The Coming of the Messiah

Light of truth

The coming of the Messiah is deeply Jewish; for them the Messiah is yet to come. But his coming does not end in a historical event, he ever comes. They are always waiting and longing. Biblical faith has a response for such an honest longing, even when that longing is made tentative by fear. For Scripture responds to the human heart crying out for justice to come, for healing to come, indeed for the Messiah to come, with its own invitation (Rev. 22:17, 20): The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift “come.” The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” “Amen, come soon, Lord Jesus.” For a Christian the coming of Christ is not simply a fact of history but a reality of the present and a hope of the future. The presence arrives messianically in the form of a return. Its promise of redemption is not the promise of the commodities. It is a person.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”( John 3:16). It is the story of incarnation where He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!” (Phili. 2:6-8). In Jesus event God disappeared and man alone is seen. Perhaps every Christian can say the same not as reality but as call. A call to be the messiah in his person and his footsteps. We are called to be his editions in time and place.

We make a world of hope. “As soon as you address the other, as soon as you are open to the future, as soon as you have a temporal experience of waiting for the future, of waiting for someone to come; that is the opening of experience. Someone is to come, is now to come. Justice and peace will have to do with this coming of the other, with the promise. Each time I open my mouth, I am promising something. When I speak to you, I am telling you that I promise to tell you something, to tell you the truth. Even if I lie, the condition of my lie is that I promise to tell you the truth. So the promise is not just one speech act among others; every speech act is fundamentally a promise. This universal structure of the promise, of the expectation for the future, for the coming, and the fact that this expectation of the coming has to do with justice – that is what I call the messianic structure,” wrote Derrida. Messianism would see the coming of the Messiah as a dateable future event – that is, within history. We would then simply await the Messiah, remaining within the concept of progress. What is essential about messianicity is its insistence that we simply cannot know or comprehend the shape or date of the messianic coming. The event ‘to come’ is unknowable in every respect. The spectral ‘time out of joint’ understanding history as messianic. Such a messianic coming is not necessarily equivalent to liberation. Messianicity means that every text is filled with potential for otherness, even the radical otherness. If we read texts with this in mind, we are practising something like ‘hospitality.’ Every text contains a potential that is messianic.

There is a time gap between the first and the second coming. It is the period of waiting as the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. We are waiting for someone to come, for the opening of experience. Indeed, the constant word, the sentiment that pervades is “come.” This fearful invitation, this call, this impassioned cry to the Messiah to come is at the spiritual heart of postmodernity. There must be a justice rooted in hospitality – a real, embodied justice, a healing river of justice.

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