He followed that article with several others, but none as pivotal, perhaps, as the one he wrote on the occasion of President Mandela’s death.De Gruchy did the unthinkable, as many would certainly view it, when he used the word “messiah” in connection to Mandela. He explained, “The term ‘messiah’ is for [the majority of] Christians so exclusively associated with Jesus that it is difficult to think of anyone else in these terms. South African Anabaptist and Christian studies scholar, John W.de Gruchy, wrote an article of excitement and amazement when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa.This being the case, how could it be off base to refer to Nelson Mandela as a messianic figure raised up to lead South Africa out of the bondage of apartheid and into long, long delayed freedom?
They didn’t think they, the Jewish people living and struggling at the time Jesus was born, could wait any more; they might not make it if they tried. He wasn’t going to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple and end it all; nor was he going to retire from spiritual seeking despite the fact that in this event he’d been able to check off the last item on his bucket list.
Simeon holds up the baby boy and blesses God, praises God saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke –32). Many elderly US Americans, persons of color in particular, had a similar feeling when the news of President Obama’s first election was initially announced.
How do you suppose an African American butler felt, a man who had served presidents in the White House from Truman to Reagan?
So we cannot use the world lightly or thoughtlessly when we speak of Mandela in this way.” De Gruchy reminds his readers that in Judeo-Christian scripture, the word means “the Lord’s anointed.” In the Hebrew Bible, it is used to refer to those chosen by God to fulfill some divinely ordained purpose such as liberation of oppressed people—for example, Moses who led the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage into what they took to be their new land of promise.
De Gruchy says that many other pivotal personalities in the ancient Hebrew world were referred to as divinely anointed ones: the prophet Elijah, King David, and benevolent Cyrus, the pagan King of the Persian Empire, who allowed—yeah, encouraged—Jews taken into captivity by the Babylonians before the Persians took control, to go back home and rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.