Yeshua wept over what He knew His kinsmen, fellow Jews would choose. Yet what they chose would fulfill His judgment on Jerusalem.
Yeshua knew that the Jews would call for His crucifixion, He knew that the Pharisees’ anger was stirred up and that the people would be led into a state of ‘herd mentality’, a state of crowd psychology where a group of people can be provoked through peer pressure to call for a certain action. However, there’s grace. The Temple wasn’t destroyed later that week, the Jewish-Roman War’s conclusion didn’t happen for another 40 years. ‘40’ is used as a time before a fulfillment of a promise and in this case a judgment. A number of examples can be cited, but that would be a bit of a rabbit trail for this blog.
The Jews rejected Yeshua as the Messiah because they were looking for a ‘warrior’ Messiah to throw off Roman oppression. The message from the Messianic Believers was that Yeshua IS the Messiah, He fulfills the promises to Israel and Salvation is through Him and Him alone. This was not what the Sanhedrin wanted to hear as tensions were escalating between the Jews and Romans.
The Jews had 40 years to repent and accept Yeshua as the Messiah after He was risen from the dead. Christianity started in Jerusalem with the first Believers being Jewish converts. From 120 Jewish Believers in Acts 1:15 to thousands in Acts 21.
Acts 21:20 On hearing it, they praised God; but they also said to him, “You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Judeans, and they are all zealots for the Torah.
However Jewish authorities continued to persecute the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. Stephen is considered the first recorded martyr after Yeshua and he is stoned after he told the Jews essentially the same message that Yeshua told them:
Acts 7:51-53 “You stubborn people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. (52) Which of the prophets did your ancestors fail to persecute? They killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. (53) You received the Law as ordained by angels, and yet you haven’t obeyed it!”
The response to Stephen was to stone him, yet the response of the early Believers wasn’t to react in the same manner back to the Jews, they continued to reach out to them with the Gospel. The early Believers in Jerusalem took what Yeshua said seriously. Early followers of Yeshua continued to proclaim the Gospel, that Yeshua was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Torah. They didn’t partner with the Jews against Roman oppression, they didn’t find ways to partner with them politically in a show of unity, they proclaimed the Gospel. This is something that should cause the reader to pause and reflect in our politically charged climate of partnership with Jews against a common enemy of Islam. If ‘dispensationalism’ is the correct lens to view Scripture through, the first century Believers are in the same dispensation as us today, Grace, not Law.
Paul continued to say things that were very provocative and offensive to the Jews which is that gentiles are one with the Jews in Messiah Yeshua:
Galatians 3:26-29 For in union with the Messiah, you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness; (27) because as many of you as were immersed into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah, in whom (28) there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. (29) Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise.
Romans 2:26-27 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, won’t his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? (27) Indeed, the man who is physically uncircumcised but obeys the Torah will stand as a judgment on you who have had a b’rit-milah and have Torah written out but violate it!
The implications of this are honestly staggering. A Jew who keeps the Torah and traditions, isn’t a ‘true Jew’ due to their rejection of Yeshua, yet a gentile is grafted into the New Covenant and are heirs of the seed of Abraham. Grafted in as sons and daughters.
Paul is proclaiming the same message as Yeshua; that the Jews are outwardly self-righteous, but inwardly sinners. Paul didn’t come up with this, it is in the Torah and Jeremiah:
Deuteronomy 10:16 Therefore, circumcise the foreskin of your heart; and don’t be stiffnecked any longer!
Jeremiah 4:4 “People of Y’hudah and inhabitants of Yerushalayim, circumcise yourselves for Adonai, remove the foreskins of your heart! Otherwise my fury will lash out like fire, burning so hot that no one can quench it, because of how evil your actions are.
This is the same message that Yeshua was saying, which is that He is the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Torah. Yet the Jews continued to not only reject this, but continued to persecute the Messianic Believers in Jerusalem as this is where they held their power. Believers were aware that Jerusalem was going to be judged by God and were not only living under persecution, but in poverty. Wealthy churches in Antioch, Greece and Asia Minor sent money to the ‘persecuted church’ in Jerusalem.
The early Believers continued to preach to the Jews to accept Messiah as they knew this would be the only way that Jerusalem would avoid God’s judgment. However they also continued to speak boldly that the Pharisees and Sadducees were following a false religious system. Yeshua clearly painted them as hypocrites, and this message never changed with the Messianic Believers in Jerusalem. When it was clear that Rome was at Jerusalem’s door and the Jews hearts were hardened, their heart was not circumcised and necks remained stiff, Believers in Judea fled to Pella to avoid God’s judgement. They didn’t stay and fight. As an exclamation point, Peter who was sympathetic to the cause of the Zealots earlier in his life, abandoned this ideology of Jewish rebellion against Rome after the Resurrection.
It wasn’t simply the Jews early rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah that brought God’s judgement, but their continual rejection of Yeshua and doubling their efforts to persecute the followers of Yeshua that brought God’s judgment. Many Jews did find faith, but most perished.
To every historic example, there has to be a take away, what can we learn from the First Century Believers in Judea? My personal take away is that Evangelicals in the Post WWII era where Israel has once again become a nation have the opposite approach to that of the early Believers. Most if not all Believers today that support Israel cite the Abrahamic Covenant and the Jews right to the land. We appeal to government to lend military support to Israel and make the case that even though the Jews reject Messiah, we must petition our secular governments to join with Israel’s secular government due to a common enemy. The geopolitical reasoning for this would require a book and many books have been written on this topic, but what about the Gospel?
The Apostolic Believers in Judea were not concerned about the Jews right to live in Israel. The Abrahamic Covenant was not a factor in their message that Yeshua was the Messiah. They were not concerned about their temporal situation the way modern Believers are. Sadly, if the Jewish war with Rome was taking place today, many modern Believers may consider the early Believers to be unpatriotic. Possibly would cite them as unloving for their refusal to not compromise their stance on Yeshua being the only way for the Jews. Some ministries today may even consider them anti-Semitic and lament why Messianic Jews and Israeli gentiles are not supporting Israel’s fight for their land. I’m sure the charge of ‘replacement theology’ would come up in some circles of Bible Prophecy conference speakers. Many Jewish sources consider statements in the New Testament anti-Semitic, so how does the Believer bridge the gap with Jews who reject Yeshua? The Apostolic Believers only concern was to reach the lost. ‘ Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outer most parts of the world… ‘ A Messianic Ministry notes the following:
‘Most of the efforts made by Gentile Christians to share the Gospel with Jewish people in Israel is either a complete waste of time and resources, or in many cases actually counter-productive, despite unquestionably good intentions.’1
In the next session, we’ll look at the Jews rebellion towards Rome in addition to their rebellion towards God. The topic of Israel will be ongoing throughout the series on eschatology, so if there are questions or comments, please respond.