For more years than can be imagined, the Jewish people have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the long-awaited Messiah to appear. As a believer that Jesus is the Jewish and Gentile Messiah, I don’t think there needs to be any more waiting; however, many Jewish people continue to wait and wait and wait. While others, and the list is growing, have just given up hope. The question for them is simply — “Is there any reason to keep looking, hoping, exploring?”
Additionally, and throughout history, there have been individuals who have sought to claim the mantle of the Messiah of the Jewish people. Individuals who have disappointed, shamed and brought tremendous hardship to Chosen People of God. These individuals have exascerbated the cause for many Jewish people, especially today’s Jewish millennials, to just giving up hope. Let’s look at just a few of them…
Simon Bar Kokhba — 2nd Century Rebel Leader
Simon is first of the three most famous false Messiahs inflicted upon the Jewish people in the last 2,000 years. He was proclaimed by Rabbi Akiva to be the Messiah; however, he led a failed rebellion against the Roman Empire that killed more Jewish people than the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and led to 2nd Disapora in 135 CE. He was killed as a failed Messiah and his legacy is left to the dustbin of Jewish history.
Messiah of Crete — 5th Century “Jewish Prophet”
This “Moses” promised the Jewish citizens on Crete that he would bring them back to Israel by recreating the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Many Cretan Jews drowned in the Mediterranean and the “False Moses” disappeared before he could face the wrath of those who survived. If you have never heard of him, don’t worry because he is truly forgettable!
Sherini of Syria — 8th Century Rebel Leader against the Caliph Omar II
Sherini (who was also known by a variety of names) challenged Rabbinic authority. He promised Syrian Jews that he would lead them back to Israel if they would only follow him. Sherini was captured by Yazid II and renounced his “heresy” when he was given the option of death. Truly … not a very Messianic quality!
Yudghan the Shepherd — 8th Century Rebel Leader in Persia (modern-day Iran)
Yudghan was influenced by Muslim Sufism. He believed the Torah should be read as allegory and not literally. His followers were destroyed by Persians in the 9th century. And almost no one except you today has ever heard of Yudghan. A real Messiah would be more well-known!
David Alroy — 12th Century Rebel Leader in Persia (modern-day Iran)
David led a rebellion against steep taxes imposed by the Caliphate. Legend has it that he was killed by his father-in-law in order to save Persian Jews (obviously his father-in-law’s name was not Mordechai). We know about David Alroy because Benjamin Disraeli wrote a novel about Alroy in 1833. We might wish that David Alroy could run for president on a low taxes platform but he was not Messiah.
Sabbatai Zevi — 17th Century Rebel Leader in Turkey
Sabbatai Zevi is the second of the most famous false Messiahs and perhaps one of the most personally hurtful to the Jewish people. This Sephardic Rabbi promised that he would usher in the onset of the Messianic Age. He even actually set the date of his coronation as Messiah. However, and upon his arrest and being threatened with death he converted to Islam and disappointed hundreds of thousands of Jewish believers. The actions of Sabbatai Zevi truly and literally dissemated the belief systems of Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people believed in Sabbatai Zevi. They thought and hoped that their time of dispersion was over. They thought their time of exploration was done; however, they were left hopeless and bereft.
Menachem Schneerson — 20th Century Leader of the Chabad Movement
Rabbi Schneerson, the third of the most famous false Messiahs, died in 1994 as leader of the Lubavitch Jewish people. It should be noted that he never claimed to be the Messiah – thousands of his followers STILL believe him to be. In fact, I as the director of Tzedakah Ministries have been to Rabbi Schneerson’s ohel (grave) in Queens, New York, and I have observed the Messianic worship that occurs at his graveside. His followers pray to him, worship him and wait for him to arise from the grave. Why? Because many are still waiting for Rabbi Schneerson to claim the mantle of King Messiah which is what the Hebrew states in the picture to the left (that I personally took of a poster plastered to a wall in Tel Aviv). FYI — while the rabbi never claimed to be Messiah, he never told his followers to stop giving the title either.
WHO IS THE TRUE MESSIAH? WHY SHOULD ANY KEEP EXPLORING?
As I stated in the opening paragraph — I believe Jesus is the Jewish and Gentile Messiah. However, Jewish people have been told not to look in Jesus’ direction. Christians and churches need to give them a REASON to look in the TRUTH’S direction. Jewish people need to know they can. Tzedakah Ministries wants to give both the tools to do it. And, yes, we can use the help of Christians and churches who believe that Romans 1:16 is still true!
NOTE: Some of the information on some of the false Messiahs came from an article in the 19 August 2016 of The Forward “Failed Messiahs: A Jewish Tradition.”