Bookmark and Share

Jesus Christ, fulfillment of the messianic prophecies

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 4 March 1987 - in French, Italian & Spanish  

"1. We continue our Wednesday reflections, focusing on the way that Christ fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah's sufferings and death. In the previous reflection we sought to indicate the more important aspects of the truth about the Messiah, such as it was foretold in the old covenant, and as it was inherited by the generation of Jesus of Nazareth's contemporaries who had entered a new stage of divine revelation. Those of that generation who followed Jesus did so because they were convinced that he fulfilled the truth about the Messiah, that he was the Messiah, the Christ. Andrew, the first of the apostles called by Jesus, informed his brother Simon about Jesus with the significant words, "We have found the Messiah (which means Christ)" (Jn 1:41).

But it must be recognized that such explicit observations are rather rare in the Gospels. This is due to the fact that Jesus did not wish to adapt his figure and his work to the image of the Messiah which was widespread in the Jewish society of those times, notwithstanding the amazement and admiration aroused by all that "he did and taught" (Acts 1:1).

2. On the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist had indicated Jesus as "he who was to come" (cf. Jn 1:15, 30), having prophetically perceived in him "the Lamb of God" come to take away the sins of the world. John had foretold the "new baptism" which Jesus would confer in the power of the Spirit. Yet when he was in prison, John himself sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Mt 11:3).

3. Jesus did not leave John and his messengers without an answer: "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Lk 7:22). With this reply Jesus intended to confirm his messianic mission by referring in particular to the words of Isaiah (cf. Is 35:4-5; 61:1). He concluded: "Blessed is he who takes no offense at me" (Lk 7:23). These last words sound like a call, addressed directly to John, his heroic precursor, who had a different idea about the Messiah.

In his preaching, John had delineated the figure of the Messiah as that of a severe judge. In this sense he had spoken of the "wrath to come," of the "axe already laid to the foot of the trees" (cf. Lk 3:7-9), which would cut down every tree "that does not bear good fruit" (cf. Lk 3:9). Certainly Jesus would not hesitate—firmly and even with severity, when necessary—to deal with obstinacy and rebellion to the word of God. But he was above all the preacher of "good news to the poor," and by his works and miracles he revealed the saving will of God, the merciful Father.

4. Jesus' answer to John also presents another element which is interesting to note: Jesus avoided proclaiming himself openly as the Messiah. In the social context of the time that title was ambiguous, and people generally interpreted it in a political sense. Jesus preferred to refer to the witness offered by his works, desiring to persuade and to engender faith.

5. However, the Gospels also present particular cases, such as the conversation with the Samaritan woman, narrated in John's Gospel. To the woman who said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things," Jesus replied, "I who speak to you am he" (Jn 4:25-26).

According to the context of the conversation, Jesus convinced the Samaritan woman whom he had perceived as ready to listen. On returning to the city, she hastened to tell the people, "Come, see a man who told me all I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" (Jn 4:28-29). Moved by her words, many Samaritans went out to meet Jesus. They listened to him, and in turn they concluded, "This is indeed the Savior of the world" (Jn 4:42).

6. Among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, however, Jesus' words and miracles gave rise to questions about his messiahship. Some excluded the possibility that he could be the Messiah: "We know where this man comes from; but when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from" (Jn. 7:27). But others said, "When the Christ appears, will he perform more signs than this man has done?" (Jn 7:31). "Can this be the Son of David?" (Mt 12:23). The Sanhedrin also intervened, decreeing that "if any one should confess him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue" (Jn 9:22).

7. We are thus in a position to understand the key significance of Jesus' conversation with the apostles near Caesarea Philippi. "Jesus...asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that I am?' And they told him, 'John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; and others one of the prophets.' And he asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, 'You are the Christ'" (Mk 8:27-29), that is, the Messiah (cf. also Mt 16:13-16; Lk 9:18-21).

8. According to Matthew's Gospel this reply gave Jesus the occasion to announce Peter's primacy in the future Church (cf. Mt 16:18). According to Mark, after Peter's reply, Jesus charged the apostles "to tell no one about him" (Mk 8:30). Thence we can deduce that Jesus not only did not proclaim that he was the Messiah, but he did not even wish the apostles to spread the truth about his identity at that time. In fact, he wished that his contemporaries should arrive at this conviction by observing his works and hearing his teaching. On the other hand, the fact that the apostles were convinced of what Peter had expressed in the name of all of them, saying "You are the Christ," proves that Jesus' works and words were a sufficient basis on which faith in him as Messiah could be founded and developed.

9. However, the following part of the conversation, which we read in the parallel texts of Mark and Matthew, is still more significant concerning Jesus' mind on his own messiahship (cf. Mk 8:31-33; Mt 15:21-23). As if in close connection with the apostles' profession of faith, Jesus "began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mk 8:31). The evangelist Mark observed that "Jesus said this plainly" (Mk 8:32). Mark said that "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him" (Mk 8:32). Matthew tells us that the rebuke was as follows: "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you" (Mt 16:22). And then the Master's reaction: Jesus "rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men'" (Mk 8:33; cf. Mt 16:23).

10. In this rebuke of the Master, one can hear a distant echo of the temptation undergone by Jesus in the desert at the beginning of his messianic activity (cf. Lk 4:1-13), when Satan wished to dissuade him from fulfilling his Father's will to the end. Although they had professed their faith in Jesus' messianic mission: "You are the Christ," the apostles and Peter in particular could not completely free themselves from a too human and earthly idea of the Messiah, by admitting the prospect of a Messiah who would suffer and undergo death. Again, at the moment of the ascension they would ask him "will you restore the kingdom of Israel?" (cf. Acts 1:6).

11. Precisely when faced with this attitude Jesus reacted with great decision and severity. He knew that his messianic mission was that of the suffering servant of Yahweh, as described by Isaiah, and especially that which the prophet had said: "For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness.... He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised; and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities" (Is 53:2-5).

Jesus firmly defended this truth about the Messiah. He was resolved to fulfill it to the end, because it expressed the Father's salvific will: "The righteous one, my servant, shall make many to be accounted righteous" (Is 53:11). In this way he prepared himself and his friends for the event in which the "messianic mystery" would find its complete fulfillment: the Pasch of his death and resurrection."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

j’exprime ma joie de rencontrer les pèlerins de langue française, notamment les jeunes collégiens et lycéens de France et de Belgique. Sur la route du renouveau du Carême, je leur donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i wish to offer a warm greeting to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially the various groups from the United States. I pray that this Lenten season will bring us all to a greater knowledge and love of Jesus, our Suffering and Risen Saviour.

To all of you goes my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai diversi gruppi di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Euch allen, die ihr bei dieser Audienz aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern anwesend seid, wünsche ich einen ebenso fruchtbaren Weg durch die Fastenzeit dieses Jahres zum großen Fest unserer Hoffnung in Gott. In besonderer Weise gilt dieser mein Wunsch den Ordensschwestern, die ihr geistliches und theologisches Leben gegenwärtig am Institut ”Regina Mundi“ hier in Rom vertiefen. Ihnen allen, zusammen mit den Professoren und Schwestern, die solche Vertiefung möglich machen, gilt meine Anerkennung und Ermutigung. Gleiche Hochachtung bekunde ich den Ärzten, Schwestern und Pflegern des Sankt-Josephs-Krankenhauses in Freiburg im Breisgau, die auf dieser gemeinsamen Pilgerfahrt das christliche Fundament ihres Einsatzes im Dienst am kranken Mitmenschen stärken wollen. Euch allen erbitte ich den gnädigen Schutz Gottes und seinen machtvollen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

con afecto saludo a los peregrinos que, llegados individualmente o en grupo desde América Latina o España, están presentes en este Encuentro.

Me es grato saludar asimismo a los profesores y alumnos de los Institutos “ Príncipe de Viana ”, de Pamplona, y “San Isidoro de Sevilla”, de Madrid. En este tiempo de Cuaresma, donde se ve con más claridad la importancia de saber tomar la propia cruz diaria, a ejemplo de Cristo, os animo a vivir en toda circunstancia la certeza de que Dios es fiel a sus promesas de salvación y. a la vez, rico en misericordia. Así vuestra vida estará orientada al cumplimiento de la voluntad divina.

De corazón os imparto mi Bendición Apostólica, que extiendo a vuestros seres queridos.

A un gruppo di giornalisti del Canale Nazionale televisivo del Cile

Deseo dirigir un saludo particular a los periodistas y reporteros gráficos del Canal Nacional de Televisión de Chile, que se encuentran presentes en esta Audiencia.

En vosotros saludo cordialmente a todos los hombres y mujeres del mundo de los medios de comunicación social que desarrollarán su valiosa labor durante el próximo viaje apostólico a Uruguay, Chile y Argentina. A todos aliento en vuestras tareas informativas, sirviendo a la verdad e inspirados en los valores superiores éticos y profesionales.

Mi saludo y mi Bendición se extiende a la gran familia chilena y a todas las personas que encontraré durante mi ya cercana visita pastoral a América Latina.

Ai gruppi di pellegrini polacchi

Witam serdecznie naprzód pielgrzymów z Polonii, z emigracji: z Niemiec Zachodnich, z Westfalii, z Dortmundu, prócz tego wszystkich innych pielgrzymów indywidualnie przybyłych do Rzymu zarówno z kraju, jak z emigracji oraz uczestników grup turystycznych . . . Wszystkich pozdrawiam i serdecznie błogosławię zarówno wam, jak i waszym rodzinom.

Ai Salesiani e alle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice

Rivolgo il mio saluto ai Salesiani ed alle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, che sono convenuti a Roma da varie Nazioni per frequentare un corso di formazione permanente sulle Comunicazioni Sociali. Carissimi, auspico che ciascuno e ciascuna di voi con lo studio e con la preghiera si renda sempre più idoneo per trasmettere le verità del Redentore, animando ed orientando le comunità a voi affidate, secondo il carisma di Don Bosco, educatore geniale dei giovani ad un’esistenza serena e forte nell’amicizia di Cristo.

Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai giovani presenti.

All'inizio della Quaresima, vi chiedo di fare oggetto di più attenta riflessione e di più intensa preghiera, il tema assegnato alla prossima Giornata Mondiale della Gioventù che avrà luogo nella Domenica delle Palme a Buenos Aires: “ Noi abbiamo riconosciuto e creduto all’amore che Dio ha per noi . . .”. Essa, infatti, come ho scritto nel messaggio di preparazione, “ deve disporci tutti ad accogliere il dono dell’amore di Dio che ci plasma e ci salva. Il mondo attende con ansia la nostra testimonianza di amore, una testimonianza originata da una profonda convinzione personale e da un sincero atto di amore e di fede in Cristo Risorto. Questo significa conoscere l’amore e crescere in esso ”. Vi ringrazio di cuore dell’accoglienza che riserverete a questo invito e vi benedico.

Agli ammalati

A voi, cari ammalati, la mia affettuosa gratitudine per essere venuti, certamente non senza sacrifici, a questa Udienza.

Il ruolo della sofferenza nel Mistero Pasquale è uno dei temi che la Liturgia richiama sovente nel tempo Quaresimale. Il vostro stato attuale è una preziosa occasione per affinare una particolare comunione con Gesù Crocifisso, e per collaborare con Lui alla salvezza di tanti fratelli, che vivono lontani dalla sua offerta di amore e di redenzione. Dare un significato alla propria sofferenza, sapendo che può trasformarsi in grazia per la propria e l’altura santificazione, è pensiero dolce e tonificante. Con esso vi sostenga anche la mia Benedizione, che estendo di cuore a tutte le persone che vi assistono.

Agli sposi novelli

Desidero infine esprimere il mio saluto agli sposi novelli.

Carissimi, grande ed impegnativo è il passo che avete compiuto, unendovi nel Signore con il Sacramento del matrimonio. Diventatene ogni giorno sempre più consapevoli per dare un’impronta veramente soprannaturale alla vostra esperienza di coppia, all’educazione dei figli che il Padre della vita vorrà donarvi, e a tutte le situazioni nelle quali verrete a trovarvi. Diventerete così segno dell’amore che Dio ha per il mondo e del quale vi ha chiamato ad essere collaboratori.

Con tali auspici vi benedico tutti.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana