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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Larsen

Why Don't Jews Believe Jesus is Their Messiah?



Did you read last week’s blog?  The one where I shared a conversation I had with a Jewish rabbi as I sought out more learning and education on our Old Testament?  If not, go back and read it.  Go on, I’ll wait.  Because this week’s blog is the continuation and probably the most important difference yet between Jews and Christians:


Was Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, who was prophesied throughout the Hebrew Bible?  Quite simply, Christians answer yes, while Jews answer no.


Christians have a common saying: the entire Old Testament is about Jesus, just not by name. There are many Old Testament prophesies that point to facts about the Messiah, that Jesus fulfills in the New Testament:


·        He is born of a woman

·        From the line of Jacob

·        Born from the family of Jesse

·        David’s Kingly Heir

·        Born in Bethlehem

·        Born of a virgin


The basis of the entire Christian faith is that Jesus fulfills the prophesies throughout the Old Testament of a Savior who will come to earth in human form and provide salvation for everyone who believes in him.


So why do the Jews not believe?  The rabbi and I discussed this at length during our conversation.  He not only shared his own responses, but he also suggested some additional reading: a book called Kosher Jesus by Shmuley Boteach. I did indeed purchase the book and dove into it with interest.  As I organize this blog, I will include information from both sources: my conversation with the rabbi as well as writings from Kosher Jesus.


First, a little history lesson: Jews have been waiting for the Messiah forever, and they know that not everyone who claims to be a Messiah, is in fact, one.  The books of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy warn urgently about not being duped by false prophets who claim to be from God (Deuteronomy 18:21-22, Jeremiah 23:16).


Jesus wasn't the only Jew who showed up in first-century Palestine, started a following and was labeled by some as a messiah. Other intriguing men of the time would sermonize, accrue followers and perform signs that the observers believed were miracles from God.


Each time, the Jewish leaders would watch and wait, and diligently determine if they were valid. Eventually, the movements ended when the subjects were executed by the Romans. Each time, the Jews would apply the claimed Messiah to the rules outlined in the Hebrew Bible and make the determination of whether they believe it to be true.


There were two men named Theudas.  One was mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament (Acts 5:36). He performed signs and wonders and accrued four hundred followers, before Jesus started his own ministry. The Jews started applying the terms of the Messiah checklist, but Theudas was found wanting.


Another man named Theudas arrived on the scene a dozen years after Jesus’ death. The second Theudas took a group of followers to the Jordan River and allegedly parted the waters in two. This is a clear sign intended to resemble the miracle seen in the book of Joshua. The procurator of the region captured him, killed his followers, and beheaded him. Obviously, he wasn’t the Messiah, despite proclaiming that he was.


Thank you to Christianity.com’s article, Who Were the Two False Messiahs Named Theudas? 


Simon Bar Kochba was another self-proclaimed messiah, who led a Jewish rebellion against Rome some one hundred years after Jesus’s death. Now, this was behavior more like the promised Messiah in the Hebrew Bible – a conquering savior.  Bar Kochba was supported by the greatest rabbis of the day, and due to his military prowess, he checked off quite a few of the boxes expected of the Jewish Messiah. But his revolt ended in total Jewish defeat. Bar Kochba himself was killed by the Romans and his followers were all either killed or enslaved within a year. Another promising Messiah candidate who did not fulfill the requirements as outlined in the Hebrew Bible.


So, what about Jesus?  To Christians it is so clear that he is God’s Son, sent by God to save the world. But not so to the Jews.  Why?  Here are the answers to this crucial question that I gained from both Rabbi Weissman and the book, Kosher Jesus.


Jesus didn’t fulfill the requirements of a Messiah:  Jews believe that the Hebrew Bible lays out very specific qualifications so they can recognize the coming Messiah. “Messiah” is a title given to the very wise Jewish king who:


·        reestablishes Jewish sovereignty in Israel by putting a Jewish king on Israel’s throne

·        rescues Jews from Roman (and all foreign) tyranny

·        brings truth and justice to the world

·        ends all war and hate

·        ends hunger

·        brings about the universal conversion of all people either to Judaism or to ethical monotheism

·        rebuilds the Holy Temple

 

How does Jesus match up?  Jesus did NOT do any of these things.  He didn’t overpower foreign rule, he didn’t restore a Jewish king to the throne, and he didn’t provide peace to the world. On the contrary, he was overpowered by the Jews’ oppressors, the Romans and was crucified, a violent death intended for criminals, in front of the Jewish citizenry.


Jesus didn’t have the proper bloodline: The Messiah would have royal blood flowing in his veins, from the House of David. After rescuing the Jews from foreign rule, the Messiah would establish a new king in Israel with David’s royal blood in the Holy Land.


Although the gospels of Matthew and Luke lay out Jesus’ genealogy, it’s inconsistent. If you look at the two genealogy accounts closely, they’re slightly different. So, which is correct?  Or is neither correct?


Furthermore, if Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus (due to the virgin birth) then Jesus doesn’t actually come from that bloodline like God promised. The genealogies in the gospels indicate that it was Joseph’s side of the family that was connected to Jesse and David.


Jews believe that the Holy Trinity violates God’s law: Jews believe in the indivisibility of God. God emphasized in the Old Testament that we should worship no God but him.  He was singularly our God, no one else. With Jesus, the concept of the Holy Trinity is introduced – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Jews believe that’s against what God is.


Jews don’t believe the crucifixion was necessary to redeem us: Christians believe that the intent of Jesus’ crucifixion was to atone for or pay the price for people’s sins, to earn eternal forgiveness from the Father. That God loved us all so much that he gave his only son to pay for our sins. But Jews believe that we each atone for our own sins through good deeds and prayer. Therefore, it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to die for us to gain God’s favor.


Jews don’t believe God would negate the Old Testament: Jesus’ teachings changed the teachings of Moses. They introduced new laws and sometimes negated what the Jews had always followed. They don’t believe God would completely change everything with the arrival of this one man. The Christian Bible is called the New Testament. Jews interpret that title as if it replaces the “Old,” outdated, ossified, discarded Testament.  No, it’s the Word of God.  He wouldn’t just toss it out.


Because of these literal long-held interpretations of the description of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus didn’t make the cut, and therefore, Jews don’t believe he was the one. In Kosher Jesus, the author states, “In the event that Jesus does return in a second coming like Christians expect, Jews will have to rethink their current position. Until then, there is no justification for Jews’ acceptance of Jesus as the messiah.”


But what about the New Testament? Do Jews read the New Testament and wonder about this huge following that Jesus has accrued?  Rabbi Weissman explained that most Jewish congregants don’t know much about the New Testament or about Jesus specifically unless they have personally done the research. 


Author Shmuley Boteach spends quite a bit of his book asserting that the New Testament is a historical document filled with errors. The gospels were written half a century after Jesus died, and details vary between them, but even so, many of the “facts” were made up. For example, the idea that Pontius Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus, and it took an angry Jewish mob yelling for his crucifixion to convince him, isn’t true.  Pontius Pilate was an insurrectionist and a very mean man. It wouldn’t have been in his character to want to save Jesus. 


The Gospel of Matthew portrayed Jews as angry people who wanted to kill Jesus, which set up thousands of years of antisemitic sentiments among Christians.  In reality, Jesus was a Jew, raised Jewish and followed the Jewish laws.  He chose Jewish men to be his disciples. The original early Christians were a Jewish sect.  The average Jewish citizens at the time would have no reason to develop the sense of outrage described in the gospels to demand the Romans to murder Jesus.


The rabbi explains that in general, the Jewish faith believes that if Christians want to believe Jesus is the Son of God, then fine – you believe that.  Just don’t try to tell Jews they’re wrong because they don’t agree.  Jews are very open and accepting of other faiths and religions and they sometimes see that Christians aren’t like that.  The rabbi noted that Jesus is love, but a lot of things are being done in this world in Jesus’ name that he didn’t think Jesus would approve of.


This thought, of course, brought to my mind Jesus’s own words as documented in John 13:35: “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Rabbi Weissman’s closing words: We are all part of God’s tapestry and we need to live in peace with others.


In closing, I want to graciously thank Rabbi Weissman for the time he spent sharing his thoughts with me, and also for the book recommendation. I went into this challenge uninformed about the Jewish faith and their thoughts about Jesus and I came out much more educated.


Readers, I’d be interested in your thoughts and reactions to these last two blogs.  Feel free to leave comments or questions (respectful only, please) on this blog so we can discuss together.


Prayer: Dear God, thank you for this deep dive experience into learning more about your chosen people. Thank you for the ability for people who all worship you, to have rational discussions about their beliefs and where they divide and differ. I thank you for faithful Jewish followers as well as faithful Christian followers and I pray that we can continue to live in that peaceful tapestry that the rabbi so beautifully described.  Amen.





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