So Joseph said to his brothers, “Please... come near to me.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life". Genesis 45
"Jesus comes back to the Jews"
“Jesus Comes back to the Jews” was the headline in The Times of Israel on January 23, 2017. It described an art exhibit held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem from December 2016 until April 22, 2017, featuring 150 works of art from 40 Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli artists.
The title of the exhibit was “Behold The Man: Jesus in Israeli Art“.
When Yeshua/Jesus was arrested tried and crucified, Caiaphas was the High Priest of Israel who manipulated those events. Without knowing exactly what he was saying, he made this prophetic statement, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perishes” (John 11:50).
The headline “Jesus comes back to the Jews” was prophetic. It’s a statement that subconsciously perhaps, describes and exposes a desire in the hearts of an increasing number of Jewish people. Somehow, Gentiles ran off with the greatest Jew of all time and they want him back. At the bottom of this page is a list of quotes from leaders within the Jewish community around the world regarding this theme. Jewish people everywhere are searching for language to take Yeshua back… to make him theirs again and that’s a good thing. Maybe it won’t be as Messiah at first… but that’s not between us and them, it’s between them and their brother Yeshua and the One Father. An obvious starting point towards reconciling with Yeshua is for Jewish people to simply see Him as their brother. That’s where everyone who followed Him started, they knew Him as a son of Israel.
Modern Jews are not alone in their rejection of their brother Yeshua, his own brothers didn’t believe until after the resurrection event. For them, the fact that He was their brother prevented them from seeing Him as Messiah. Compare John 7:5 with Acts 1:14, & Genesis 45:1-5 with Acts 1:3 & Luke 24:36-43.
Is it possible that removed from those events by nearly 2,000 years, simply helping Jewish people see Yeshua as their brother and “Member of the tribe” could be a key starting point to encountering him as Messiah?
The story of Joseph is a historic account of a drama within the family of Israel, it’s also a prophetic picture of the betrayal of Yeshua/Jesus. Joseph was the beloved son of the patriarch Israel and his story alludes to the coming of the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus… the beloved and only begotten son of the one Father. Similarly, Joseph’s astonishing reconciliation with his family illustrates the moment still in Israel’s future when Yeshua/Jesus will be reconciled with all of Israel.
Like the religious leaders in Yeshua’s day, Joseph’s brothers seethed with jealousy. Partially because of Joseph’s dream in which they all bowed before him, but also because of the favor he had with their father Israel as the firstborn son of his beloved wife Rachel. Joseph’s brothers despised him so much that they conspired together to kill him. Although they stopped short of murder, for them, selling him as a slave was the same thing as killing him. Afterward, they bloodied the coat his father had given him and then reported to Israel and the rest of their families that Joseph had been killed by wild animals.
The whole tribe lived under the cloud of that deception for 20 years.
I wonder if they feared Joseph’s reappearance someday and how it would affect their standing with their father. Certainly, after such a long time it would have never occurred to them that, in fulfillment of Joseph’s dream, the Egyptian ruler they bowed before and who was testing them was the brother they betrayed. That is, until his staggering reveal.
Consider the encounter spoken of in Zechariah 12:10 and quoted in John 19:37. “When they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him”. I think this is a sweeping and panoramic picture that reaches back to the story of Joseph’s betrayal and stunning reunion with his brothers and forward to the dramatic return of Yeshua and his reunion with all of Israel. (Acts 1:11)
In human terms, Yeshua is the greatest Jew who ever lived, and certainly the most influential. But, like Joseph, He carries a Gentile name and is disguised by Gentile culture and tradition and, like Joseph’s family, Israel has lived under the same cloud of deception perpetrated on their ancestors 2,000 years ago by the religious leaders of Israel.
Consciously or subconsciously, the art exhibit held in Jerusalem last year and the article in The Times of Israel exposes something that a lot of Jewish people in the land and around the world are trying to find language for… they feel the absence of Yeshua their brother who was betrayed and rejected and they’re struggling to come to terms with it.
We’ve had far too many encounters on the streets of Jerusalem with both modern orthodox and non-religious Jews to doubt this. The ground here is softening.
Can you see how the pendulum of history is swinging?
When Joseph was reunited with his brothers it had been 20 years since they’d seen one another. Joseph recognized them immediately but there was an obstacle preventing his brothers from seeing him. The Joseph they knew and betrayed was hidden beneath his Gentile name, clothing and appearance.
They just couldn’t see him.
As the tension built he tested their character until he just couldn’t bear it any longer. Then, in one of the most moving and prophetic scenes in the Bible, he revealed himself to the ones who had betrayed and rejected him. A reveal that was private and intimate with Joseph shedding all the tears. (Genesis 45:1-5)
As a country, Israel was dead for nearly 2,000 years and its people scattered in exile. In 1948 the world witnessed their miraculous resurrection and the restoration of her people to their covenant land where they’ve been surrounded by enemies determined to destroy her.
In Christian theology, the death of Israel and their subsequent diaspora into the wilderness of nations had to follow the death of Yeshua. In the same way, their resurrection and restoration to their historic covenant land followed the resurrection of Yeshua and His return to his home at the right hand of His Father in Heaven.
According to Israel’s own prophets they would one day be restored to their land in a state of unbelief where they would gradually revive and their hearts would return to their God. See Zephaniah 2:1, Jeremiah 30:3, Isaiah 11:11, Ezekiel 36:24,25, Ezekiel 37, Amos 9:11-14, Hosea 5:15-6:3.
This is an unprecedented time in human history. We endeavor to help our Jewish brothers find adequate language or new lenses through which they can see Yeshua as their brother. How do we do this?
Romans 1:16 gives us a very clear directive. It is our responsibility to pray for Israel and take the Gospel of Yeshua to the Jewish people. But we need to do this in a way that is appropriate to the Jew and not in the same way we take it to your garden variety pagan. Jews are our brothers and although most are still in unbelief, many of them love and worship the same Father.
So, like Aaron and Hur who came alongside Moses to strengthen his arms during conflict (Exodus 17:12), we come alongside them, as much as possible, to love them, pray for them, talk to them intelligently from their own scriptures and stand with them.
We believe Jews and Christians belong together. What became the Christian Church sprang up from within the Synagogue. We have the same scriptures, the same prophets and Yeshua their brother taught us to pray to the one Father, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be your name”.
We think of Yeshua differently… but again, that’s not between us, it’s between them and Yeshua. Our union with Yeshua isn’t something that we make happen by something we say or do. You didn’t save you.
Think of it this way. Every human being is on a spectrum of discovery. According to the 2nd testament, God was in Yeshua reconciling the cosmos to Himself. So, the starting point for everyone is firmly within the embrace of the one Father who has already reconciled them to himself and who is, “… No longer holding anyones sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). And if that’s the starting point, then every person on earth is moving toward the moment in time when they discover what is already true about them. It’s pretty cool to participate in that process.
Twenty-five years after the resurrection and ascension events, the first council of Jerusalem was held and was led by The Lord’s younger brother, Jacob (Acts 15). The purpose of the council was to decide what to do about the so-called “Gentile” problem. How would they, Jewish believers in Yeshua, incorporate the growing number of Gentiles who were also coming to faith in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah?
Would they need to be circumcised and formally convert to Judaism? If not, were there minimum requirements to enforce? What laws did they need to obey? How would they teach the Gentiles about worship?
Today, the problem is reversed and the Gentile Church is faces the same question. What do we require of the Jew who comes to faith in Yeshua?
The short answer is nothing. How can we require anything?
The same God, Yahweh, whom we both love has been in covenant with them for more than 4,000 years. St. Paul describes Gentiles as wild olive branches that were grafted in, and they are the natural branches (Romans 11:17).
We approach Jews with respect and humility. Our call is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), to comfort His people and speak tenderly to them (Isaiah 40:1-2), and to remind them of who they are. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation and has nothing to do with turning Jews into Christians.
Although the term “Christian” is recorded in the Bible, it’s a man made word and is part of the disguise that has prevented Jews from seeing Yeshua. Think about it, Jesus wasn’t exactly a Christian was he? Given the history of horrific suffering the Jewish people have endured in the name of “Christianity” you can understand how it can be an obstacle.
We want to remove obstacles. Our calling is to be reconciled to them and to be their friends. To pray for them, to love them, to comfort them, and to remind them of who they are… God’s first born son (Exodus 4:22) and, whenever possible, to help them see and embrace Yeshua as their brother.
(Read our blog post “Why Does Israel Still Matter“)
"Comfort my people".
We are “Stand With Israel’s” boots on the ground in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Reconciliation is not just our personal story it is the heartbeat of our ministry.
Reconciliation is a part of forgiveness, but it is really a separate and distinct process.
Reconciliation has to do with the kind of relationship we want to have with the person we are estranged from and a process of re-establishing relationship with that person.
We desire to see people restored and reconciled as much as possible… within themselves (healing), then to each other and to the Lord.
We are called to bring the same comfort with which we have been comforted ourselves. We are parents, mentors and friends at-large.
"Remind them of who they are".
Most of the Jewish people in Israel are secular and non-religious, some don’t believe in God at all. We understand this as Israel has suffered like no other people.
As we walk the streets we pray and look for every opportunity to remind these precious people of who they are.
As champions of reconciliation, we come to Israel in the name of the Lord and believe that those who welcome us will have a veil lifted and they will see their brother Yeshua.
"I, a rabbi of Israel, think we should accept Jesus..."
“… I think we should teach Jesus to children much as we teach them about Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah, and the rest of the great teachers and prophets. Jesus, as we all know, was a Jew. He was a gift of love.”
Rabbi Louis Gross of Brooklyn’s Union Temple
“I do not think that many Jews would object if the Messiah — when he comes — is the Jew Jesus.”
David Flusser, professor of religious history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem
“Every Jew should be proud of the fact that Jesus is our brother, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. We desire to put him back where he belongs.”
Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky, Jewish scholar and author
“Scores of men have believed themselves to be the Messiah and have convinced many of their contemporaries, but those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah have built a great church upon the rock of their belief. He is still the living comrade of countless lives. No Moslem ever sings, ‘Mohammed, lover of my soul’, nor does any Jew say of Moses, the Teacher, ‘I need thee every hour.'”
Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, reform rabbi, scholar and author
“Jesus is the soul of our soul as he is the flesh of our flesh. Who then could think of excluding him from the people of Israel? St. Peter will remain the only Jew who said of the Son of David: ‘I know not the man.’ If the Jews up to the present have not rendered homage to the sublime beauty of the figure of Jesus, it is because their tormentors have always persecuted, tortured and assassinated in his name.”
Max Nordau, author and Zionist leader
“Jesus was a Jew and a Jew he remained till his last breath. His one idea was to implant within his nation the idea of the coming of the Messiah and, by repentance and good works, hasten the ‘end’…. In all this, Jesus is the most Jewish of Jews, more Jewish than Simeon ben Shetah, more Jewish even than Hillel.”
Joseph Klausner, Jewish author
“The Messianism of Israel aims at that which is to come, the eschatology of the Gentile church at the return of him who has come. Both elective covenants confront the ebb and flow of the finite world in the shared expectation that the decisive event is still to come – the goal of the ways of God that he travels with mankind in Israel and in the Church. The church of Jesus Christ has preserved no portrait of its lord and savior. If Jesus were to come again tomorrow, no Christian would know his face. But it might well be that he who is coming at the end of days, he who is awaited by the synagogue as by the church, is one, with one and the same face.”
Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Philosopher and Historian