can not get any clearer than that! The signs were written down so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

The New Testament clearly teaches Jesus as being the Messiah of the Jews. The very first line of the Gospel of Matthew reads, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). The purpose of Matthew’s Gospel according to Carson is as follows,

At the broadest level we may say that Matthew’s purpose is to demonstrate (1) that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Son of Man, Immanuel; (2) that many Jews, and especially the leaders, sinfully failed to perceive this during his ministry; (3) that the messianic kingdom has already dawned, inaugurated by the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus; (4) that this messianic reign, characterized by obedience to Jesus and consummated by his return, is the fulfillment of OT prophetic hopes…[6]

Could Matthew be any clearer in stating what he was trying to accomplish in his introduction? Jesus is the long awaited Jewish Messiah who has come to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:1-21). In Matthew chapter two it is recorded that Herod gathered Jewish priest and scribes inquiring from them where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:4). The response was that the OT (Jewish) prophet said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Matthew 2:5-6).

A previous look at the Gospel of John already revealed its purpose statement declaring that John recorded the signs of Jesus’ to prove that he was the Messiah. Several other passages in John also show this to be true. John the Baptist was asked by the Jewish leaders who he was and John said that he was the not the Messiah (John 1:20). When Andrew, who was Jewish, heard John the Baptist say that Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1:36) he ran and declared to his brother Peter that, “We have found the Messiah (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41). Later in John’s Gospel, John the Baptist declared, "You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him.' "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full” (John 3:28-29). John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus the Messiah to prepare his way. In John 4 the woman at the well says, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us" (John 4:25) and Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He" (John 4:26).

Do you recall Hagee claiming “there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says Jesus came to be the Messiah”? The above passage seems to make that pretty clear. John chapter 7 is another important passage because it concerns a controversy with Jewish persons concerning whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. Here it is,

25 So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, "Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26 "Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ [Messiah], do they? 27 "However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ [Messiah] may come, no one knows where He is from." 28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, "You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 "I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me." 30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ [Messiah] comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. (John 7:25-32)
This passage has Jewish persons discussing whether Jesus is the Messiah. The next few verses describe Jesus at a Jewish feast, where he made some profound statements that sparked some interest,

40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, "This certainly is the Prophet." 41 Others were saying, "This is the Christ [Messiah]." Still others were saying, "Surely the Christ [Messiah] is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ [Messiah] comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" (John 7:40-42 ).
This section is very Jewish. The talk of the day was whether or not Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and the NT says indeed he was. Andreas Kostenberger writes, “For whereas people (erroneously) thought that Jesus hailed from Galilee, John’s readers clearly are expected to know that Jesus had in fact been born in Bethlehem thus fulfilling messianic prophecy (cf. Matt. 2:5-6; Luke 2:4, 15).”[7]

In John nine, Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. The Pharisees call his parents in for some Q and A, here is the dialogue:

Pharisees: "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" (John 9:19)

Parents: "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." (John 9:20-21)

Divine commentary: “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ [Messiah], he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22)

In the next section of verses Jesus is at the Jewish Feast of Dedication being held in Jerusalem (John 10:22). It says, “24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ [Messiah], tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me” (John 10:24-25). This passage shows that Jesus was the Messiah for the Jews (and Gentiles) and yet many of them would not believe even though he did “works” that testified to its truth.

In John 11:27 Martha, a Jewish woman, says concerning Jesus, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (John 11:27).

The book of Acts is relevant to this issue as well because it shows us the message of the early church. Peter’s first recorded sermon is found in Acts 2:22-36. Peter shares that Jesus was accompanied by signs and died and rose again. Peter’s conclusion is, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ [Messiah]-- this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The Apostles were often told to stop teaching in the name of Jesus and the text says, “they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ [Messiah]” (Acts 5:42). Paul clearly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah to the Jews:

Acts 9:22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ [Messiah].

Acts 17:1-3 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ [Messiah] had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming
to you is the Christ [Messiah]."

Acts 18:5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ [Messiah].
Paul in his testimony before King Agrippa stated, "So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ [Messiah] was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23).

In close, I want to address the statement found on page 134 where Hagee says, “The message of the gospel was from Israel, not to Israel!” This is not what the NT says. Israel’s only plan of salvation is to trust in Jesus as the crucified Messiah. Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Here is why Israel needs the Gospel. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness and a righteousness which we do not have (Romans 1:18-3:20). Paul said that both Jews and Gentiles are charged with sin (Romans 3:9, 23). A person cannot be justified (declared righteous) by good works because no one can do them perfectly (Romans 3:20-21; Gal. 2:16; 3:10-11). If you have sinned and fall short of glorifying (Romans 3:9, 23), then how can you be saved? The answer is that there is a righteousness provided by God that is not based on your performance (“apart from law”) (Romans 3:21; Gal. 2:21). God’s judicial act to declare righteous (justify) is graciously given for those who have faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice (Romans 3:22-26). This righteousness from God is for all those who are trusting in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:22). The reason we need God’s righteousness is because all have sinned and fall short of glorifying God (Romans 3:23). God publicly displayed the Lord Jesus as a atoning sacrifice (Romans 3:25). This great act of God shows that he alone is the one who justifies the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Justification by faith alone (in Christ alone) is for Jews and Gentiles (3:29-30). Romans 3:29-30 “Or is God {the God} of Jews only? Is He not {the God} of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”

John Hagee needs to change his anti-Christian view. Jesus did come to be the Messiah of the Jews. He should not attempt to remove the stumbling block—Jesus the Messiah (Romans 9:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23) because Jesus is their only hope for salvation (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:1-4).

[1] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 199.

[2] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 917.

[3] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 684.

[4] Ibid., 694.

[5] 694.

[6] Carson, 25.

[7] Andreas Kostenberger, “John,” Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Baker 2004) 242.