By Edwin Christiaan
Some time ago, my wife and I were walking on Wall Street in the financial district in Manhattan, New York. As we enter a public area inside one of the financial buildings, we hear a fairly loud religious discussion taking place between two men. Taking a closer look, we discover that they are Orthodox Jews. After observing them for some time, we felt like approaching the two middle aged men to tell them about our conviction that “Yeshua,” which is Jesus Christ, is indeed the loving and kind Messiah that came to this earth to save us and bring real peace.
What transpired after that was very shocking. One of the men literally screamed and spew hatred toward us: “How dare you come talking to us like that! Don’t you see we are in a discussion?” This was among the many hard and demeaning things he yelled at us. The other man reacted embarrassed by the way his partner was acting, but at the same time, he wanted to listen to us and was somehow intrigued by the love and friendliness we were showing them despite the hateful resistance we were receiving. It seemed like he was jealous of what we had.
As I was thinking about this incident, two Biblical scriptures came to my mind.
Some of the Jews have hard hearts, but this will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved.Romans 11:25-26 NLT
The second one:
Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! His purpose was to make his salvation available to the Gentiles, and then the Jews would be jealous and want it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the Jews turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when the Jews finally accept it.Romans 11:11-12 NLT
The Jewish people began with Abraham. God told Abraham that he would father a nation that ultimately would bless the other nations of the earth:
Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”Genesis 12:1-3 NLT
The world would be blessed by learning of, and seeing the ways of God in action through Israel. In other words, the Jews were to be God’s messengers to the rest of the world as God also told Moses on Mount Sinai:
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ Give this message to the Israelites.Exodus 19:5-6 NLT
Unfortunately, the Israelites failed largely in this mission by stubbornly disobeying God, as we learn through the Bible. But despite of all this, God promised through the prophet Jeremiah that He would make a new covenant with Israel, and in doing so, restore them. Ultimately, all the Jewish people would know God and spread His message to the nations as God also promised that Israel would always remain a nation.
“The day will come,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.”Jeremiah 31:31-34 NLT
This New Covenant came to Israel through Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah. This New Covenant became reality through His death and resurrection and by the pouring out of His Spirit upon the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. The Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ in the first and early second centuries literally went to the nations to proclaim the ways of God as they started becoming the blessing to the nations God had promised.
The apostles of the first century though wrestled greatly with the Jewish opposition to the Gospel. Today, those who work among the Jewish people find similar reactions, just as the one we encountered in New York City.
What complicates this task of reaching out to the Jews with the Gospel is the reality of Church history, which included Anti-Semitism. In the first century, Jews were hearing about Jesus from a Jewish perspective without any other contexts. Today, when Jews hear about Jesus, they cannot ignore the unspeakable atrocities committed against them in God’s name. Some of the leading Fathers of the early Eastern and Western churches claimed that Christians completely replaced the calling and destiny of the Jewish people and they therefore supported the idea of the destruction of the Jewish people who would not convert and submit to the Gentile Church. In other words, they proclaimed that God has rejected the Jews. For many Jews, to become a believer in Jesus Christ means becoming a traitor to their own people.
This is what the Bible says about the Jews who resist the Gospel:
So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.1. Corinthians 1:23 NLT
Many of the Jews are now enemies of the Good News. But this has been to your benefit, for God has given his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still His chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his mercy, God was merciful to you instead. And now, in the same way, the Jews are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you. But someday they, too, will share in God’s mercy.Romans 11:28-31 NLT
Jesus Christ the Messiah Himself said the following about the Jews:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.Matthew 23:37 NLT
Since this new covenant gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory fading away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and even to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, a veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away. Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.2. Corinthians 3:12-17 NLT
The reality today is that the veil or blinders preventing Jews from responding favorably to the Gospel are gradually being removed, as many Jews are giving their lives to Jesus Christ and are now calling themselves Messianic Jews.
And this is God’s ultimate plan:
God’s purpose was to show His wisdom in all its rich variety to all the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. They will see this when Jews and Gentiles are joined together in his church. This was His plan from all eternity, and it has now been carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.Ephesians 3:10-11 NLT
Therefore we can say with great certainty that God never had any intention to reject the Jews: No, God has not rejected His own people, whom He chose from the very beginning.Romans 11:2 NLT
Copyright©2009 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan