Most of us have heard at least one or two stories from Jews who believe in Jesus about the often anguished process that brought them to this place.
For many it involved being disapproved, rejected, and sometimes disinherited by those they had loved the most. It meant starting all over in life. They had espoused a worldview so apparently opposed to the one they had grown up with — and apparently in direct contradiction to the religious education that their families had provided, if they grew up in families that endeavored to pass on the Jewish faith — that many who survived the process have referred to it as “repenting.”
This word suggests a profound “turn” away from something and toward something else. Perhaps at a deeper level, as we look at the “re” part of the word — it means a “turning back” or “turning again.”
Jesus’ parable that has come to be known as “the prodigal son” springs to consciousness. It is every person’s story — not just the story of Jewish people. But as a people, Israelis and/or Jews, on a one-by-one, individual basis — because God made us individuals — have to get beyond some outrageous slings and arrows to be able to make this pivotal turn.
Many of us have only a glimmering of the longest-running, most depraved, and most irrational group hatred in the world — anti-Semitism. Perhaps we have been able to look briefly at the ghastly photography of the concentration camps. Before this Jews were blamed for the Black Plague in Europe. They were accused of using the blood of Christian children or of clergy to make Passover matzah (unleavened bread). The irrationality and depravity of this sad history is detailed in Dr. Michael Brown’s What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus?
Some of us have heard later in our lives something which all too many Jewish children experienced way too early in theirs — the ridiculous charge that has been leveled against many unsuspecting Jewish children by bullies or — worse! — classmates whom they had thought were their friends — that they (personally!) “killed Jesus.” This charge was often made before physical abuse commenced or was threatened. We remember one woman’s rendition of this terrible experience from her childhood. Apparently more articulate than most shocked and defenseless children would have been, she cried out to her accusers: “I’m 11 years old — how can I kill your God?”
When we consider the unique longevity of anti-Semitism, which is spoken of in the Book of Esther, written some 2500 years ago, together with its depravity and violence, we begin to discern that something more than “your basic” hatred or distrust of a people who are different has been at work down the centuries.
God has singled out the Jewish people as His instrument for world redemption, He has promised that they will always remain on the earth as a distinct people — despite their sins and failures — and the devil himself has marked them out for destruction. Ultimately, it is through the Jewish people that the knowledge of the one true God has come to the world, through the Jewish people that the Messiah has come, and through the Jewish people that the message of the Messiah went to the nations. And it is the Jewish people in Jerusalem who will ultimately welcome the Messiah back to earth to set up His kingdom (see Matthew 23:37-39). That’s why the devil hates them so!
—What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus? by Dr. Michael Brown
The turn toward Israel’s own Yeshua/Jesus in the heart of each Jewish person requires an enormously determined setting aside of what s/he knows about Jewish history that can only flow from deep resolve.
But in terms of Jews’ own inner circles — for most the nuclear families in which they grew up — the arrow that the accuser of the brethren has slung at their Jewish hearts is the dreaded accusation of “disloyalty” — to the cultural traditions of their own families and to the traditions of their larger people-group family. Many of the details from the play-turned-movie Fiddler on the Roof have disappeared from memory. But we still recall the song about “Tradition.” The Jewish culture is one that has particularly prized tradition. That adversarial arrow zings into the Jewish heart with the message: “You’re a Jew — how can you believe in Jesus?” And the poison on the tip of this arrow is the tortuous history of the Jewish people.
The story of Jews who have managed as adults to come to terms with what Jewish children have so long been taught — “We’re Jews; we don’t believe in Jesus” — and then to “turn again” toward God and His Christ in spite of this cultural expectation — is the story of their having overcome the adversary’s long-running and all-too-successful practice of shooting the “disloyalty” arrow into the history- and tradition-sensitized Jewish heart.
We find the story of Zev Porat as told at: http://www.maozisrael.org/site/News2?abbr=maoz_&page=NewsArticle&id=8186#5 to be a powerful case in point. In his case, the specter of “disloyalty” loomed up in the form of his father’s rabbinical teachings and his beloved grandfather’s orthodoxy. Watch his story below:
[Link to Video]
The painful history and the tradition-immersed quality of this, “our Lord’s nation,” have run deep. It is our reading of Scripture and our strong sense that Heaven rejoices to see so many Jews increasingly finding the courage and the “lion heart” to look deeply at things that matter and to “turn again” to the One who was foretold by their prophets and sent to them by their Father. Our understanding of Scripture also assures us that God’s purposes will come to fruition in the Jewish people.
Christine Colbert is a writer and editorial consultant, and is part of Or HaOlam Messianic Congregation in Overland Park.
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