Just before his death, Yeshua prayed for all those who would become his followers, “Father, may they all be one, even as You, Father, are in me and I in You…so that the world may believe you sent me” (John 17:21).
However, according to official estimates there are now around 40,000 Christian denominations in the world, with the Catholic Church being by far the largest. It has become painfully obvious to all that this often boisterous disunity in the body of Messiah has presented a flawed testimony to our gospel of love and truth. As a result, all sorts of ecumenical discussions have transpired in recent decades to try and put Humpty-Dumpty together again.
All I can say is God help us if they ever do (and they might). Not only would it be declaring the Reformation a mistake, but staring back at us would be the same monolithic, intolerant, ecclesiastical power that dominated the Western World for over a thousand years. The one which brought us such loving ministries as the Inquisition and the Crusades. So even if the Church does manage to solve its unity problem (at least on the surface), it would hardly convince the world the Father had sent Yeshua. Least of all the Jews, who probably suffered the most from our ‘togetherness.’
The problem is that the Jews are the one people upon whom our unity most depends. But they have been historically excluded from ever being majorly included by Replacement Theology. After all, when Yeshua prayed his prayer of unity the Church was 100% Jewish. At the time, only he understood there’d be a lot of folks coming in after he left who wouldn’t be Jewish. He tried to prepare his little flock that some outsiders “would hear My voice also, and [you’d all] become one flock with one Shepherd” (John 10:10). But even Yeshua’s heads-up couldn’t numb their shock when the new sheep joining the fold turned out to be – ugh – uncircumcised goyiim.
At first, it was thought the best way to clean up these unsavory new sheep was to apply circumcision, not understanding yet that the circumcised heart was all that was required under Israel’s new Covenant. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit vetoed that approach at the Council of Jerusalem. Our oneness would now be based on faith alone. But no sooner had we begun moving towards unity when Rome threw everybody out of the country. And everything was put on hold for some two thousand years.
That separation, of course, gave God time to find all those missing descendants of Abraham scattered among the nations whom He’d marked for salvation. But instead of all those new believers remaining as one body with one head, Yeshua, each functioning in their place in the power of the Holy Spirit, we turned it into 40,000 disconnected, squabbling organizations with multiple heads. Perhaps the one thing that united the Church most was its profound dislike for all things Jewish.
In the world’s sight, these two peoples called to proclaim the one true God appeared to have nothing in common. The Jews became the most despised and persecuted people on earth. And the Church a kaleidoscope of unfathomable theologies and diverse worship practices. Jeremiah’s words could not be more fitting: “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight” (Jer. 33:24).
But in spite of our continued separation we can be certain our Father heard Yeshua’s prayer and has every intention of answering it. Above all else, He wants the world to know His Son is who he said he was.
Furthermore, I‘m convinced this coming together of Christians and Jews in our day under the banner of Zionism is God at long last starting to make us His “one new man” in Yeshua. And when our true unity in Messiah is complete, I believe Yeshua will be gloriously revealed to the world in a way we could have never imagined.
And the best news is – “none will be missing!” (Jer. 23:4; John 6:39).
Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples, available at: ketchpublishing/BrianHennessyBooks.htm