The Jewish People and Belief in Jesus
Why does Judaism not recognize Yeshua based upon the Hebrew Scriptures?
While tens of thousands of practicing Jewish people came to faith in the first century and many thousands in the centuries that followed, the newly forming Rabbinate in the first century did not recognize Yeshua as the Messiah. With the formal rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah by the religious authorities of His day and in the centuries that followed, Jewish faith through history and up to the modern era has perpetuated that Yeshua’s followers’ claims that He was the Messiah were false.
The rejection of Yeshua as Messiah by the Jewish people is today predicated on three primary conclusions:
- Yeshua did not usher in an era of world peace as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures
- The Jewish people were given the Torah for salvation
- Belief in Jesus is not “Jewish”
Let’s take a moment to consider these conclusions.
Did Yeshua fulfill all the promises and prophecies about the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures?
The simple answer is no. Yeshua’s coming in the first century did not bring peace to the world. In fact, from a Jewish historical view, Yeshua brought great persecution to the Jewish people based on the actions of His followers throughout history. Like many in the first century, the one biblical expectation of the Messiah is that he will usher in a time of great peace and prosperity in the world.
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, there are two images of the Messiah – one that is a Mighty King and one that is a Suffering Servant. The Rabbis, too, recognized these two figures of the Messiah: The Mighty King – the Son of David; The Suffering Servant – the Son of Joseph.
Messianic Jewish thought reconciles these two images of the Messiah in one person, one Messiah – Yeshua. His first coming was as the Messiah the Son of Joseph that He might suffer and make atonement for the sins of Israel and of the nations for all that would call on Him. His future coming will be as the Messiah the Son of David that He might usher in a period of unimaginable peace under His reign. This He will do as the complete and final fulfillment of all the prophecies made regarding the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures and fill up the longing of His first disciples recorded in the New Covenant Scriptures.
Can the keeping of the Torah lead to eternal life?
Deuteronomy 4:1 says, “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live….” Likewise, the Torah states in Deuteronomy 6:3, “keep all His statutes and His commandments…that your days may be prolonged.” Though these passages address “living” and “long life” by keeping the commandments, there is no addressing of eternal life. Likewise, Yeshua says to the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19:17, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” While these passages from the Torah and from Yeshua’s teaching do say to keep the commandments as a way to live with the Lord God’s blessings, they do not address living forever.
Yeshua describes Himself as the only means to eternal life (John 3:15-16, 10:28, 17:3). The writers of the Gospels, as His followers should, affirm His assertions. Paul, a self-described Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) states the same.
These passages address not just how to live life well and long, but how to be a part of the world to come. Eternal life is the issue of living forever in a resurrected body after the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. Yeshua is that Messiah – the one who suffered like Joseph that He might be found worthy to reign like David. And the only means to that Kingdom is by believing in its King!
Is belief in Yeshua as the Messiah an “un-Jewish” thing to do?
Though belief in Jesus as the Messiah has been a primarily “Christian” practice since the formation of Christianity under the Roman Empire, we contend that belief in Yeshua as the Messiah is a perfectly Jewish thing to do. Despite all the history of the Church and the misuse of His Name, despite all the bad theology that is based on a Christianity disconnected from the Jewish roots of the faith, Yeshua is a Jewish man born in Bethlehem in the Galilee region of the Land of Israel (Luke 2). He is the Son of David (Matthew 1),and the idea of curses being put upon those who hang on a pole to remove sin from among the people originates in the Torah (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
While religion and theology have separated Jewishness and Yeshua, Yeshua cries out for the people of Israel and the City of Jerusalem to come to Him as His own people (Luke 19:41-42) – which is, in our view, a perfectly Jewish thing to do!
Can a Jewish Person Believe in Jesus?
I’ve heard Jewish People say, “You can’t be a Jew and believe in Jesus any more than you can be a vegetarian who eats meat.” It’s not that they’re belligerent. It’s just that their worldview doesn’t allow them to see how a Jew can believe in Jesus, given 2,000 years of persecution at the hands of the Church.
This is why it takes a special sensitivity when talking to a Jewish person about Yeshua (Jesus).
I’ve mentioned before about all the persecution the Jewish People have undergone in the name of Jesus. During the Spanish Inquisition, many Jews were deported, tortured or killed. Lands and property were confiscated, and there is some speculation that this stolen wealth was used to finance the voyage of Christopher Columbus.
In Russia, thousands of Jewish People were massacred in pogroms by so-called Christians. Christian peasants would put crosses on their doors so the murderers would know to leave them alone.
As a result of such atrocities, many Jews ask, “How can I accept a religion that has shed so much Jewish blood? I would be a traitor to my fathers who died if I renounced their religion and accepted Jesus.”
We must get our Jewish friends and neighbors to see that the people who carried out these horrible acts were not following Yeshua. They were going against everything He taught, and they denied Him when they lifted their hands against the Jews.
Jews must come to see that they should believe in Yeshua because He is the Messiah, not because Christians are such nice people. We must show them that Yeshua is the God of the whole earth, of Jews and Gentiles alike. We can show them Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. We can explain that Yeshua was Jewish, as were the apostles and most of the early believers.
Here are some Messianic Prophecies from the Old Testament:
-- Excerpted from How to Share Yeshua, by Rabbi Jonathan Bernis