January 28, 2004

We're Like That
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of 
sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from 
whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we 
esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

In the next few weeks a new Bible movie is going to 
hit the screen. Mel Gibson's "The Passion" has been 
arousing much interest, both positive and negative. A 
couple of things that make this film different is the 
use of the original languages throughout, and the 
intense (and likely accurate) graphical portrayal of 
the final sufferings of the Messiah.

One of the concerns that has been expressed on the 
part of some Jewish leaders is that the movie puts the 
Jewish people in a bad light.

I agree with their concern. For most of the history of 
the Church, the Gospel's depiction of the Jewish 
rejection of Jesus has been used against us. Even 
though this negative sentiment is not supported in the 
pages of the New Testament, the Church has been slow 
to fully recant these wrong notions. Therefore the 
Jewish community is being reasonable in feeling 
nervous.

The abuse experienced by the Jewish people, is partly 
responsible for our not accepting the depiction of the 
Jewish leaders' role in the Gospel story. This is 
tragic, since it clouds the intended message.

The fact is, whether or not we accept the historical 
accuracy of the Gospel story, the behavior of the 
leadership in Yeshua's day is so typical. Whenever 
someone appears on the scene, who apparently is 
challenging the way things are done, current 
leadership gets edgy.

Not only is this an understandable reaction, it should 
be expected. The Jewish leadership at the time of 
Yeshua was responsible to make sure that the people 
were taught the truth. It was their responsibility to 
scrutinize newcomers, especially those who appeared to 
be radically different.

That they rejected him is also not unusual. Do we 
think so highly of ourselves that we are so sure that 
we have the ability to recognize truth when it is 
presented to us? Truth is hard to take, especially 
when we feel personally threatened. If Joseph was 
rejected by his brothers, Moses by the elders of the 
community, and David persecuted by Saul, is it so 
unusual that the Jewish religious leaders would reject 
the Messiah?

Similarly the others involved in the story: Pilate as 
the Roman governor decides to condemn the Messiah for 
political reasons rather than out of a sense of 
justice; a mob crying out for blood not really 
understanding what is going on; even his own fearful 
followers deserting him in the midst of his greatest 
need. There is nothing unusual about this kind of 
thing. It's all in keeping with what we know about 
human nature.

What has not helped the Jewish community throughout 
the centuries is how one of the main lessons of this 
part of the Gospel story has been missed. When you and 
I read the attitudes and actions of the various people 
involved, it is not for us to criticize them. We need 
to look at ourselves, and see how we tend to be like 
them. It is so easy to reject the things that God is 
seeking to do in our lives.

The Jewish people have been chosen by God as an 
example to the other nations of the world. God decided 
to use our successes and failures to be his object 
lessons for everyone else. Whatever happened to the 
Jewish people in the pages of Scripture is there to 
show us what the rest of us would have done had we 
been in those same situations. Our response needs to 
be one of humility and soul searching in the hope that 
we would not fall into these same traps.

It is only when we respond to the Gospel message in 
this way, that we will truly get the message.