For the last six months or so we’ve been in the book of Acts, and over and over again we see how the worst enemies of the Good News were not the Roman officials or government but some of the Jewish people. Since it’s come up so often in the Gospels and Acts, and will come up again in the Epistles I thought this is as good a time as any to tackle this very thorny subject. Believe me when I say that I know I need to be very careful so that I won’t be misunderstood. We’re going to examine how we as followers of Jesus should approach the subject of the Jewish people. We’re going to unflinchingly look at what God’s word has to say about the subject.
First, let’s get the obvious question out of the way, shall we? Is there any justification for Anti-Semitism? Um, no. I really regret that I have to say this, but we need to just drop the crude and bigoted conspiracy theories. The Jews aren’t trying to take over the world. There is no world-wide Jewish conspiracy. Israel does not run the State Department or Congress or the White House. If you actually believe any of this nonsense, then I really don’t have much more to say to you.
But it is a fact that the New Testament has some pretty harsh things to say about the nation of Israel and the majority of Jews in the days of the Gospels and the early years of the Church. They--especially the religious leaders-- are usually enemies of the Good News of Jesus, both in the Gospels, the book of Acts, and frequently in the writings of Paul. But just to clarify, we need to get some of the cruder stereotypes out of the way:
• They’re greedy or dishonest or deceptive. Well, I’m sure that some of them are. Just like I’m sure that quite a few Gentiles could be described as such. But the Jewish people I’ve met are wonderful and friendly people who are really generous to those in need. I worked for a Jewish guy for over a year, and he seemed to have a great head for business (which you might expect with someone who started their own company).
But I’m also sure there are plenty of Jewish people out there who—like me—have little to no business sense. There are all types of Jewish people in the world, and so even the stereotype of being great in business doesn’t hold up very well. Now I will concede this: Because of their culture and heritage they tend to be disproportionately represented in education, entrepreneurship, medicine, and science. But this isn’t because of any Jewish conspiracy. If you teach your children that education is important, then you tend to have a lot of people in those fields.
• They have greater loyalty to Israel than to America. Um, no. In fact, the vast majority of Jewish people in America have very ambivalent attitudes towards Israel. They’re much more involved with politics—most of the time on the Leftward/Liberal side of the spectrum. Most of them are very secular and have little to no interest in the Jewish faith or religion. Most of them have never visited Israel and are highly critical of its government.
But what about biblical passages like today's? It’s the sad fact that the Church, or at least some who claim to represent the Church, have used passages like these to claim that the Jews today are under some special curse because they rejected Jesus. There is absolutely no biblical basis for that quaint little notion. You might make the case from today’s reading that God punished the Jewish people of the 1st century for rejecting the Messiah. At least it certainly looks that way, and it wouldn’t be the first time that the Lord punished the nation of Israel for rejecting his message. I mean, have you read the old Testament prophets lately? The conventional interpretation of these verses is that Jesus is predicting that because of their rejection of him, that the nation would intensely suffer. And they certainly did. Around the late 60’s, culminating in A.D. 70, Israel rebelled against Rome, and Rome destroyed it. It burned the temple down to the ground, it crucified many of the rebels, and scattered the Jewish people all over the world. They didn’t get an independent nation back for almost 2,000 years after that.
But in no way is God holding the Jewish people of today responsible for something that their ancestors did 2,000 years ago. There’s no evidence of that.
So if you’ve listened to any of these lies about the descendants of Isaac, please repent of them. Right now. They’re lies that the Adversary has whispered in your ear, and you need to stop listening.
But I will say something about today’s passage that does apply to people right now, today. If you’ve rejected the Savior, you’re in for some things that make the destruction of Israel look like a day at the beach. And if you’re holding hate in your heart for anyone, especially an entire group of people, then you really don’t know the Savior much at all.
Lord Jesus, I firmly and categorically reject any lies which the Enemy has told me. I don’t care what it is or how dear it is to me. I only have ears for your voice.
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