For the week of August 19, 2006 / 25 Av 5766
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11 - 55:5
Gentiles for Yeshua
Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. (Isaiah 55:5)
For most Jewish people, Yeshua is irrelevant. While many accept that he was a Jewish man or even acknowledge him as a significant leader, to most Jewish people the movement that has emerged in his name has nothing to do with us whatsoever. In fact for many, Christianity is synonymous with being non-Jewish. There are several reasons for this, but the primary reason has to do with who has made up the bulk of Yeshua's followers throughout history: non-Jews. The biblical word for non-Jews is "Gentiles," which simply means "nations," but is often used to refer to nations other than the nation of Israel.
It is not just the sheer number of Gentile believers that has caused Christianity to be viewed as not Jewish. Other factors contributing to this include the strong stance against Yeshua and his followers on the part of the majority of Jewish leadership as well as the arrogance of the emerging Gentile Christian leadership toward Jewish people.
While it has contributed to some extent, I don't know how much of a role the rejection of Yeshua has played in how Christianity came to be viewed in the Jewish community. Jewish history and Jewish life are diverse. There have always been strong differences between various factions. Yet believing in Yeshua by and large has been kept outside of the Jewish fold by the vast majority of Jewish people.
On the other hand Christian arrogance toward Jewish people has done much to widen the gap between these two communities. When one reads the history of Christian anti-Semitism it is easy to understand why most Jewish people would not want to consider Yeshua. Even though Christians emphasize love in Jesus' name, they have regularly degraded Jewish people in that same name. Along with that degradation has been a revamping of his own cultural and historical context that resists genuine Jewish participation in the life of the Church. A gentilized Yeshua is no longer a Jewish Messiah, but rather a Gentile god.
What makes this all the more tragic is that Yeshua's Gentile following, rather than being an obstacle to the Jewish community, should have been a sign to his people that he really was the Messiah. When God first formed the Jewish people by calling Abraham it was with the promise of being a blessing to all the nations of the world (Bereshit / Genesis 12:3). Many years later through the prophets God predicted that the Messiah would have a profound impact on the non-Jewish world. Israel's destiny was (and still is) to be a light to the nations. This has certainly occurred through Yeshua and his followers. It is because of his followers that all around the world from Jerusalem to London to New York to Buenos Aires to Sidney to Tokyo to Beijing to New Delhi to Nairobi to Cairo to Moscow people worship the God of Israel and esteem the Jewish Scriptures.
The majority of Jewish leadership until today reject that the acceptance of Biblical truth on the part of the nations of the world is the fulfillment of the words of the Jewish prophets, but I believe one of the reasons for that is what I mentioned before. Even though Gentiles the world over have been positively transformed by the God of Israel in Jesus' name, they, at the same time, for the most part have failed to have a heart for the very people through whom God's goodness has come. Even though most Jewish people have wanted nothing to do with Yeshua, it was his Jewish followers who gave their lives in the early years to bring God's Word to the rest of the world. Abraham's descendants have indeed been a blessing to the nations.
That is why it is so important for Gentile Christians to express humble and grateful hearts to the people of Israel today. Israel's call to be a light to the nations is not yet complete. In order for that to happen, those among the nations who have received the light of Yeshua's reality must reflect that light back again to those to whom it first came, so that Israel can truly be all that God wants us to be.
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