How balanced has the Church been?
There are mistakes and then there are big mistakes. A small mistake would be forgetting someone's birthday, a big mistake would be if that person was the wife or mother! A small mistake would be failing to recognize an old friend at a party, a big mistake would be if he was the host of the party! A bigger mistake would be failing to recognize the promised saviour of your people, despite him ticking all the right boxes; but the biggest mistake of all is to cover up your mistake and making it near impossible for your people to have a chance to decide for themselves. This is a mistake of the nth degree. I could even go so far as to state that this was probably the biggest mistake ever made by a people group in the history of the World.
Failure to recognize Jesus as Messiah by the Jewish leadership two thousand years ago was a tragedy comparable to the Holocaust, because it initiated a divine timetable (for more of this read my book Outcast Nation) that dictated a sorrowful and painful history, paving the way for not just the catastrophes of the mid-twentieth century but for the current isolation of the Nation of Israel and the precarious existence of Jewish people worldwide.
We can have justified sympathy for Jewish people, particularly for their religious leadership, on account of their incredible history, painted on the pages of the Bible and their role in the great divine narrative in producing the environment and background for the coming of the Messiah of the World. We can sympathise further when we investigate the shameful treatment the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of the Christian Church over the past fifteen centuries. We can stand amazed when we consider how much these people have put up with at the hands of others, yet they have defeated all the odds, survived and have even flourished, contributing more to mankind proportionally than any other people group, despite being misunderstood and even hated by most of the other people groups.
But, in the most important matters of all, of personal and corporate redemption, they have been their own worst enemies. And it's all down to the biggest mistake they have ever made, the smokescreen they have created to obscure the identity of the Messiah who came into the World to offer them salvation, at a time when the rest of the World was following cunningly disguised spirits from the pits of hell. Before we consider this, there is one more point to make.
To a Martian, visiting us to observe our ways, it would seem that everyone was a friend of Jesus. Not having a grasp of the nuances of blasphemy they would hear one name, spoken more than any other. Not just by Christians in an attitude of worship, but also by others in an attitude of surprise, shock, anger or frustration! For most, "Jesus!" or "Jesus Christ!" or "Christ!", usually combined with more fruity language, is just a handy exclamation. Not so for Jewish people, though. You rarely hear these words freely spoken by a Jew, even as a casual curse. There's something in the Jewish psyche that filters out and blocks that particular name. What a great job the devil has done!
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:12-13)
Jewish people have an extra barrier to cross before they could possibly come to a point of faith in the true Messiah. For them, Jesus, The name of the Lord, is not just a swear word, but a curse word, in the fullest definition of the word. And as for "Christ", no other word sends more of a shiver down a Jewish spine! There's a simple reason of how this can be and it is laid firmly at the foot of the Church. To give you an insight, here are the sort of words that a medieval Jew had to recite when he agreed to convert to Catholicism.
"I do here and now renounce every rite and observance of the Jewish religion, detesting all its most solemn ceremonies ... I promise that I will never return to the vomit of Jewish superstition ... I will shun all intercourse with other Jews and have the circle of my friends only among other Christians ... We will not associate with the accursed Jews who remain unbaptized ... We will not celebrate the Passover, the Sabbath or other feast days connected with the Jewish religion ... And I absolutely renounce every custom and institution of the Jewish laws ... in one word I renounce absolutely everything Jewish ... Together with the ancients, I anathemise also the Chief Rabbis and new evil doctors of the Jews ..."
So, an aversion to Jesus is in Jewish genes. Paul even foreknew this, he wrote it in his letter to the Romans.
"Israel has experienced a hardening in part ..." (Romans 11:25)
More of this next week.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Jesus Man of Many Names)