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Why you dont have to be Jewish to believe in Jesus (but it helps)

A response to the article Why Jews dont believe in Jesus by Rabbi Shraga Simmons of 21.01.13

I live in one of the most Jewish areas in Britain, Golders Green, and I love it. The bagels and the bakeries are to die for. There is still a mezuzah on my door from the previous occupants, and every Chanukah down the road they raise up a giant menorah with twinkly lights. During Purim each year I hear a cacophony coming through my windows as I am trying to teach. (Many of my students are Jewish.) When I look outside, I see lines of Jewish people in costume celebrating Gods deliverance of the Jews through Esther and the downfall of the wicked Haman. I feel like celebrating with them, because what could be more exciting than Gods deliverance? He has through Jesus delivered me from something far more horrible than Haman: my sin. I am not Jewish, but I am a big fan of the Jewish people and of Yshua (the Jewish way of saying Jesus), and as such I am a supporter of the Jews for Jesus. This article does not officially represent their position, but I believe we share convictions on this subject. The title of this piece is in fact taken from one of their leaflets. In Rabbi Simmons piece, he seeks to answer the question, Why dont Jews believe in Jesus? and he gives four reasons. My aim is to show why none of these provide sufficient grounds to reject Yshua as the Jewish Mashiach (the Messiah, the Christ, Gods anointed king). Clearly, many Jewish people have put their faith in Jesus; even though these are in a minority, its also true to say that Bible-believing Christians are in a minority amongst Gentiles as well. So, may I begin by politely rephrasing the question: Why do only some Jews and Gentiles believe in Jesus? Why not all? So lets begin by unpacking the rabbis four objections.

1. Jesus did not fulfil the Messianic prophecies he did and he will!
Rabbi Simmons accurately refers to many Old Testament prophecies which point to the characteristics of the Messiah. He highlights four in particular. The Messiah will: A. B. C. D. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28) Gather all Jews back to Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6) Usher in world peace (Isaiah 2:4) Unite the world in the knowledge of YHWH, the God of Israel (Zechariah 14:9).

According to Simmons, various Messianic pretenders, including Jesus of Nazareth, Bar Cochbar and Sabbatai Zevi, have all failed to fulfil these criteria, and therefore are clearly false Messiahs. If you are a follower of Jesus, your first response will probably be the same as mine: Hold on a minute, Rabbi! Jesus will fulfil these prophecies, on his return.

Rabbi Simmons deftly anticipates this by saying that the Messiah will fulfil the prophecies outright; in the Bible no concept of a second coming exists. He is quite right that the Tanakh (the Jewish Old Testament) does not explicitly speak of two comings of the Messiah. What it does do, however, is give two very distinct portraits, one of which Rabbi Simmons has entirely omitted. Yes, there are the prophecies of Gods victorious anointed king who would come and bring world peace and universal knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). But the other side of the coin is the Messiah as the suffering servant, the child born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), the humble preacher of good news (Isaiah 61:1,2) and most significantly the one who would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Jewish and non-Jewish people have a big problem with conflict. We do fight one another. Sometimes we even have world wars. It will be wonderful when the Messiah comes and brings world peace, when swords are beaten into ploughshares (Isaiah 2:4). But there is a bigger conflict that needs resolving: our big fight with God. Our vertical, spiritual fight. This is called sin, and it is buried deep within us. The Messiah building the third temple or bringing Jewish people back to Israel, or creating world peace, or bringing knowledge of YHWH these are all external things. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. In Marks gospel, Jesus says to a paralysed man, Son, your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5). The religious leaders are horrified: only God can forgive sins, they say. Then, to prove his power over sin, Jesus says to the man, Take up your mat and walk. The man springs up and away you cant see him for dust! You see, the Messiah deals with the bigger, internal, vertical, spiritual problem first. First, he suffers on behalf of Israel (and the rest of us who trust in Israels Messiah), taking Gods righteous anger against our sins. What a loving thing to do! To take the heaviest burden from my shoulders and yours, and lay it upon himself. Then, one day, Jesus has promised to come back and deal with the smaller, external, horizontal, social problem of world peace. Occupy, he says to his followers, till I come (Luke 19:13). Build my kingdom on earth, and build it through loving one another as I have loved you. Love your neighbours. Love your enemies. Bring my good news to the ends of the earth, and teach everyone to repent and receive new life before I come in judgment, he says. A very interesting thing happened when Jesus read one of the prophecies concerning himself out loud. He stopped halfway through a verse. He read that he had come to proclaim the year of the LORDs favour (Luke 4:19), and then he rolled up the scroll. This was Jesus way of showing that the Messiahs coming was twofold. First, he came in mercy and forgiveness. He came to live, to love, to die for us. He came to make peace between us and God. We are living in that year now, that year of the LORDs favour. Thank God he stopped reading halfway through the verse and left part two until sometime in the future. Because this is what the rest of the verse says:

and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2). If the Messiah had completed all his mission the first time he had come, then he would have to obliterated every Jew and non-Jew on the earth, because (as the Jewish Scriptures teach), All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6). The wind of Gods wrath against sin executed through his anointed Messiah would have swept us all away like leaves. Only one man would be left standing, and that would have been the Messiah himself. But what actually happened was that the one man who should have stood in righteousness, fell instead, experiencing a criminals death, so that we could stand in faith on the day that he comes again. So that we could all withstand the fiery winds of Gods judgment against sin. Because he had paid the price in full himself. What a wonderful Messiah Jesus is. He has promised to complete the job. He will bring world peace and every knee will bow to the true God of Israel, YHWH. But this will be a great and dreadful day (Joel 2:31), and I for one am thankful that the Messiah is patiently waiting in heaven for the right time to return. And the Bible tells us why: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. As soon as the Messiah returns, the offer of salvation will expire. The door to the ark will be closed. The angel of death will unsheathe his sword. The books will be opened. It will be too late for any repentance. Thats why Im so thankful the Messiahs coming was twofold: the first time to save; the second time to judge. In between: this precious time for all of us to get right with our great God. Jesus has already fulfilled dozens of Messianic prophecies regarding the suffering servant which can be seen here (including being born of a virgin in Bethlehem, being betrayed by a friend, being pierced in his hands and feet and buried with the rich). When he returns, he will fulfil all the other Messianic prophecies regarding Gods victorious king. Jewish or non-Jewish friend, get to know him before he does.

2. Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of Messiah he did, all of them!
A. Messiah as Prophet
Rabbi Simmons argues that prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry, but he does not put forward any Scriptural support for this view. Indeed, he references the Exile in Babylon, and this was a time where many prophets like Daniel were spoken to by God. Moses, the Jewish prophet par excellence, never set foot in Israel.

B. Descendant of David
The view given here is that the Messiah must be descended on his fathers side from King David, and various Scriptures are given (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24) to support this. Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 and identifies himself as the Son of David (Luke 20:41,42). Clearly, Jesus did not think the virgin birth was something that disqualified him from being Davids descendant! There is nowhere in the prophecies that says that the Messiahs lineage must be biologically through the father. The two astonishing genealogies of Jesus show that he was descended from David legally through Joseph (Matthew 1) and biologically through Mary (Luke 3). Simmons goes on to present a straw man where he caricatures Jesus as a demi-god who did not have normal physical attributes like other people. Jesus had every normal physical and emotional attribute common to men. He ate, drank, slept and wept. He was tired, hungry and angry at times. No Bible-believing Christian believes that Jesus was a demi-god, with half human, half divine qualities. Jesus was no Hercules and the miracles he performed were by the finger of God (Luke 11:20). On this basis, Moses and Elijah would have to be dismissed as demi-gods. Nevertheless, Christians do believe the Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine (not 50% of each). This means he is a man just like us (except without sin; Hebrews 4:15). And yet He is God the Son, one with the Father, able to arbitrate between us, to lay a hand on us both (Job 9:33). This is the kind of Messiah we need, and the one the Jewish Scriptures lead us to expect.

C. Torah observance
The rabbi objects to Jesus apparent contradictions of the Torah. He gives one example: when Jesus makes a paste in violation of the Sabbath, according to the Pharisees (John 9:14). Perhaps the rabbi should read Jesus first major piece of teaching: the Sermon on Mount. Jesus says, Dont misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of Gods law will disappear until its purpose is achieve (my emphasis; Matthew 5:17,18). It was actually the Pharisees who were on the wrong side of Gods Law. They had added so many additional manmade regulations to the Torah that they had actually started to deny both its letter and its spirit. Jesus tackles them on this in Mark 7 where he says, You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God to observe your own traditions (verse 9). He exposes them for craftily avoiding financial support to their own parents by devoting money to God. Understandably, they want to kill him, and eventually they get their wish. Jesus has a way of exposing the religious hypocrisy of all our hearts, but this is not through his abandonment of Gods laws, but rather his perfect fulfilment and insistence of them. Jesus even intensifies the Torahs application by showing how it must apply to our hearts (no lust, no rage) as well as our actions (no adultery, no

murder), because God seeks heart-worshippers, not just lip-service. Jesus loved Gods law. In fact, he was the only one who ever kept it. Jesus broke the manmade Mishnah, yes, but no-one can justly accuse Jesus of breaking the divine Torah.

3. Mistranslated verses referring to Jesus theyre not!

A. Virgin birth
It is true that the Hebrew word almah refers to a young woman, but when Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint or LXX), they used the word parthenos, which does mean virgin. Additionally, almah is never used to refer to a young, married woman, and unmarried women were always presumed to be chaste. This article goes into more depth. Jesus virgin birth has nothing to do with paganism, as this piece among many others demonstrates. All the babies of promise of the Old Testament (such as Isaac, Jacob and Joseph) were born in arduous and even miraculous circumstances Sarah, for example, was way too old to conceive naturally. It should not be surprising to the Jewish person expecting the Messiah that he should be born in the most miraculous fashion of all: of a virgin.

B. Suffering servant
Rabbi Simmons follows the traditional view of Isaiah 53 in applying it to Israel as a whole, rather than the Messiah in particular. The fundamental problem with this view is that the suffering servant dies for the Jewish people (as well as sprinkling many nations; Isaiah 52:15). All we [the Jews] like sheep have gone astray and the LORD has laid on him [the suffering servant] the iniquity of us all By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isaiah 53:6; 8). Isaiah 53 is such a clear prophecy of the sufferings of the Christ on behalf of his people that it is amazing that only some Jews and Gentiles see it! The prayer of every Jew and Gentile for Jesus is that the whole world will trust in his chastisement that bought us peace (Isaiah 53:5).

4. Jewish belief is based solely on national revelation Jesus came to his nation and was lifted up before them as King of the Jews, even though he was rejected by most
The rabbi rightly rejects individuals who start their own religions (as would Jesus). But Jesus constantly spoke of himself as fulfilling the Scriptures of God (which he quoted at least 78 times), even to his own destruction on the Cross. His ministry was marked continuity and his teaching deepened the Torahs application (rather than innovated). He never swerved away from this brief. Jesus himself warned of false christs and false prophets.[performing] great signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24). So the rabbi is right that miracles alone are not a sign

of authenticity, especially if they lead to idolatry. But Jesus miracles did serve to confirm that the prophecies applied to him most of all, the miracle of his resurrection from the dead, which the rabbi does not speak of at all, though it is the cornerstone of faith for all Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:12-28). This is entirely consistent with Gods dealings with the prophets, such as when he gave Moses signs to show that God had spoken to him: the snake-staff, the leprous hand, the blood-water (Exodus 4:3-9). Simmons cites Maimonides to suggest that Moses was not believed because of his miracles, but this to me is very odd, as this is the precise reason God gives him these signs: so he would be believed. If the Jews only believed because of the revelation at Mount Sinai, why were they prepared to leave Egypt with Moses as their leader?

Waiting for the Messiah yes, but he has already come once
Rabbi Simmons is so right in concluding that the world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. He goes on to recommend loving each other and keeping the commandments of God, both of which are highly commendable, but have we not already failed utterly in both respects? And even if we could follow these injunctions from now on, how could we be redeemed from our former sins? He also seems to connect the worlds redemption with Jewish people returning to Israel. The current conflict there and the misery of so many does not suggest that this is going to suffice as the vehicle of divine redemption. In the end, Rabbi Simmons says that the Messiah can come any day, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. Is this not rather paradoxical? God will redeem you, but only when you have redeemed yourself. God will cleanse you, but only after you have cleansed yourself. Hasnt the history of Jews and of every other nation taught us that we cannot heal ourselves? What use is a Messiah if we can do the redemption ourselves? On the contrary, redemption connotes a buying back from slavery. What is the worlds slavery? Its our slavery to sin and rebellion against our Creator. We cannot be the solution if we are the problem. Jesus said, If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Jesus is the true Messiah. He is the only one who is able to put away your sin and set you free from the coming wrath of God. He is only one pure enough to pay the price in his own blood. Yshua is the true Mashiach of all Jews. You dont have to be Jewish to believe in Jesus, but it definitely helps. I would plead with Rabbi Simmons, and all Jewish and non-Jewish friends reading this to repent of your sins and put your trust in him today. Hes coming soon, just as he promised. Id love to see you worshipping him with me on that great and awesome day. Soli deo gloria. Neil Richardson