When home life was very different
Why did the Jews refuse to follow Jesus in the early years?
The failure to recognize Jesus as Messiah by the Jewish leadership two thousand years ago was just about the biggest mistake made by anyone in the history of the World. It was a mistake that was to have historical consequences, starting with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, tragically witnessed by some of the generation who were alive and possibly witnessed the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus some forty years earlier. This was at the hands of the pagan Romans and Jesus had, in fact, prophesised it.
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ’Do you see all these things’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’.” (Matthew 24:1-2).
Then, when the first fires of Christian zeal, righteousness and faithfulness had been squeezed out of the Church by the compromises forced on it by its adoption by what was left of the Roman Empire, a full programme of painful circumstances were inflicted onto the Jewish people. This was at the hands of a vengeful Church acting out of misplaced zeal for a vengeful God, who existed nowhere but in their own vengeful hearts.
It became clear to the Jewish religious leaders that they had made the right decision to hold on to the “ways of their fathers” and not embrace this new religious system that seemed so full of self-righteous hate. God forbid that we should become like one of them! They retreated inwards into the sureties of their scriptures and the proclamation of their sages, who demonstrably led holy lives consistent with their calling, a stark contrast to the Popes and Bishops who openly preached hate and vengeance and who mobilized armies to carry out their devilish schemes.
It was no wonder that Jews clung to their beliefs to the point of death and they should not be ridiculed or condemned for it. It was no wonder that so few became followers of Jesus the Messiah, where the only visible witness to him was at the point of a sword or lick of a flame. It was no wonder that their religious teachers constructed a body of work to make it difficult, or well-nigh impossible, to ever contemplate “going over to the dark side”.
They struck back hard, in the only way they could, through religious proclamations, ordinances and commentary. A Jew professing to follow Jesus was to be considered a Jew no more by the Jewish community. He was judged to have committed one of the three cardinal sins, alongside murder and incest. This was no joking matter and still is even to this day. To back up these extreme views, the rabbis embarked on a campaign of misinformation and vilification, to strike at the heart of the Christian faith. The target was the very person of Jesus himself.
The Amidah is the most important collection of prayers, spoken daily by Jews worldwide. It consists of eighteen prayers, a collection built up through the centuries since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Each prayer has a name and each has a separate function. The first praises God and thanks Him for the patriarchs. The second offers praise to God for his great power. The third praises God for His holiness. The fourth asks God for wisdom and understanding. The fifth praises God for gifting us with repentance. The sixth praises God for His forgiveness. The seventh praises him as the redeemer of Israel. The eighth is a prayer for healing. The ninth asks God to bless the produce of the Earth. The tenth asks God to allow the Jews to return to Israel. The eleventh asks God to raise up righteous judges. And the twelfth?
The twelfth prayer or benediction is called Birkat HaMinim and it asks God to destroy those in “heretical sects”. So not so much a blessing, but a curse. It was added to the Amidah around the time of the Greek occupation of Judea and Samaria, directed at those Jews who had compromised and followed Greek ways. It was in the first century AD that the prayer came to prominence, revised by Samuel ha-Katan (Samuel the Small), as a direct provocation to those Jews who followed Jesus, yet still worshipped in the synagogues.