Zechariah Chapter XX

Will the Jews Accept Jesus as the Messiah?

Chapter XX

(Mt. 23:37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them who are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt. 23:38) Behold, your house is left to you desolate. (Mt. 23:39) For I say to you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.

Will The Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah before they see him again? I sincerely hope so. It is quite possible that such a wonderful turn-around at his second coming will take place in the Jewish nation. But the prediction of such an event will have to be found in another verse because it cannot be found in the passage above, which is often used as a proof text of such an eventuality. The way the passage reads in translation supports the implied idea that Jesus said to the Jews of Jerusalem that they would see him again but not until they confessed him as the Lord's messenger.

This is not the meaning of Jesus' words, and if it were it presents a problem, because they did see very much more of him, and that both publicly and privately. In the next few days, after this statement, He would be arrested, escorted to two different houses of the two High Priests, confess his "sonship" in the evening to the Sanhedrin before they found him guilty on the next morning; He would be marched all over the city, first to Pilate and then to Herod who sent him back to Pilate again, and then be beaten for the third or fourth time and compelled to carry his cross to the place of crucifixion where those who passed by on the highway hurled ridicule in his face all day Friday. Jesus could hardly have meant that they would not "see" him. But read the scripture and notice this problem which demands more investigation into the actual meaning of the statement.

(Mt. 23:39) For I say to you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.

This verse (39) is not properly rendered in English because the Greek verbal system has been over-simplified in translation. The only verbal phrase translating Greek idiom into English is, "I say to you." In Greek there are no future verbs in the sentence even though the KJV translation uses two and implies the third, i.e. "that comes." In Greek "ye see" and "ye say" are both aorist subjunctive verbs. The verbal system in Greek does not show time outside of the indicative mode. The subjunctive mode used here therefore could be any time but likely implies the future. However, if the subjunctive idea is not stated, nor even implied, then the translation is not conveying the major verbal idea intended in the original. The original sentence, in Greek, is emphatically subjunctive. Time is altogether secondary.

It is difficult to render Greek idiom into English except with very ponderous and clumsy construction. It is necessary to adjust the words to English idiom to smooth out the construction so that it is readable. But meaning is lost in this kind of transfer. The smoother the translation the greater the loss.

The meaning of the word "idate" ( ) or "see" is taken by some* to mean "know" or "recognize" (relating the verb to "oida" rather than "horao"). Thus the first statement of Jesus would be that, "it was doubtful that they would recognize him until..." Until what?

* Exell & Spence, op. cit.; (Lukyn Williams); Matthew, Vol. 15; pg. 406.
The second verb, "eipate," ( )is also an aorist subjunctive and means "ye may say" or "ye might say." The idiom is difficult but the English translation using the future, which says that Jesus will not appear to the Jews again until they confess his divine mission, is close but not exactly what He implied. He did not imply that his future coming would be controlled by their confessing him as Lord. What is stated is that it is doubtful that they will ever recognize who he is until the doubt in their minds is removed about the validity of his initial divine mission. Thus, when the Jews are able to recognize and clearly state his relevance to their own history, which they are reluctantly coming closer to doing, they will then be able recognize in Jesus who he is.

The context favors this idea. "Oh Jerusalem, I would have taken you, I still would, but you did not recognize me!" This is exactly what the companion passage says in Luke 19:42: "If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hidden from your eyes." In other words, "you did not recognize me and you will not recognize me [until]..."

Luke 13:35 quotes the same saying of Jesus and uses exactly the same verbs as Mt. 13:39 but places Jesus in a different place, which would compound the initial problem posed in the third paragraph; (he was yet in Galilee on his way to Jerusalem). The whole sentence is the same except that the word "until" is a different Greek synonym, but no argument, as we have seen, is created by any time at all, near or distant, being attributed to "until."

The rest of the verse is a quotation of that which will have been confessed. That which will accompany, and be a result of, Jewish recognition, is a direct quotation from the Septuagint in Ps. 118:26, "Blessed be he that comes in the name of the LORD." This verse also is better understood with a Greek analysis. The word Blessed, "eulogamenos," ( ) is a perfect passive participle. It literally means "having been blessed or praised." The "perfect" action of the participle is considered to have been completed before the time of the speaker. How long before is not a consideration but the Greek verbal idea is that the action has already been completed. Time is still secondary but perfected action must imply the past in relationship to the speaker. The person using the word is confessing that the one referred to has already been blessed.

The verb "to be" is understood and is so noted in the KJV by the usual method of placing "is" in italics. It is necessary to supply it because the verb "he that comes" is also a participle in Greek. It is actually a famous participle, well known by all first century people, who were anticipating the coming of the Messiah. In Greek it is "ho erchomenos" meaning "the coming one." It is a key phrase that, all scripturally informed people knew, meant "Messiah." John the Baptist used it when he sent messengers to ask of Jesus, in Mt. 11:3, "Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?" The question uses exactly the same form, "he that should come" is the translation of "ho erchomenos." ( ) He asked, "Are you the "ho erchomenos" or do we look for another of a different kind (than you)?" The question is, "are you the "coming one i.e. the Messiah?" Thus the quotation in literal terms means, "Already having been blessed is the coming [Messiah], in the name of the Lord."

Thus Jesus said it was a precondition, needed by the Jews, that recognition of his first coming, as a Messianic event, must take place first before recognition of who he is would be possible. And so for the Jew, Jesus' first mission, not his second, must be seen by them as having been this valid (Blessed) and relevant part of Jewish history. This much is required for Jews to be able to recognize who is.

This is what Jesus said in Mt. 23:39: "From this time onward it is doubtful that you can recognize me until you may be able to say, The Messianic Coming One, in the name of the LORD, has already been praised [here]." Those who suppose that Jesus' majestic second coming will produce faith in the Jewish nation miss the point of this passage. Since his first coming it has been and will remain that every Jewish knee as well as every Gentile knee, must bow, not to majesty, but to the humble carpenter of Galilee.

Return to Commentary Directory

Go Back to Moellerhaus Homepage