THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Jesus and the Jewish Messiah, Part 1
The History of Jews, Jesus, and Christians
By Rabbi Robert
I am a Jewish person who believes in Jesus and works in Jewish missions. The great Gentile Commission of Romans chapters 9-11 is for you to love the Lord so deeply that you provoke Jewish people to jealousy so that they will see their Messiah. First I will tell you that there is no one way to reach a Jewish person with the truth of the Jewish Messiah. Some people respond to reasoning through the Scriptures, others through seeing or benefiting from your good works. But most will come from feeling the love of Jesus through you. As I always do, we must start with some history.
Remember the story of Joseph? He was sold into slavery by his brothers, and after many ups and downs, he was placed as second in command of all of Egypt after he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream. When the famine hit both Egypt and Israel, his brothers came from Israel to get food and they met with Joseph — their own brother — but did not recognize him. How could they not recognize their own brother? Because he did not look as they expected a Jew to look. He was dressed and painted as an Egyptian. This is also why most Jewish people do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They were looking for an earthly king who would destroy the Roman Empire and set up a Jewish theocracy. They were not looking for a suffering servant. I tell you this so that you will understand why so many Jewish people don't see Jesus as the Messiah. They will read the same Scripture that you read — Isaiah 53 for example — and not see their Messiah in the suffering servant. The Jewish teachers and rabbis say that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people who have suffered at the hands of the world.
Another problem is that Christianity professes to be predicated on the Old Testament. But to the average Jewish person who observes Christian practice, he does not see anything that relates to the Old Testament. For example, in Leviticus 23 God gave Israel 7 feasts and festivals that they are to celebrate as lasting requirements through all generations, until this world passes. Most Christians do not celebrate the festival days or even understand the festivals. Clearly we are not required to celebrate the festivals for salvation, but those festivals are important to Jewish people. And each festival day has an historic and prophetic relationship to God's miracles and the first and second comings of Messiah.
Very quickly I will explain Jesus through the feasts but I can preach weeks on each festival as it is related to and fulfilled by Jesus. When Jesus came the first time he was our Passover Lamb, he was our Unleavened Bread, and he was our First Fruits. He who had no sin was sacrificed to take away the sin of the world, and he was the first risen incorruptible from the dead. Paul states that we are now in the time of Pentecost, the ingathering of the Gentiles while Jewish eyes are partially blinded to the truth. The partial blinding means that Israel corporately will not come to faith in Messiah but individual Jews can still be taught and see the truth of their Messiah.
The Bible tells us that when Messiah returns, we will hear the shout of the Arch Angel and the trumpet of God. It is no coincidence that the first fall festival day is Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. After Jesus returns at the sound of the trumpet he will judge the living and the dead. This is the next fall festival Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Then Jesus will set up his millennial kingdom where he will reign from the throne of David for 1000 years, and that is the final fall festival called Sukkot or Tabernacles when God dwells with us. I recommend a book called God's Appointed Times by Rabbi Barney Kasdan for more information about how the feasts of Leviticus 23 are historical and prophetic. The Old Testament is not dead for believers. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (emphasis added). Paul had to be speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures because the New Testament was not yet written!
As wonderful and meaningful as these feasts days are — including the fact that Jesus celebrated every one of these feasts when he was on earth — most Christians do not celebrate the feasts. What do most Christians celebrate? Christmas and Easter or Resurrection Day. So when a Jewish person looks at the typical church calendar and sees Christians celebrating two feasts that are not commanded and not in the Old Testament, they have a hard time understanding that Jesus is the Messiah.
Now we also have to deal with history itself. Throughout the centuries there were times when people representing Christianity did not act very Christ-like to the Jewish people. I am not saying that the people who carried out these acts were Christian, simply that they professed Christianity and in the name of the Christian God killed many Jewish people. There was the Inquisition, the Crusades — even Hitler preached that he was finishing the work that Luther starter by killing the "insufferable Jew." You may remember that Luther originally wrote the Pope saying that Jewish people would come to faith in Jesus if the Pope was more loving and kind. So Luther preached to the Jews with love and kindness and they still didn't come to faith. In frustration or perhaps senility, Luther then wrote "The Jews and Their Lies," a publication where he stated that the Jews should be thrown in their places of worship with their holy books and burned. Hitler took the instructions to heart.
Finally, Jewish people have had the implements of Christianity used in hateful ways against them. I was routinely taunted and beat up as a child for "killing Jesus Christ." After the incident, I asked my parents who was Jesus Christ (I thought Christ was his last name) and when did I kill him? Many churches teach — wrongly — that the Jewish people killed Jesus. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God so we are all responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Yes, the Jewish leaders called for his death, but Roman soldiers pounded in the nails. We all killed Jesus because of our sin. There is also the accusation of the blood libel that is promoted in Europe and Arabic countries accusing Jewish people of killing Christian children during Passover and using their blood to make the special Passover matzo.
So you can see by this short history that you have much to overcome in your witness to the Jewish people. I hope that you are not discouraged because that is certainly not my intent. You just need to know that you are witnessing uphill but it can be done and be very rewarding. A great book to help you to better understand all that the Jewish people have gone through is A History of the Jewish People by Paul Johnson.
Part 2: Revealing the Jewish Messiah
Image Credit: Photo Gallery Israeli Ministry; Succot: Feast of Tabernacles; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | History-Apologetics | Witnessing-Evangelism
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