By David Lazarus, Israel Today—
More than 25 prominent rabbis from Israel and abroad recently issued a statement calling for a renewed look at Jesus, Christians and the New Testament faith. Quoting from their own sages, these outstanding Orthodox rabbis are not ashamed to exalt the name of Jesus, welcoming the carpenter from Nazareth back into the Jewish fold.
“Jesus brought a double goodness to the world,” declare the group of well-known rabbis. “On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically… and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah,” and on the other hand “he removed idols from the nations.”
Saying that Jesus, even more that any other Jewish Sage, honored, strengthened and protected the “immutability of the Torah,” is an extraordinary acknowledgement. These leading rabbis are turning the tides of history by removing one of the main stumbling blocks in the path of a major Jewish reclamation of Jesus!
You will recall, that religious Jews rejected Jesus from the beginning, with the accusation that he did not obey the Torah, therefore he could not be the awaited Messiah. In the New Testament, we find the Pharisees arguing with Jesus over Sabbath rules, dietary laws, ritual cleanliness, marriage regulations and more. They insisted that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because “he is teaching everywhere not to obey Moses.” (Acts 6:14)
What we are now witnessing is the undoing of 2,000 years of Jewish rejection and animosity towards Jesus, a miracle by any estimation. For the out-and-out refusal by Jews to accept Jesus is slowly, but surely, coming to an end, as growing numbers of prestigious Orthodox rabbis welcome Jesus back.
And there is more. “After nearly two millennia of mutual hostility and alienation, we Orthodox Rabbis who lead communities, institutions and seminaries in Israel, the United States and Europe… seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters,” the statement reads.
Two thousand years of Christian Anti-Semitism, Crusades, Inquisitions and a Holocaust can not keep the Star of Bethlehem from rising again in Israel. This call by these distinguished rabbis to embrace Christians as “brothers and sisters” is no less a miracle. For Jews to accept Christians with such endearment, after so much misunderstanding and anti-Semitic ugliness, can only be understood as a divine work of heavenly grace, the likes of which I find unfathomable.
For as this group of Orthodox rabbis points out, it is their “Father in Heaven” who is calling the Jewish people to lay down the past, put aside the enmity, and willingly embrace Christians and their faith in Jesus. That, my friends, is the deeper work of the Holy Spirit as spoken about throughout Scripture.
As Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, Academic Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation points out, “This proclamation’s breakthrough is that influential Orthodox rabbis across all centers of Jewish life have finally acknowledged that… Christianity and Judaism have much in common spiritually and practically. Given our toxic history, this is unprecedented in Orthodoxy.”
In their statement, the rabbis want to find a way to acknowledge the differences between Christian and Jewish beliefs, without taking, or giving, offensive. _“As did Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi, we acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies,” _the statement concludes.
These so-called “significant theological differences” between Christianity and Judaism are really about Jesus. He is the stumbling block. Jesus may be Messiah, Son of the Living God for the Gentiles, but my Jewish people are still not quite sure just who he is for them. So while these rabbis are making major and unprecedented strides in bringing my people closer to Jesus, they are still far from the truth. For if Jesus is the Messiah for the Gentiles, how much more must he be for the Jews?
Perhaps Jesus will not quite be at home this Christmas in Israel, or Jewish homes around the world, but he is certainly knocking on the door.