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Contemporary Jewish Thinkers on the Messiah

The Jewish magazine Moment asked a number of Jewish writers, professors, rabbis, artists, and actors the following question: "What does the concept of the Messiah mean today?" Here are some of the responses:

  • Amoz Oz, novelist: "He may be around the corner, but that's where he should always be …. In the Jewish tradition … sitting idly waiting for the Messiah is a sin."
  • Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer: "Years ago, a popular evangelical bumper sticker read, "I found it." The Jewish version would read, "I'm still looking for it."
  • Harris Lenowitz, literature professor: "Who at different times in their life hasn't had a belief … that someone, a messiah, can help them and help the world? And the messiah is the biggest answer to the biggest single question: 'Does God care about me?'"
  • Lucette Lagnado, reporter: "People have stopped believing in God, in the possibility of miracles, in the mystical, and in that most mystical belief of all—the idea that somebody's going to come along and make the world all better. I think that's a sad development of the modern world."
  • Deb Margolin, playwright and professor: "Most people think the Messiah has already come, but Jews are waiting. It could be anybody …. It's a very sexy idea. There's a blind date with the sacred that awaits you at any moment."
  • Ruth Messinger, CEO of Jewish World Service: "The Messiah doesn't connote that some entity, deity or event will suddenly arrive and change the circumstances in our lives …. That's a notion of childhood wish fulfillment."
  • Jack Dann, science fiction writer: "Twenty years ago I would have said that the idea of a messianic message was dying out in the popular culture, that it was being overtaken by a more sophisticated secularism. Obviously I was mistaken. More and more people seem to be embracing the idea that a messiah will appear to fix everything."
  • Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and actress: "The concept of a messiah is a general … notion that we are partners in making the world better, in moving the world forward. The Messiah is progress, participation, suiting up and showing up for life."
  • Samuel Heilman, sociology professor: "For most Jews, the messianic idea has receded; it's not on the top of the agenda, and they don't see history as inexorably moving to that day."

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Use these quotes to set up a sermon on evangelism, especially with our Jewish friends. There is a huge difference between Christianity and Judaism—Jews are still waiting for the Messiah (or some of them have given up on the Messiah), while Christians believe that the Messiah has come and is still alive. (2) You could also use these quotes to illustrate the character of Christian hope: Christ has come; Christ is alive; Christ will come again. (3) Use these quotes when preaching on Jesus as Christ and Messiah.

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