“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 what he was saying, he made this prophetic statement, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (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 many Jewish people. Somehow, Gentiles ran off with the greatest Jew of all time, and they want him back.
Jews everywhere search for a language to take Yeshua back… to make him theirs again. Maybe it won’t be as their Messiah at first… but that’s not between us; it’s between them and their brother Yeshua. At the bottom of this page is a list of quotes from leaders within the Jewish community around the world regarding this theme.
An obvious starting point towards reconciling with Yeshua is for Jewish people to simply see Him and listen to Him as an older brother. That’s where everyone who followed Him started; they knew Him as a son of Israel. After all, the Lord’s younger brothers and/or cousins didn’t believe He was Messiah until after the resurrection. For them, the fact that He was their brother prevented them from seeing Him as Lord. Compare John 7:5 with Acts 1:14, & Genesis 45:1-5 with Acts 1:3 & Luke 24:36-43.
Removed from those events by nearly 2,000 years, is it possible that helping Jewish people to simply see Him and accept Him as their brother could be a key to encountering him as Lord?
The story of Joseph is a prophetic picture of the betrayal of Yeshua/Jesus. And Joseph’s stunning reconciliation with his family alludes to the moment when Yeshua will be reconciled with all of Israel. Joseph’s brothers seethed with jealousy because of his dream, where they all bowed before him and because of his favor with their Father as the firstborn son of Israel’s beloved wife, Rachel. They despised him so much that they conspired together to kill him. Although they stopped short of murder, they sold him as a slave and reported him dead to their Father and the rest of their families. The whole tribe lived under a cloud of that deception for 20 years.
I wonder if they secretly feared his reappearance someday and how that would affect their standing with their Father. Indeed, after such a long time, it would’ve never occurred to them that, in fulfillment of Joseph’s dream, the Egyptian ruler they bowed before and who’d been testing them was the brother they betrayed… 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.”
This sweeping panoramic picture reaches back to the story of Joseph’s betrayal and stunning reunion with his brothers and forward to Yeshua’s dramatic return and 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. He is disguised by Gentile culture and tradition. Like Joseph’s family, Israel has lived under a 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 expose 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.
Do 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 an obstacle prevented his brothers from seeing him. The Joseph they knew and betrayed was hidden beneath his Gentile name, clothing, and appearance.
The thing is, they just couldn’t see him.
So the tension continued to build as he tested their character until he couldn’t bear it. 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 private and intimate reveal, with Joseph shedding all the tears. Genesis 45:1-5
Israel was dead for nearly 2,000 years as a country, and its people were exiled. In 1948 the world witnessed their miraculous resurrection and the restoration of her people to their covenant land, where they were surrounded by enemies determined to destroy her.
In Christian theology, the death of Israel and the scattering of her people had to follow the murder of Yeshua just as their resurrection and restoration to their historic covenant land followed His resurrection and return to his home in heaven.
Yet, according to her prophets, they have been restored to this land while still in unbelief, where they will gradually revive. See Zephaniah 2:1, Jeremiah 30:3, Isaiah 11:11, Ezekiel 36:24,25, Ezekiel 37, Amos 9:11-14.
This is an unprecedented time in human history, so how can we help our Jewish brothers find adequate language or lenses to see Yeshua/Jesus?
Like Aaron and Hur, who came alongside Moses to strengthen his arms during conflict (Exodus 17:12), we can come alongside them as much as possible at this historical time to love them, pray for them, talk to them intelligently from their own scriptures, and stand with them.
As Gentiles, it is our responsibility to pray for Israel and take the Gospel of Yeshua to the Jewish people in an appropriate way, not the same way we take it to pagan people.
We believe Jews and Christians belong together. The Church sprang up from within the Synagogue. We have the same scriptures and prophets, and their brother Yeshua taught us to pray to the one Father, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be your name.”
We think of Yeshua differently… but that’s not between us. It’s between them and Yeshua.
Twenty-five years after the resurrection and ascension events, the first council of Jerusalem was held and led by The Lord’s younger brother, Jacob (Acts 15). The purpose was to decide what to do about the “Gentile” problem. How would they incorporate the growing number of Gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah?
Would they need to be circumcised and converted? What laws did they need to obey? How would they instruct them regarding worship?
Today, the problem is reversed, and the Gentile Church 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?
St. Paul describes us as the wild olive branches that were grafted in. They are the natural branches (Romans 11:17). The God we love and serve has been in covenant with them for over 4,000 years.
We approach them 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). Ours is a ministry of reconciliation and has nothing to do with turning Jews into Christians. Although “Christian” is recorded in the Bible, it’s a man-made word. Given the history of horrific suffering the Jewish people have endured in that name, you can understand how it can be an obstacle.
We want to remove obstacles. Our calling is to be reconciled with them and to be their friends. To pray for them, love them, comfort them, and remind them of who they are… God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22) and, whenever possible, help them see and embrace Yeshua as their brother.
“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