The rabbi smiled with a wink in his eye. He said, "If you want to see a great work of art, you don't stand three inches away from the canvas. You take a few steps back, and look at it as a whole."
It may be this short-sightedness that has created such a chasm of difference between the Jewish faith and Christian understanding. The Jewish scholar has trouble identifying the Person of the Messiah in the greater concept, and the Christian can't see the forest for the trees.
The Jewish description of the Messiah is the Torah (John 5:39). The Jewish Messiah is IN the New Testament. That's the difference, and rarely do we see one when looking for the other.
The greatest enigma of the Bible may be the biblical offering of the red heifer (Numbers, chapter 19). It's not even a sacrifice, by biblical definition. God says to Moses, "I want you to take this cow out of the camp, burn the whole dang thing. Gather up its ashes. Mix the ashes with water. When someone dies, anyone around the dead body has to have this ashy water splashed on them." Find the Messiah in that!
Once again, it may be that we just aren't seeing the forest for the trees. Wanting to find the defining identity, usually, the Text is only describing a defining characteristic. Here's how the process works: someone who is clean creates an environment for other people who are unclean to become clean. IN this process he, himself becomes unclean... and this is a good thing.
This story isn't simply a story about ritual procedure. If that's all you get, then you're missing the whole thing. This is the biblical source Text that our Messiah could have used in story of the Good Samaritan. It is the foundation that Paul stands on in Galatians 6:1, "When someone is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a person."
The lesson for us in the teaching of the Red Heifer is this: we have to willing to step out of our personal holy sanctuary, allow ourselves to exposed to some dirtiness, if we ever hope to rescue those who are surrounded by death. It doesn't do any good to shout down, condescendingly, from our ivory towers. We have to be willing to step into their world, holy and sanctified, willing to sacrifice our reputation and pride, to lift out those who are hurting. The thing is, they can't fix themselves. That's what the red heifer story tells us. It takes a righteous person to sacrifice his comfort to save those who are lost. That is exactly what Jesus did, all throughout the narrative of His example in life. That is what He did in His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. And, if we are to live with Him as our example, it's what we must do, too.