An article emerged a few days before Christmas claiming that “Rabbis Bring Jesus Home for Christmas.” Naturally, it got my attention. Not to mention the fact that several people sent the article to me and expressed their excitement after reading it. Over two dozen orthodox rabbis from around the world issued a joint statement “calling for a renewed look at Jesus, Christians and the New Testament faith. ” Frankly, I live for moments like these, so my initial reaction was a joyful surprise. Are some orthodox rabbis truly accepting the Messiahship of Yeshua (Jesus)? Have these men become Messianic believers? Could this be the start of a revival within the global Jewish community? The conclusion might surprise you!
The article was written by an Israeli Jewish believer in Yeshua, David Lazarus, who mentioned Yeshua several times. It quotes the rabbis saying, “Jesus brought a double goodness to the world,” further claiming that Yeshua “strengthened the Torah of Moses.” Lazarus quoted other parts of the Rabbis’ statement that clearly indicated the desire for true rapprochement between Christians and Jews. Considering the times we live in, this could be very good news. This will certainly not eradicate antisemitism since the longest hatred–a spiritual battle generated and fueled by Satan–will not come to an end until Yeshua returns at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. Can it help in the healing of Jewish/Christian relations? Absolutely, and this alone is a reason to rejoice!
My intention is not to burst the bubble of hope created by the statement, but before Israel-loving evangelicals rejoice, we might want to take a look at the statement itself. While it offers many positives, they are not necessarily what Christians might think. It was spearheaded by a commendable organization called the “Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding & Cooperation.” In their mission statement, they declare the following, “Now that we as a people and a nation have returned to history, and the Christian world is beginning to recognize the continuing legitimacy of its elder brother’s covenant, grafting itself onto us as a branch is grafted to the roots, we must each complete our return to God, join hands and bring a religion of love, morality, pluralism and peace to a desperate, thirsting world. ” Additionally, the statement dates from 2015. I am not sure why it was quoted as if it was recent, but it raises some very important questions that still need to be addressed.
The goal is to work towards rebuilding Jewish/Christian relations. While they certainly do not speak for all Jewish denominations across the spectrum, being a group of orthodox, pious Torah scholars pushing for a better world through mutual acceptance certainly deserves our attention. The topics discussed in their statement include Judaism, Christianity, God, Jesus and antisemitism. Here are some of the points they make that are worth analyzing to understand their desire further. The statement divides into seven articles, each worth mentioning. The bold part summarizes the main point made in the statement, followed by my analysis.
1. Failure of Jews and Christians to reconcile after the Holocaust created fertile soil for antisemitism to grow: The Holocaust (Shoah) remains a unique defining catastrophe on the timeline of Jewish history. While it is true that 2,000 years of animosity and violence coming from the Church were a major factor leading to the death of six million Jews (among other groups), not all perpetrators were Christians. In fact, it could be argued–maybe in another article–that none of the perpetrators and bystanders of the Holocaust were true Christians. Nevertheless, the abysmal divide between Christians and Jews that resulted from the Holocaust allowed other enemies of the Jews to contribute further to the erosion of Judeo/Christian relations. So, in a sense, it is true that this loss of trust resulted in further damage.
2. The Second Vatican Council (1965) contributed to a reconciliation between Jews and Christians: This was a milestone for the Catholic Church. Finally, after more than 1,900 years, it was officially declared that the Jewish people shouldn’t be held responsible for the death of Christ. This has indeed led to more interfaith dialogue and well-needed healing between Jews and Catholics.
3. The emergence of Christianity is G-d’s way to separate partners, not enemies: 19th-century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once said that “Christianity is Biblical Judaism fulfilled.” What a simple but powerful statement! Unfortunately, a theological wedge was placed between Jews and Christians. It progressively grew and separated the two. In their statement, the contemporary rabbis quote respected giants of Judaism, Maimonides (Rambam) and Judah HaLevi as their inspiration to accept Christianity as a valid religion. The signatories further declare, “Now that the Catholic Church has acknowledged the eternal Covenant between G-d and Israel, we Jews can acknowledge the ongoing constructive validity of Christianity as our partner in world redemption, without any fear that this will be exploited for missionary purposes.” The goal is clear from the statement, it is “world redemption,” also known in Judaism as Tikkun Olam. Not to be missed is the last part of that paragraph stating that the signatories do not fear Christian conversion due to this new relationship. Would all Christians truly adhere to a complete cessation of sharing the Gospel for the sake of reconciliation? This might be too broad a statement.
4. It is G-d’s desire for Christians to be loving partners: I couldn’t agree more with that part of the declaration. Bible-believing Christians have no choice but to love and support the Jewish people (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 83:1-5). The way Christians express their love may vary, though. It can go from regular prayer for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) to humanitarian help to sharing the Gospel. Yet, it would seem that sharing the Gospel with the Jewish people didn’t make the cut on the list of proof of why Judaism and Christianity should work together. I tend to believe that the acceptance of Yeshua’s free gift of salvation through His death and resurrection for our sins IS the ultimate way to love the Jewish people.
5. Jews and Christians have more in common than what separates them: The rabbis continued by listing what connects Jews and Christians “The ethical monotheism of Abraham; the relationship with the One Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who loves and cares for all of us; Jewish Sacred Scriptures; a belief in a binding tradition; and the values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace.” The reason we speak of Judeo/Christian ethics is that the same principles are at the foundation of Judaism and biblical Christianity. We truly have much to gain in mutual acceptance. It will lead to cooperation and Christians and Jews are now at a crossroads where working together can only strengthen us against the enemy.
6. A true partnership doesn’t negate differences; it embraces them: The statement continues by clearly speaking of two different religions for two different communities, allowing for God to “employ many messengers to reveal His truth.” This is where I get nervous because this sounds like there is more than one way to get to G-d. Is the G-d of Judaism the same G-d found in Christianity? Well, if we believe that “Christianity is Biblical Judaism fulfilled,” the answer must be yes! But do we get to G-d the same way? It seems that within Judaism, we strive to keep Torah to hopefully be accepted by G-d. In contrast, within Christianity, we strive to serve and obey G-d after He accepted us in His family through Yeshua’s sacrificial death and resurrection. These are theological polar opposites.
7. Christians and Jews can redeem the world: In their concluding paragraph, the signatories boldly declared, “In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d’s Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.” This, again, is the concept of Tikkun Olam. It speaks of redeeming or repairing the world to make it a better place for all mankind. While the concept is very commendable when one reads the whole counsel of G-d, the narrative leads us toward a universal need for a redeemer for mankind. That redeemer came two thousand years ago in the person of Yeshua, who paid the ultimate price by dying for our sins (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). So, in the spirit of Tikkun Olam, only Yeshua can repair the world, and He will do just that at His Second Coming.
So, where does that leave this group of rabbis who are desperately trying to usher in a genuine reconciliation between Christians and Jews? There is nothing wrong with their noble effort. This will help both communities fight bigotry and antisemitism together better. Yet, this is not the same as claiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world, which the article never does. By calling for more common ground between the two communities, this group of orthodox rabbis might help soften the hearts of many Jewish people towards Christians and biblical Christianity. Still, they never claim that Yeshua is the Messiah.
Could it be that these honorable Jewish men from all around the world are setting the stage for the coming of the 144,000 Jewish men who will play a key role in sharing the message of salvation during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7)? Without setting dates but looking at work events through the lens of end-times prophecies, it is entirely possible that some of them might even be part of the 144,000 unbeknownst to them as of yet.
No matter how you look at it, this statement seems to be another piece in the end-times puzzle, and the final picture is becoming so clear!