Jews And Jesus

Jewish_Pictures_Of_EthnicitySome months before the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, I began to hear that the Jewish community had serious concerns about the film. It seems they feared it would spark a new era of anti-Semitism.

I was astounded. I had no idea that “Christians” had been credited with instigating hate against Jews. After all, I grew up in a Judeo-Christian culture. I only knew of shared values and a determined stand against the Holocaust.

I learned that some “Christians” justified hating Jews because they had killed Jesus. It’s such an ignorant idea, I thought it had to be someone’s sick joke. But no, apparently this idea has a basis in history: some people waving the banner of Christianity turned against Jews because of the crucifixion.

In some ways, of course, the Jewish religious leaders responsible for convicting Jesus brought the accusation on their people when they told Pilate, who literally washed his hands of Jesus, that His blood would be on their heads and on their children’s heads (Matthew 27:25). But I always assumed that was either verbiage or calling down God’s judgment. I never imagined it to be an acknowledgment that would justify throughout history, profound racial persecution.

The idea of holding the entire Jewish race responsible for Christ’s crucifixion is ludicrous, and anyone following Him in truth would know this. First, Jesus Himself is Jewish. Not only was His mother a Jew, but He Himself said He was the fulfillment of the Law. That would be the Jewish law, given to Jews by God who chose the Jews to be His people–“the apple of His eye.”

Second, all the first Christians were Jews! Peter was a Jew, and so was Mary Magdalene, Salome, Stephen, Martha, Paul, Barnabas, Euodia, James, Jude, Synteca, Matthew, and countless others. A corollary to this point is that the vast majority of people in the Old Testament are also Jews.

Third, Jesus Himself called on God to forgive those who crucified Him. Did He mean only the Roman soldiers? There’s nothing to indicate Jesus intended such a limited understanding.

The greatest reason might be that the Christian understands he has been forgiven because of Jesus’s death on the cross. Without that sacrifice, we’d still be in our sins. If anything, we could see those responsible for His crucifixion as doing us a favor.

But the fact is, Jesus rose from the dead! He is alive today. So what’s the point of carrying a grudge against people, even if we did think they were responsible, when the act has been “undone”?

Besides, Jesus Himself said that no one was taking His life. He was laying it down. How can a people group be held accountable for that?

Finally, Scripture clearly indicates that Christ bridges racial divides. For example, Paul said in Colossians “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (3:11). His Church–His family–consists of people from every tribe and tongue, including Jews.

The idea that Christians are against Jews as a people group is laughable. That some people want to lay that charge at the feet of Christians shows two things.

First, there are people calling themselves Christians who are lying. They aren’t following Christ, don’t believe in Him, and aren’t part of His Church. They are the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are the weeds Jesus talked about in one of His parables, allowed to grow up alongside the wheat, that will be sorted out and burned up at the harvest.

In conjunction with these pretenders are those outside the Church who accuse Christians of hating Jews. They are speaking in ignorance of the facts, perhaps because they’ve listened to the pretenders instead of the historical record.

Have there been Christian bigots?

Sadly, yes. Like any other sin, Christians are susceptible to disobedience of God’s law and we are subject to our own lack of understanding. Hence, as hard as it is for me to understand, a Christian might wrongly accuse the entire Jewish race of killing Jesus, and he might even disobey God’s command to love enemies. But it’s a leap to say that Christians as a people hate Jews. In fact, such a leap is just as heinous as the one a pretender makes in arriving at the idea that Jews are responsible for Christ’s death.

The real problem is the generalization. Did some Jews falsely accuse Jesus and condemn Him? Yes. Does that mean that all Jews are guilty of a heinous crime and deserving of punishment? Not at all. Do some Christians act out of prejudice? I wish it weren’t true, but yes. Does that mean all Christians endorse such and share the responsibility for those acts? Not at all.

How is it that we have come to paint people groups as if they believe and act in concert, or as if they ought to? One of the beautiful things about the Church is God’s clear instruction that we are not all the same and yet that we are all important. My role, my gift given for the building up of the Church, is different from someone else’s. Scripture makes the analogy with the body. I may not be a foot, but that’s OK. What would the body be like if we were all feet?

Sin, of course, is a different matter. If a person in the church is a bigot, he ought to receive Church discipline–something that has been seriously watered down over the years. But that’s another whole blog post.

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Published in: on April 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm  Comments Off on Jews And Jesus  
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