I know this is a rather controversial title for today’s “morning meditation,” but it came to me as I was reading through the Gospel of John and I thought I’d share what I’ve been pondering.
And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
–Matthew 12:11-14 (NASB)
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
So why did the Jews hate Jesus (Yeshua)? Actually, that’s a misleading question since not all Jewish people hated Jesus. In fact, a lot of Jewish people during the “earthly ministry” of Jesus really liked him and thought he was a prophet and some even believed he was the Messiah.
When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.
Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ [Messiah].” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ [Messiah] is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ [Messiah] comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
As you can see, particularly from the last quote, opinions about who Jesus was were mixed, but clearly a lot of Jewish people thought well of Jesus and thought he was a prophet, a Holy Man from God. So not all the Jews hated Jesus. In fact, probably relatively few Jewish people actually hated Jesus, and most of those were invalid priests and corrupt Pharisees and scribes (though not all Pharisees and scribes were corrupt) who experienced the Master’s teachings as upsetting their own apple cart, so to speak.
There were also probably a number of well-meaning Pharisees who opposed Jesus because they authentically disagreed with how Jesus interpreted the mitzvot, particularly the laws about Shabbat (see Matthew 12:1-7 for example). On the other hand, there were also Pharisees who were at least intrigued by if not devoted to Jesus (John 3:1-21, John 19:38-42).
But if this was true during the first earthly ministry of Jesus, what about after his death, resurrection, and ascension?
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.
This is only one small example of how some Jewish populations, particularly synagogue leaders, opposed Paul’s teachings of Jesus being the Messiah. But remember earlier in this scenario, the born Jews and righteous converts couldn’t get enough of Paul’s teaching:
As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.
The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.
What happened? Well, crowds and crowds of Gentiles were consuming space within Jewish community, and unlike the Gentile God-fearers and converts, these Gentiles were straight up pagans who might well walk all over Jewish customs relative to kosher and ritual purity…and this guy Paul was the cause of it all.
So, get rid of Paul, get rid of the Gentiles, and the Jewish leadership once again retains control over their communal space. Of course eventually the teachings of Jesus as Messiah and the influx of Gentiles into Jewish community became so linked that many Jewish communities in the diaspora learned to reject both Jesus and the Gentiles out of hand.
In fact, according to my review of the works of Mark Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm, even within the early Messianic movement, there was quite a bit of confusion and disagreement about how or even if the Gentiles should be integrated into Jewish communal and social life. This ultimately led to a rather messy divorce between Jesus-believing Jews and Gentiles, and for a time, there were two parallel religions: Pharisaic Messianic Judaism and Gentile Christianity. Eventually the former dissolved and the latter attained prominence, first in the Roman Empire and then eventually throughout the world.
And the Church, for most of its history, never learned to “share and play nice” with the Jewish people and religious Judaism:
I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God’s word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.
Excerpt from Luther’s work entitled “The Jews & their Lies”
quoted at Jewish Virtual Library
Even mentioning a partial inventory of the history of enmity between Christianity and Judaism far exceeds the scope of this one, small article. To get the full flavor of how at least one Jewish source sees this history, visit the page on “Christianity” at Jewish Virtual Library. Also see the website for the “anti-missionary” group Jews for Judaism.
So do Jews hate Jesus? It might be more accurate to say that Jews resent the long history of abuse they’ve historically had to suffer at the hands of the Christian Church and various Christian nations. They also resent any attempt to convert Jews to Christianity because of the threat of the destruction of the Jewish people, not by violence in the modern era so much as by assimilation.
It’s never been as simple as “the Jews hate Jesus” or “the Jews killed Jesus”. The Bible tells a story of how certain groups within Judaism, corrupt groups or corrupt individuals, opposed Jesus either on religious, political, or financial grounds. On the other hand, much of the common populace in ancient Israel and not a few religious leaders supported him and believed him to be a prophet, with some few recognizing him as Messiah.
After the ascension and into Paul’s mission, the reasons for opposing Jesus changed and were largely based on the liberal inclusion of unconverted Gentiles into Jewish space as equal co-participants of religious and social community. This was something not easily accepted because of a misunderstanding as to just how a Gentile could participate in the New Covenant blessings as well as the general feeling that close association with Gentiles might render a Jew “unclean” in some sense (although there was little actually basis for this in Torah).
Unfortunately, this spilled back onto anything Paul had to say and teach about Jesus, so it took some dedication for Jewish audiences to overcome their concerns and accept what Paul taught, then accept discipleship under Jesus as Messiah.
The Gentiles, for their part, ate it up with a spoon, so to speak, at least at first, but as I mentioned above, eventually the attempt to meld the two communities became unsustainable and the “experiment” flew apart like autumn leaves in a strong wind.
But it’s not all bad. The 19th century saw many Jewish luminaries who discovered the identity of the Messiah in Jesus, and more recently in history, the modern Messianic Jewish movement, represented by groups such as the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) have become increasingly active, attracting Jewish people to the Messiah within a wholly Jewish ethnic and religious context.
So it’s pretty unfair to say that “the Jews hate Jesus” when after all, Jesus loved and loves his people, the sheep of his pasture.
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
As you can see, in addition to his Jewish “sheep,” the Master has “other sheep” in another fold that he intends to bring to himself.
The situation appears to have been reversed, at least temporarily, since the shepherd’s flock seems to have a whole lot more Gentile sheep than Jewish at the moment. But that will change:
He will also restore the royal dynasty to the descendants of David. He will oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including the Third Temple. He will gather the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
-Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
“All About the Messiah”
I don’t doubt there will be skeptics among both Jews and Christians as to the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah upon his return, but at least for the Jews, as they see him fulfilling prophesies such as the ones listed above, they will believe.
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
Ultimately, as the Jewish exiles are all returned to their land and as their hearts are turned in teshuvah, the sins of the entire nation of Israel will be forgiven, and through their forgiveness, so too the rest of the people of the nations who have believed and remained faithful:
They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
That last part I wrote about the Gentiles is a bit of a stretch, since the text regarding the New Covenant only mentioned the House of Judah and the House of Israel, but my rather exhaustive research into this covenant assures me that we sheep from another fold will also benefit from the blessings of redemption and the resurrection to come.
So the Jews don’t “hate” Jesus. They may be hesitant or even fear some of his disciples based on the history between Judaism and the Church, and they may mistakenly blame Jesus as well as Paul for that history, but Christians have taught Jews to read the Apostolic Scriptures in the same distorted and flawed manner for centuries, an interpretation so anti-semitic and so supersessionistic that it can no longer be separated from the real meaning of the text in most Christian minds.
If we want the Jews to stop “hating Jesus,” then we have to live lives that say we do truly love the people and nation that Jesus loves. That’s one of the roles of the Messianic Gentile, and I hope it will be a mission that the mainstream Church one day adopts.