“I am a Jew”* declared Paul, aka Saul, and if that’s good enough for St. Paul, it’s certainly good enough for me as well. He also declared of himself, “I am a Pharisee”* not “I was a Pharisee but now I have converted to Christianity,” and one who was undoubtedly familiar with the Torah and its messianic prophecies and expectations. Furthermore, he was in close enough proximity with the Nazarene sect of Judaism that proclaimed Yeshua to be the Messiah to be familiar with their doctrine – but he was not buying into it. Nothing could convince him otherwise as he proceeded with great commitment to try to eliminate that sect from defiling the purity of true Judaism.
That is, nothing could convince zealous Shaul except for one thing only: a personal and direct encounter with the risen Yeshua himself. That one historical event on the road to Damascus – on his mission to arrest members of the burgeoning Messianic sect – was enough to convince that stiff-necked Jew, and to make him into a pillar in the spreading of the knowledge of the Mashiach to the whole world.
The average garden variety religious Jew today is not so terribly different from Shaul. And most of the Jews on our planet, be they religious or secular or “other,” would skeptically ask the question posed as the title of this short essay- “Yeshua – the Messiah?” in a tone of profound satire, followed by, “If that’s the good news, then what the heck is the bad news?” Most of the Jewish people have a long collective memory, and well remember the suffering of their ancestors throughout the long history of Christianity at the hands of those professing Good News (Gospel) during the murderous Inquisitions, the Expulsions, the Pogroms, the burnings at the stake and tortures, the anti-Semitic persecutions that finally led up to the horrors of the Holocaust. Many well-intended Christians who attempt to reach Jews with the Gospel would say, “But those were not real Christians!” Unfortunately, the Jew might reply, the German Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, was a devout anti-Semite who wrote the recipe** that the German Mr. Hitler later put in the ovens. Yes, Catholic and Orthodox and Lutheran Protestant Christianity all have brought little but pain to the Jewish people in the name of the Messiah of love. Fortunately, there does now exist a breed of biblical Christians who do indeed stand with Israel, understanding the sad history of the church, and are returning to their roots of the Jew who is the Messiah, who told us, “Salvation is of the Jews.”
Now, after that most recent devastating Holocaust that ironically led to the restitution of a state for Jews in their ancient biblical homeland, many Christians (and cultural Christians) again turn against the Jews in the form of Replacement Theology and anti-Israelism, and the BDS movement, the new strain of anti-Semitism. And one may wonder why the Jews persist in saying, “No, thank you” in resisting the Gospel as they have for most of 2000 years? And then, “Please leave us alone in our own country to enjoy our own religion.” But like Saul the Pharisee, it was not by power or by might that he was transformed to become the apostle of the Messiah, but a direct divine encounter – and that is indeed the only catalyst that will precipitate such a transformation in the Jewish people. Nothing and nobody could have convinced me by any argument whatsoever – except for God Himself, as Yeshua proclaimed, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” (John 6:44)
A promise written in the Prophet Ezekiel (39:27-29) is: “When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the YHVH their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign YHVH.” May that come to pass speedily and our days.
*Acts 22 & 23
**On the Jews and their Lies – Martin Luther, 1543.