Towards Reconciliation

Jewish-Christian divide narrows as bridge-building efforts grow

| Topics: CHRISTIANS
If Israel isn't part of your theological outlook, then you're missing out on the fulness of what God is doing. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

There’s a growing recognition and acceptance of Jesus by Jewish people, and Israelis in particular, which is very exciting. For it means we are beginning to see the fulfilment of the Scriptures leading up to the great event when “all Israel” will be saved (Romans 11:26).

And the Church of England service of repentance for historic antisemitism in Oxford will no doubt have further helped to heal divisions between Jews and Christians.

Oxford-based clergyman and author Simon Ponsonby said:

“I think it was a historic, prophetic and wholly appropriate event of public acknowledgement of past antisemitic crimes perpetrated by the Church. I pray it will bring some healing and cleansing to this terrible stain on our church history, and even lead to spiritual breakthrough.

“It was a start. But we have much more to do by way of education, repentance and bridge-building with our Jewish older brothers in faith.”

I suspect one of the major obstacles still to overcome is the continuing ‘offence’ of the gospel we are called to preach — “to the Jew first…” (Roman 1:16).

Leading rabbis, supported by many church leaders, remain suspicious of our motives, in view of our ‘missionary’ call. Sensitivity is important, of course. But are we to turn our backs on the Great Commission to avoid offending those who don’t yet understand the gospel? Should we rather offend Jesus? Of course not!

In any case, it is only though the gospel — and the Bible as a whole — that many of us have come to love the Jewish people. Whereas biblical illiteracy is largely to blame for the hatred meted out to them.

Prof Yaakov Ariel, an Israeli-born scholar at the University of North Carolina, says Israel has failed to realise that its rebirth is a joint Jewish-Christian project.

I guess he was in part referring to those Christians down the centuries who clearly saw God’s plan for Jewish restoration in the Scriptures and did their best to help bring it about.

Israel’s former Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein says it’s time his nation “made peace with Christianity,” without forgetting its anti-Jewish past. He also said: “The historical Yeshua did not take one thing away from Judaism; he only added to Judaism his vision concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.”

See: The Ongoing Jewish Reclamation of Jesus

I heard an excellent sermon on Isaac and Ishmael, differentiating between the son of promise and the one born of the flesh. The preacher suggested that much of the Western church is run on Ishmael lines, in that its efforts are the product in human endeavour, whereas we should be people of the Spirit who do things God’s way.

I would go further by saying that Isaac also represents Israel. For when Israel, and its concerns, is not a factor in our thinking and theology, we will miss the target by miles in terms of understanding the signs of the times.

But if we allow ourselves to be steered by the Spirit, he will lead us into all truth (John 16:13). And the “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15) for which we are praying — of Jew and Gentile worshipping together — will become a reality.

An extraordinary example of this ‘one new man’ working together to great effect is the story of how Bulgaria’s Chief Rabbi saved that nation’s Jews from the Holocaust. [1]

Daniel Tzion actually became a believer in Jesus and befriended Sofia’s Eastern Orthodox Church leader, persuading him — and the King himself — to resist Nazi pressure for their Jews to be deported.

In fact, Daniel begged the King, in the name of Yeshua, not to give in to Hitler’s demands, adding that Jesus had appeared to him in a vision and told him to warn the king on these lines. In open defiance of the Reich, the brave monarch stood his ground, but died just a few days later of a mysterious illness, possibly poisoned.

Daniel and most of the country’s 50,000 Jews emigrated to Israel in 1949. But because of his belief in Jesus, the rabbi was taken to a Rabbinical Court and stripped of his title.

However, the Bulgarian Jews continued to honour him, and he in turn continued to honour his Lord as he led a congregation in Jaffa — even writing hundreds of songs in praise of Jesus, the Sabbath and the good life before he died in 1979, aged 96, just as Israel’s Messianic movement was beginning to germinate.

The ‘one new man’ is now within sight!


 

[1]: Charles Gardner, To the Jew First. I am indebted to Rev David Pileggi and to an original article by Joseph Shulam — see www.torahtime.org/studies/ & www.netivyah.org


 

Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew FirstA Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.

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