PALM SUNDAY TO PASSOVER: A JEWISH REACTION

Two thousand years ago Yeshua (Jesus) rode the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem.  On that day many in Israel seemed to understand the significance of this event.  The Prophet Zechariah predicted 500 years before that the Melekh (King) would come to Zion riding on a donkey’s colt (Zech.9:9). Yeshua at that moment was heralded like a rock star.  Adulations of Hosanna to the son of David cascaded in the streets as Yeshua rode into Jerusalem and made his way to the Temple. The Jewish people looked to Him to deliver them from Roman bondage and at the same time make all of THEM great among the nations. They praised the Yeshua of their expectations. They saw Rome as their problem while Yeshua saw sin as their problem.  This great feeling and momentous time in Jerusalem would not last—even that day.  As Yeshua entered the Temple grounds and as the crowd looked forward to His words that would restore Israel to greatness Yeshua instead blasted the Temple merchants for making the house of prayer an open air marketplace and a crooked one, at that. With Yeshua in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, Yeshua’s enemies in the Pharisee-dominated Sanhedrin devised their plan.  Unusually, they faced no opposition from the Sadducees who dominated the Priesthood and thus the Temple and the commerce there.  They had no interest in putting up with an upstart from Galilee who could rally Jewish throngs and bring the fist of Rome against Israel. Together they were able to exploit the weakness in Yeshua’s inner circle (Judas) and bring Yeshua to a secret trial where they could impose their frustration upon him.  With Yeshua captive and observably beaten he was taken to Herod who mocked him and to Pilate who had him brutally scourged and crowned with thorns.  Pilate did this because he thought it would satisfy the crowd that was solidly behind Caiaphas the High Priest.  Pilate then brought out BarAbbas, an anti-Rome, anti-collaborator terrorist. The crowd, earlier yelling Hosanna, now were convinced that Yeshua who had received their adoration on Palm Sunday was the Melekh son of David.  They knew that BarAbbas hated the Romans just like they did.  If released he at least would work for what they wanted.  Caiaphas the High Priest, who wanted Yeshua killed, was able to manipulate the crowd and influence Pilate to seal Yeshua’s fate. The Roman soldiers assigned to the garrison at Jerusalem performed the brutal crucifixion — though even some of them, watching His behavior and speech on the cross, came to realize that “truly, He was the Son of God.”  Even in their seeming victory members of the religious leadership in Jerusalem still felt the need to mock Yeshua on the cross. With the deed completed Caiaphas brought about scriptural fulfillment in the Tenakh.

Psalm 118: 22 The Stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

Isaiah 53: 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.

From 30 A.D. to 2015 that rejection persists.  During this interim the Jews were driven out by the Romans, persecuted by the Byzantines, dhimmified by Arab Muslims, slaughtered along the Rhine and in Jerusalem by crusaders, expelled by Spain, dhimmified by Ottoman Turks, the target of pogroms in Russia and Poland, betrayed by the British, nearly exterminated by Nazis, and under constant threat of war and annihilation in the Muslim Middle East.

Given the events of 2000 years ago coupled with an undeniable history of hardship and persecution Jewish attitudes and perceptions are articulated in the following manner:

Most American Jews – They are deeply secular, committed to a strong US-Israeli relationship, and strongly believe that peace with the Arabs [and deterrence of Iran, and reconciliation with Turkey] is eventually possible with American support.  It is a matter of ideology — they reject that religion matters, and believe that Jews and Arabs can live together, either in two states or even in one unified secular Israel-Palestine.  American Jews see American conservatives as anti-Jewish, either trying to marginalize them or convert them while re-Christianizing the country.  The Israeli Left doesn’t like US conservatives either.

Like the Muslims, who view both Jews and Christians as a threat, many Jews both here and in Israel view Christians and Muslims as a threat — they see the revival of anti-Jewish hatred in Europe and the Americas as reflecting the growth of Muslim minorities but also “Christian” majorities that don’t care enough to confront the Muslims.  To some degree, they’re absolutely right — there is still plenty of hostility to Jews in Southern and Eastern Europe, even though most of Europe is sadly post-Christian and reverted to neo-Roman paganism.  But looking at Russia, where the Orthodox Church has official support, there is more overt hostility towards Jews and also non-conforming Christians than there is to Muslims, because the Russians are afraid that they must placate their large Muslim minority or they’ll all go the way of the Chechens.

As for Christians, the Jews do not make any distinction between nominal and actual Christians, nor between Baptists, Evangelicals, Charismatic/Pentecostals, Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox.  This is despite the fact that the first three tend to be very pro-Israel and supportive of Jewish civil rights in the West, but BECAUSE of the fact that these groups are also in the forefront of evangelism towards the Jews.  Churches and organized Christianity CANNOT win the Jews; neither logic nor emotion can do it. If Gentile Christians overtly evangelize, even out of the most sincere love, it is seen as “you’re trying to eliminate us by subversion.”  If they ignore the Jews, they are viewed as “bigoted.”  And if they are poor or non-practicing professing Christians and dislike Jews, even if they don’t hate them or seek harm to them, they are viewed as “anti-Semites”.

How are Bible-believing Christians to digest these current realities? Only God’s grace, the love of Messiah Yeshua evidenced by individual Christians being interested, spiritual, but non-confrontational friends, and the Holy Spirit can win Jews to know their Savior.  The good news is that we are 2000 years closer to resolution than we were 2000 years ago.  The Prophets in the Jewish Bible accurately predicted this.  As that fateful Passover approached, Yeshua told the Scribes and Pharisees that desolation was coming upon Jerusalem and that generation of Jewish people. He ended that condemnation of them (not all Jewish people for all time) by saying “For I say to you. You will not see me again until you will say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt.23: 2-39). Yeshua did not say you will never see me again, but you will only see me again when you cry Blessed is he (Yeshua) that comes in the name of the Lord. Yeshua was well aware of the words of Zechariah the Prophet “And it shall come to pass in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall weep for him as one that weeps for his firstborn” (Zech 12:9-10).

2000 years ago the Jewish people in Jerusalem heralded their coming King on Palm Sunday. By Passover many of them were all too happy to deliver that Passover Lamb to the pagan Romans for slaughter. Since that time the Jewish religious leaders have prepared every possible argument to prevent the Jewish people from reading the messianic prophesies and making their own determination. They insist that to accept Yeshua is to betray one’s own people.  The Church of the Messiah must realize that persecution is coming to Christians and Jews.  In the troubling time ahead we will have the opportunity to be a comfort to the Jewish people as the time of Jacob’s trouble approaches.  Our job is to love them realizing that it may not be reciprocated.  A worsening geo-political situation and shared persecution will draw us closer together. Through the horror of that time and the release of the Spirit of grace upon God’s chosen they will cry out and desire ‘He who was pierced’ and upon his appearing weep as they have never mourned before.  In that day all of Israel will be saved.  Buona Pasqua    Joe

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