All of the synagogues were at fever pitch. One who had referred to himself as "God's only-begotten Son" had announced that he was the Christ. Hundreds of thousands eagerly anticipated the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, after enduring years of oppressive foreign rule. His teaching swept over the land. Stories of his miracles and prophecies were spread from town to town. Yet, the "Christ" spoke solemnly of his impending entry into the capital city. He said that the Scriptures predicted he would be rejected by the rulers of that day. Shortly after he entered the city, he was arrested, put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to die. The leaders of the city tried one last attempt to avoid such extreme measures. They offered this "Messiah" a chance to live. All he would have to do is recant his claim of being the Christ, convert to a different religion, and he could draw a salary from the government for the rest of his life. The man was no coward; but he was no fool either. He quickly converted to Islam, took the payoff, and became a humble doorkeeper at the palace of the Sultan in the capital city Constantinople.
The year was 1666 AD, and Sabbatai Zevi was the latest abortive attempt at finding a Messiah for the Jewish people. Zevi's conversion to Islam was an incredibly humiliating event for the tremendous numbers of Jews who fanatically followed him as the Christ. His vocational change from "Lord" to "lackey" became an object of ridicule throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. He died many years later as an old man, in solitude, in exile, among a foreign people who neither knew of him, or cared. Even then, there were still some Jews in Europe who could not let go. They waited at his tomb for the expected resurrection. Sabbatai Zevi did not rise, however. He only decayed and putrefied.
This story serves a good example of how we sometimes can misplace our hope in something which is apt to disappoint us. Many people are prone to think that they can achieve happiness only when they reach some elusive or arbitrary goal. For some, it is an income level or occupation. Others, when they find the right person to marry, or build their dream house, or achieve a comfortable retirement. People will sometimes spend their entire lives trying to attain a goal which is unreachable, going to their grave in disappointment and frustration. Still others will attain the things which they thought would bring them happiness and fulfillment, only to become disillusioned when they realize that they are still as empty as they were before.
The one thing, however, that will truly bring lasting joy and fulfillment, is frequently the obvious thing which we commonly overlook. In the story of Sabbatai Zevi, I find it ironic that none of the Jews who were so eager to identify the Messiah did not stop to reflect on how Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah, including where and when he would be born. Jesus actually did suffer for us, according to the Jewish prophets, and rose from the dead, just as scriptures had predicted. Yet the Jewish people in Constantinople would not recognize the obvious; perhaps they had too many bad experiences with Christians. Perhaps they couldn't come to accept that they Messiah could have actually been a humble carpenter who lived hundreds of years earlier. For what ever reason, the Jews of that city jumped on the band-wagon of Zevi, no matter how far-fetched it seemed, when all the while, the truth that they desperately sought was plainly before them. How many of us will leave the same legacy? How many of us will finish our lives having pursued all of the wrong avenues, striving for an elusive feeling or goal, when all the time, Jesus has held his hands out towards us, only asking that we follow him? Jesus has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that if we ask him to come into our lives, he will enter in and fill us with his presence. What could be more fulfilling? There is nothing else which could offer so much assurance and peace.
Jesus, the real Messiah, is ultimately the only source for our contentment and fulfillment in life. He is the solution to the human condition. Like Zevi, he was offered an "easy out" in his trial, yet Jesus, with our salvation in mind, did not waver in his confession. Because of Christs faithfulness in Gods plan of redemption for you and I, we can have faith in Him as our Savior. According to the Bible, those who put their trust in Him, will never be put to shame. (Romans 9:33)