The Scriptures - in first century life - were perhaps the most important thing to a Jew. The dedication to the Torah and willingness to die for their beliefs is exemplified in the accounts of the Maccabean revolts. They however, knew nothing of a New Testament, the first letters and narratives would not be penned until the later half of the first century at best.
The prophets, writings, and of course the beloved books of Moses - through whom God instructed them - were their priorities. Did they know of a coming messiah, absolutely, but there was also ambiguity that surrounded this eschatological figure: two messiahs, one priest and one king? How were some seemingly contradictory prophecies to be reconciled, and could or should they be?
“out of Egypt my son will be called” (Hosea 11)
“Bethlehem, in the land of Judah” (Micah 5)
“he will be called a Natzrati”?(cf. Matthew 2, Is 11, Zech 3)
Nonetheless, with strong messianic Psalms and prophetic texts they awaited the arrival of the one who would be chosen to redeem Israel from their long overdrawn exile.
Undoubtedly with the mention of messianic expectation there are some who chime, “well, the Jews missed it, rejected and killed him,” to which we must be fair and remember, not all of them did. "The Jews" trying to have him arrested and killed were a small percentage, and part of the leadership, who were trying to maintain control of the people so Rome would allow them to maintain their lucrative religious governorship.
Then, along came a Rabbi, of whom people were asking,
“is this possibly the Messiah?”
Believe it or not, preceding and following Jesus were other claimants to the messianic title. Eyes were watching, and ears were listening for the sound of revolution and promised redemption. It had been foretold that the lame would walk, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, prisoners would be set free and of course as always Israel's enemies would be driven away and they would once more be the head and not the tail. The messianic hope glistened upon news of this Galilean miracle worker,
“for when the Messiah comes, is he going to do more signs than this man has done?” (John 7).
Fast forward some years, Jesus was crucified by Rome for treason against the state, more than likely as a perceived revolutionary (messianism in any form was frowned upon). He was seen after his death, and spoke to his followers who then watched him ascend to heaven. They asked him plainly,
“is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Act 1:6)
He left it open and told them it wasn’t for them to know the time. The witnesses of his life's message and work continued disseminating oral stories, traditions, sayings and teachings and compiling various documents for differing reasons and regions. What was their primary objective? The answer is abundantly clear: to communicate to their world that the Messiah, the chosen and anointed of God, now seen as the suffering servant and the ultimate son of Israel who was spoken of by the prophets was Jesus of Nazareth. God had vindicated him by raising him from the dead and exalted him as the true king of Israel. He would return in a hail of victory and triumph to establish the kingdom he had just inaugurated and to sit on the throne of David and rule the nations with a rod of iron.
As Peter stated in Acts 10,
“All the prophets bear witness to him.”
And in chapter 13 Paul declared,
“As for us, we are bringing you the Good News that what God promised to the fathers.”
Interpretations and the theological edifice of who Jesus was, who he became, what he had done and what he was going to do had only begun.