I have entered a World Religions course and our first religion to examine is Judaism. For those who are interested, we are reading Huston Smith's The World's Religions.
The first and underlying theme in the chapter on Judaism is that the Hebrew faith is unique in that it finds meaning in everything. God, life, suffering, and the Messiah.
Taking a look back at messianic tradition, it comes from the Hebrew word mashiah, which means "anointed". Throughout history, it has been used to refer to those who have been "anointed" by God, meaning mainly leaders of the nation and faith. The tradition of THE Messiah comes from the longing for an ultimate leader and redeemer (this tradition, while some propehcies can be found all the way back in Genesis, really got its start during the Babylonian Captivity of Israel).
There are several views on what THE Messiah will be. Some believe that he will be a political leader, helping the people of God to conquer their foes. Others believe that he will be a religous leader, renewing the faith of the nations. There are also views that he will be a literal person, a king or prophet better than any before. Others beleive that God will be the Messiah, that he will skip using a man and do the job himself. Those who thought that the Messiah would be human figured he would restore the Davidic monarchy, while those who thought that God would be the Messiah expected him to do away with government.
But here's the cool part: They're all right. During Jesus's time on Earth, he was a religous leader, founding his Church and telling his disciples to share his Love. When he returns, he will gather his people and set up his Kingdom. And both times, he was fully man and fully God.