If you are a Christian, the last few weeks of posts may have been difficult to read through. Most Christians know in a vague way that the official Church and professing Christian nations persecuted the Jews. However, when Christians think of “the Jews,” they think only of those who rejected the claims of Christ and Christianity. It is shocking to realize that Christians also persecuted Jewish followers of that same Messiah with just as much fervor.
Many Christians are uncomfortable with those of us who reject the Christian label and insist on being called Messianic Jews instead. I remember being told, “If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you should be proud to be called a Christian!” Frankly, many Jews agree, and would much rather we stay comfortably on the “Christian” side of the divide. But since post-Apostolic Christianity is as much defined by its rejection of Jewishness as it is by its belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and since even today it is the expectation of Christian churches that Jewish believers will give up their old practices and culture and assimilate into the Christian culture, we must reject the “Christian” label if we are to be true to ourselves and our King.
However, there is another extreme that we must also reject. Four thousand years ago, when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, instead of blaming or rejecting them for their past sins against him, he instead said, “Now don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5). In the same way, Messianic Jews must not remain bitter with their Christian brothers–and by this, I mean the true Christians, those who evidence a transformation in their lives by faith in Yeshua and the power of the Spirit–for past sins against Jews and the Torah. Just as in the case of Joseph, we must say, “What others meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen. 50:20).
It isn’t as if the Christian rejection of Torah and Israel should have come as a surprise. Seven hundred years before Yeshua’s birth, Isaiah prophesied that the rejection of the Torah would be a stumbling block to the Jewish people: “He (the Lord) will be a sanctuary, but for both houses of Israel, he will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isa. 8:14). This description coincides with the description of the Messiah as a stumbling block elsewhere in the Scriptures (Isa. 28:16 and Psa. 118:22, cf. Rom. 9:33 and 1Pt. 2:8). However, what follows should really catch our eye:
Many will stumble over them, fall, be broken, be snared, and be captured. Bind the testimony. Seal the law among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion. (Isa. 8:15-18)
Many versions of the Bible render the first clause differently. The KJV, for example, renders it, “And many among them shall stumble,” which is also how it is taken by the Jewish Publication Society translation. Some versions, like the ESV, render the phrase, “And many shall stumble on it.” The Hebrew of the phrase is, “V’ckhashli bam ravim,” with the key word bam meaning “in them,” “among them,” or “because of them.” It is therefore rendered, “And many will stumble over them” in both the Christian NASB and in the Jewish Artscroll Tanakh. And indeed, the rejection–vexing and sealing up–of the Torah by Yeshua’s Christian disciples has been a stumbling block for the Jewish people.
However, this too was according to the Eternal One’s plan, just as the initial Jewish rejection of Yeshua was: “I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. . . their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles . . . the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world” (Rom 11:10-12, 15). That is, Israel’s rejection of the Good News was necessary in order for the Gentile remnant to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven as anything other than subjects and slaves.
By the same token, the Ekklesia’s rejection of the Torah and the Jewish remnant has served to preserve Israel. Imagine if you will an alternate history in which that rejection had never taken place. What would have served to distinguish the Jewish people if the Church had kept the Sabbath, the Feasts in their proper days, and even distinctions like tzitzit (the fringes commanded in Num. 15:38) and kosher? Judaism would have been defined solely by what it rejected (Yeshua) instead of by what it affirmed. Such a “faith” simply could not have survived–and without Judaism, neither could the Jewish people have survived as a distinct culture and ethnicity.
The Holy One used Israel’s rejection of Yeshua to bring about the redemption of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Gentile Church of the Jews and Torah to bring about the preservation and ultimate redemption of Israel. The Church has preserved the knowledge and teachings of Yeshua and his first disciples for the Jews, while the Jews in turn have preserved the knowledge and understanding of the Torah for the Church. In the end, just as we saw in the story of Ruth and Naomi, both need the other for the happy ending to take place.
Nevertheless, just as Israel’s rejection of Yeshua was both prophesied and necessary, and yet Israel was still judged and punished by the removal of the Temple and the diaspora among the nations, the Church’s rejection of the Torah and the Jews was both prophesied and necessary, and yet the Church was punished by the loss of the fulness of the Spirit and division, as I hope to explore in future posts.
- Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Reading the Bible in Flux (mymorningmeditations.com)
- Judenrein Christianity – Part 1: The Philosopher and the Pharisee (returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com)
- Neither Dispensationalism nor Supercessionism, Part 5: Olive Tree Theology and the Mystery of the Gospel (returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com)