Yeshua has been exalted to the Father’s right hand (to the position of supreme authority) to bring Israel to repentance and forgiveness, but repentance and forgiveness for what? This is a very important question, and one that is almost never asked or answered. Let’s do that today!
In part the answer you give to this question will be based on your presuppositions and your theological conditioning. Many people will reflexively say, “to repent for not having received him when he first came.” But is this answer satisfactory? I am afraid the answer must be, “Not at all!” That is, not if you want to be consistent and logical! Why am I saying that this reflexive answer is inadequate?
“The Risen Messiah and Israel’s Return to Torah”
I hope I don’t make a complete mess of the points Dr. Dauermann made in his blog post, but when I read it, a whole area of questions and (hopefully) answers opened up in my mind. One of the questions was one that some Christians ask me from time to time: “Why do Messianic Jews need Jesus?”
With all of the emphasis on Torah and Torah observance seen in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots worlds, it can look to an outside Christian viewer like Messianic Jews don’t require Jesus for personal salvation. It’s actually an interesting question, because prior to the first advent, there was a perfectly acceptable system in place for Jewish people to be reconciled to God and have their sins forgiven. That system had existed (off and on, relative to the destruction and rebuilding of different versions of the Temple) for thousands of years.
Then suddenly, Jewish and Biblical history seemed to take a sharp left-hand turn:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
–John 14:6 (NASB)
All of a sudden, the system that God established many, many centuries before was no longer good enough. Faith and devotion to God (the Father) wasn’t good enough. An additional requirement was attached to the list, one that was never presupposed in the Torah and the Prophets. A very specific faith in and devotion to the Messiah, Son of David.
Progressive Revelation could probably answer that one, but I have problems with the concept. I have problems with the idea that I, as an average Christian guy with no special religious education or background, could know God more fully than a man like Abraham who was called God’s friend, or Moses, who was the greatest prophet ever known in Israel. But progressive revelation says I know stuff that those guys never had a clue about.
I don’t think the Bible could be that disjointed. If the entire Bible we have today is all “God-breathed,” then it can’t contradict itself. The Tanakh (Old Testament) mentions little or nothing about personal salvation. Any redemption, reconciliation, and restoration recorded in its pages all has to do with the redemption of Israel, the nation, the people as a body, as if they were all one man.
I know exactly why I need Jesus and what he provides me, because I had no hope of a relationship with God before Messiah. Every single Jewish person who has ever lived was born into a relationship with God, whether they choose to acknowledge that fact or not.
But what are we supposed to do about John 14:6?
His first sign fails to place the Messiah into proper perspective as the Jewish king who must remain subservient to HaShem. I know how it comes about that non-Jews in particular feel the need to focus on the Messiah as the center of their spiritual universe. I will describe it in terms of entering into a house. When one’s goal is to enter a house, one’s focus must be on the door as its key feature. Rav Yeshua identified himself as the door through which all who wish to approach the Father must enter (viz:John 14:6). But once one has entered, the door must no longer remain the primary focus of attention, because the purpose of entering the house is further inside. Continuing to focus on the door turns one back toward the outside rather than toward the original goal inside. There are reasons for doing both, but the priority is inside rather than outside. But those who remain outside, as in a regrettably real manner Christians have done for many centuries, cannot see the Father who is behind the door but can see only the door. Perhaps it might be said that their relationship with the Father inside consists solely of speaking through an only partially-opened doorway. Thus they continue to view the door itself as their central focus.
Now, I must caution everyone not to make of this analogy anything more than an illustration. It is not intended as an allegory of salvation, or the kingdom of heaven, or any other particular notion. It is not intended to deny the validity of anyone’s spiritual relationships or intentions. Its sole purpose is to challenge a too-narrow focus that misses a bigger picture. For all the splendid significance of the Messiah, and his impact on everything, he is not himself everything. The Father is where everything consists and exists, and too many fail to “grok” Him and this perspective.
I’m quoting from a Jewish person’s comment on one of Derek Leman’s blog posts. This comment drew some immediate criticism, since it seems to devalue Jesus in favor of God the Father, so the commenter followed up by saying, “One does not denigrate the door by focusing on the object for which the door exists. The door will always be the means for entering in. The question is whether one will do more than merely enter.”
I’ve provided the link above to the blog post in question so you can read the entire record of comments for additional context. However, I believe we can take an added dimension to John 14:6 out of this. It may not answer all of the questions we have about Jewish access to God pre vs. post-Jesus, but I think the metaphor gives us a better understanding of Jesus as a “door.”
Saying that the sin[s] for which Yeshua was exalted for to bring Israel to repentance and forgiveness was/were the sin[s] of not accepting Him when he first came is also inadequate when considered against the broader background of scripture. Is the Messiah connected in any manner with dealing with sin more broadly considered, and is the repentance with which He is connected specifically identified anywhere? The answer is “Yes.”
The Messiah is our sin-bearer, and it is a form of crazy circular reasoning to imagine that the sin which he bears on our behalf is our failure to receive him. While we shall see that this is part of Israel’s sin, it is NOT the aspect of Israel’s sin that is in focus here.
Now we can return to Dauermann and his perspective of the Jewish Messiah and Messiah’s role in Israel’s redemption. Is it only personal salvation, one individual at a time and nothing else? Was the sin that Israel committed that Jesus must atone for Jewish rejection of Jesus? I agree with Dauermann. That’s crazy. Did the sin that Jesus came to save the rest of us, the non-Jewish world, from the rejection of Jesus…or all of our disobedience before God?
The entire Book of Ezekiel chronicles how Israel fell away from life with God through rejection of his commandments. In this, I like to quote from biblical scholar Preston Sprinkle who demonstrates how Ezekiel clearly teaches that just as Israel’s deterioration and exile, a form of national death, was connected with her failure to walk in the statutes and judgments of Torah, so her national resurrection and renewal would necessitate a divinely engineered national return to obeying the very same statutes and judgments, the nuts and bolts of Torah living. It is not that Israel causes her return to the Land through her return to his statutes and judgments, but that Israel is restored to the land where she is restored to Torah obedience and life with God.
This is what I get out of Ezekiel as well, and it adds to the picture of Messiah and Israel’s redemption I’ve been trying to paint in one way or another for the last eighteen months. Israel’s sin historically has always been its failure to walk in God’s commandments and statutes, the Torah. God has always called Israel back to Him through Torah. Messiah’s Gospel message was always, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17). Repent of what sin? Failing to walk in God’s laws. Yeshua atones for Israel’s sin of failing to walk in the Torah and calls his people Israel to return to God’s statues.
Messiah’s first coming ushered in the very beginning of the New Covenant, but the enactment of the New Covenant, as described in Jeremiah 31, is a process, not an event. It won’t be completed probably until the second coming of Messiah. It is true that God never intended that only the blood of bulls and goats should be the eternal atonement for Israel. Messiah was required for a better and permanent atonement, just as the New Covenant is God’s law written on the circumcised heart, not merely on a scroll, but he doesn’t “undo” all that God previously decreed, including the Torah, the Temple service, and the primacy of national Israel.
Messiah adds to and completes the framework of Israel, the litany of prophesies, the entire collection of promises God made to the Jewish people from Abraham forward. Messiah is the culmination, the capstone, the piece to the house that, at the very top of the structure, holds everything together, allowing all of the other parts to rest against him, and he supports everything.
In a very real way, the capstone is also the doorway into the structure. Without the capstone, everything that was built, everything from Genesis through Revelation, would fall apart. That includes Israel, the Torah, Judaism, the Jewish people, the grafting in of Gentiles, all that there is that God has intended to accomplish. You don’t pour the foundation, let it set, build the house on it, put the final piece, the capstone, in place, and then pull the foundation out from under the house. It would collapse as if built on sand instead of cement. The capstone doesn’t take the place of any of the other pieces, but it is the key piece that ensures all of the other pieces stay solidly in exactly the positions they need to be for the structure to stand.
In that sense, you could say that everything God built before the coming of the Messiah was important and even vital to the overall structure, but it was incomplete. You can also say that even though the capstone exists and is being laid in place, it is not in its final position yet. Otherwise everything that needed to be done would be done, and we would have no need for a second coming. We would already be living in complete and eternal peace.
And a quick look at the world around us tells me that hasn’t happened yet.
Now I have a better image in my mind of the role of Messiah, both for the Jew and for the Gentile. Piece by piece, I’m putting my puzzle together and seeing what the picture that’s forming is telling me. Day by day, I’m getting a better understanding of who Messiah is and the multi-level set of roles he has played, is playing, and will play in our world and how he fulfills the need of all mankind as a doorway into the house of God and in holding together that house.
Perhaps the very universe itself would cease to exist if the capstone were to vanish. Perhaps we would all be locked outside in the cold and dark without the presence of a doorway. All we have to do is open the door and go inside. All we have to do is realize that the capstone gives us absolute assurance that we live in the strong and comforting shelter of the Rock.