I was in the Sales field for about 15 years, between 1992 and 2007, and the title of today’s message is one of the most important lessons I learned about being able to have a successful sales career.
I am sure all of you reading this have found the most disappointing purchases you have ever made were the ones where what you got wasn’t anything at all like what you expected. That can be the fault of the salesperson, or yourself, or both- neither one really explaining or listening to the other, and ending up having an unrealistic expectation.
This same thing has happened with Yeshua and the Jewish people, which started in the First Century and is still present, today.
The Tanakh (Old Covenant) has very explicit expectations of what the Messiah will do. He will regather Israel (Ezekiel 38:16), He will restore the Temple service (Jeremiah 33:18), He will end wickedness and heresy (Zephaniah 3:13), He will reestablish the religious courts (Isaiah 2:2-4), and He will be a son of David. With these, and the many other Messianic prophecies found in Tanakh, the Jewish people’s expectations for their Messiah, taught to them by their leaders, was for a political savior who would immediately restore the Davidic kingdom, and that it would be just like it was in David’s and Solomon’s times.
And when you think about it, that expectation wasn’t really all that far-fetched. So, looking back, it is understandable (isn’t it?) that the Jewish people would have rejected Yeshua as their Messiah when He walked the earth because many of the biblical expectations were not met: there was still sin and heresy (in fact, at that time the Jewish political and judicial systems were probably the most corrupt ones we’ve ever had), the Ten tribes were still in the Diaspora, Temple service had not been interrupted (so He couldn’t reinstate it), and He died! Duh! How could this guy be the Messiah and have an eternal kingship if he’s dead?
These unmet expectations are the reason so many Jews back then rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, and even to this day they are the basis for still rejecting Jesus as Messiah. When you add to that the last two Millennia of the treatment Jews have received at the hands of the “followers of Jesus Christ”, well, it’s no wonder we don’t want anything to do with this Jesus guy. After all, isn’t Jesus the reason for the Crusades, which resulted in thousands of Jews being slaughtered when they didn’t convert? And wasn’t Jesus the reason for the expulsion of Jews from Spain and her territories, not to mention the torture and murder of thousands of Jews during the 300 hundred years (or so) of the Inquisition? And isn’t Jesus the guy the Nazi’s said was on their side?- the belt buckle of the Nazi uniform had the words, “Gott mit uns” (God is with us) engraved on them. Oh, and let’s not forget the Replacement Theologists who say that God, Himself, has rejected the Jewish people (because they rejected Jesus) and that the Born-Again Christians are now God’s Chosen people.
Taken altogether- unmet expectations, wrongful teachings, mistreatment, bigotry, persecution- is it any wonder the Jewish people have nearly universally rejected as their Messiah this blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan image of the Jesus Christ we know today?
So…how do we get around this misunderstanding (and it is a misunderstanding) about who Yeshua is? We start by realizing, within Judaism and Christianity, that what we know today as Christianity, and who we think Jesus Christ is, is wrong. First off, Jesus did not create Christianity: Constantine did, at the Council of Nicene in the Third Century. Without going into an entire history lesson on what happened, let’s simply state that as more and more Gentiles (who were Pagans at that time) were accepting Yeshua (He wasn’t called Jesus until many, many years later) and, thereby, converting to Judaism, all the restrictions of the Torah were too much for them at the start. In Acts (15:29) there were only 4 absolute “Must Stop Now” restrictions, but when you read the entire passage it is clear that the Elders expected these new converts to learn how to obey the entire Torah as they continued to attend the synagogues. But with the continuing rebellion of the Jewish community against Roman rule, being identified as a “Jew” was becoming more intolerable than being a follower of Yeshua, so those Gentiles who were converting started doing less “Jewish” stuff. As early as the First Century, what was now being called Christianity began to actively separate itself from the Tree of Life it had been grafted into. They changed the Shabbat, they ridiculed and insulted Judaic practices, and by the time Rome accepted Christianity as an approved religion, it had lost most of it’s attachment to Judaism. Then Constantine created Christmas and Easter as a means to make Christianity more “fun” and further separate it from the Holy Days God defined for us.
That is why today Christianity is not anything like what Christ preached or taught. We need to approach Jews with this information to destroy the expectation that by accepting Jesus you have to reject Judaism. That is what Jews expect they have to do if they want to accept Jesus as their Messiah, and it is simply not true.
Once we kill that first expectation of having to reject Judaism, we can then start to kill the next expectation, which is that Jesus taught against Torah. We need to educate people, both Jews and Christians, regarding the false teaching that Yeshua rejected Torah: that is a lie from the pit of Sheol! He not only taught to obey Torah, but He did so by teaching us the deeper meaning of it so we could live it more completely! And Shaul (Paul), John, Matthew and the rest of the gang all lived and taught obedience to Torah. Not as the means of salvation, which was the understanding of Torah then, but as a means of showing God our faithful belief that what He says to do is what is best for us, and to demonstrate our love and thanks to Him through obedience to His word.
If you have gotten this far, having overcome thousands of years of wrong teaching and bigotry, now you have a chance to show how these expectations, which have resulted in such a massive rejection of Yeshua, are unreasonable. The prophecies were often dual-prophecies, meaning there was a current interpretation, and a future one, as well. For instance, an argument against Isaiah 53 is that it was talking about Israel as a nation then and there, which could historically be shown, but it was also talking about Yeshua, which wouldn’t happen until far in the future. The expectations that the Jewish people had, and have, of Messiah were based on misunderstanding, not to mention the political and social pressures against accepting Him (back then) due to the corrupt individuals who would lose their power and standing if He had been universally accepted.
Today I can see the spirit of God moving- the regathering of Israel, the Hebraic Roots and Messianic Jewish movements gaining momentum, and the world getting worse and worse- all these point to the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) getting closer and closer. And that means we are getting closer to the return of Yeshua ha Maschiach! Therefore, let’s educate in a way that edifies people, removing the unrealistic and improper expectations, showing the truth about who Yeshua is and what He teaches, and thereby making it possible for all people to hear the real Good News with unclogged ears and seeing eyes.