Contained in the ancient Hebrew scriptures are prophecies pointing to one who would come: the Anointed One, the Messiah. He would be a descendant of Abraham, from the line of King David, and would share the same home town as David, i.e. Bethlehem (formerly known as Ephrath). He would be rejected, pierced and die vicariously bearing the wrongdoing of others. The prophet Daniel said he would be killed before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In many Jewish minds today he is thought of as one who will bring world peace.
Many self-proclaimed messiahs have come and gone, but one stands head and shoulders above them all, Yeshua Ben Yosef from the town of Nazareth in northern Israel. Hundreds of Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Yeshua. He was a descendant of Abraham, and of David's royal line. His birth at Bethlehem is common knowledge, as is his crucifixion by the Romans before they later destroyed the Temple in 70CE. His wisdom and altruistic teaching are beyond question, but His claims to Messiahship, pre-existence and even deity are hastily dismissed by his critics. However, his foreknowledge of his means of death and that he would return from the dead three days later, marks him out as no ordinary man. With this in mind it is difficult to dismiss his claims that one day He will return to Jerusalem to bring peace to our world.
His claim that He came to "give his life as a ransom for many," agrees with the ancients such as the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, who famously wrote approximately 750 years before Yeshua that "We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." It is this that marks Yeshua out from the leaders of all other world religions. Other leaders teach that certain things can be done to earn favour with the Divine or to achieve enlightenment; but Yeshua Himself came for those who "have gone astray," to deal with our personal record of wrongs. The Scriptures tell us that a relationship with the Creator is not something that can be earned, but is a gift given to all those who are humble enough to admit that they don't deserve it.
Arguably the most famous Jewish man that ever lived, his name in Greek, "Jesus", evokes strong passions. His followers have spread right around the world, and have changed society in the process. Hospitals, public education, the abolition of slavery, Fair Trade, street children, living conditions in the Third World and more, have all been championed by Christians in response to Jesus' commands to "love your neighbour," and "give to the poor." Some of the largest churches in the world are found today in South Korea. Papua New Guinea is a majority Christian country, and scores of millions of practising Christians can be found today in China. Jesus also has a strong following in Africa and in parts of South America. Messianic groups are springing up in Israel. The UK by comparison is a poor relation, yet even here as older, traditional churches close, many new groups of believers, some lively, some contemplative, are taking their place. Two thousand years later and Messiah is still seeking admission to 21st Century lives.