A plan by the Church of England to offer an act of repentance for its antisemitism over the centuries is wonderfully welcome.
A service is being suggested to mark the passing, 800 years ago in 2022, of humiliating anti-Jewish laws which eventually led to the expulsion of Jews from the country.
This monumental move follows their 2019 document God’s Unfailing Word, which acknowledged the Church’s role in fostering antisemitic feeling and couldn’t be more timely as we witness an exponential rise in this shocking form of racism.
And it’s not just about a particular ethnic group. It’s really about Israel, and the God who chose them for His special purpose. In fact, the real battle is over the truth of God’s word – for the Arabs as well as the Jews. For the Arabs, that though the land belongs to the Jews, they are still loved by Jesus; and for the Jews, that Jesus is their Messiah.
We hear much about Israel supposedly practicing apartheid, but there are large swathes of their own land from which Jews are banned, though little fuss is made of it in order to placate world opinion and at the same time keep the lid on the smouldering cauldron of Palestinian unrest.
And so, though all the territory from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan is theirs by historical and biblical right (Gen 17:8, Gen 15:18-21 & San Remo Treaty 1920), the world at large has swallowed the narrative that ‘Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea’. Such conflicting claims cannot be reconciled.
As David Soakell of Christian Friends of Israel put it, “It’s ironic how it’s dangerous for Jews from Judea to enter their own land ruled by Arabs from Arabia!”
And when Nizar Banat, a Palestinian human rights activist, took the Palestinian Authority to task for its corruption and bullying, he was brutally beaten to death. Yet it is Israel, a bastion of democracy in the region, that comes under fire over injustices.
But amidst so much conflict, there is something really wonderful happening. An ex-Muslim follower of Jesus, who has been working among Gazans coming to Jerusalem for medical treatment in the wake of the recent war, says: “They’re tired of the hate and the fighting; so it’s even easier to talk about love and reconciliation.” Several have become believers and one man was miraculously healed of cancer. He adds: “If only more people would preach the gospel, many more Muslims would come to Jesus!”
A great number of Jews have also come to discover Jesus as their Messiah, and now contend that they are more Jewish than ever. For some, their seeking started after having a vision of Jesus.
There is a growing recognition, even among Jewish scholars, that Jesus was an authentic rabbi and that the New Testament is a document which can tell them a great deal about first century Judaism.
Israeli scholar Pinchas Lapide of Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv has been quoted as saying that “Jesus was more loyal to the Torah (the books of Moses) than I am as an Orthodox Jew” and has published 187 books, articles, essays and poems about Jesus in relation to Judaism.
Dr David Flusser, when professor of religious history at Hebrew University, said: “I do not think that many Jews would object if the Messiah – when he came – was the Jew, Jesus.” And he adds: “It has been my experience that most Jewish friends have never really gone to the pages of the New Testament to discover what its Jewish authors really had to say.”
Personally, I keep in touch with Messianic Jews near Jerusalem who spend their days sharing the wonderful truth of their Messiah, often hosting groups of eager seekers hanging on their every word. The lady of the house was recently interviewed at length by a TV station. When she told the interviewer that if he wanted to know the truth, he could ask for a sign, she had no sooner said it than sirens suddenly started to sound as Hamas rockets were fired in their direction. “We ran for cover,” she related, “and he looked at me and said, ‘Was this a sign?’”
Yes, the professor is right in saying that the returning Jesus may be welcomed by the Jewish community. Our Lord said so himself after weeping over Jerusalem’s rejection of him, saying: “You will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.” (Matt 23:39)