On Christ the solid Rock I stand
How does one understand the people of God, Israel, the Jewish people? This is a deep mystery that we will ponder and glory in for the rest of eternity. Perhaps we should not even venture to find out since this is a matter beyond our .. It involves the wonder of God’s loving faithfulness and yet also his eternal righteous judgement. On the one hand these people are ‘the apple of God’s eye’, yet on the other what is reserved for them is the sternest rebuke, since they were given the best possible introduction to Jesus, yet finally rejected him, together with the Romans, and nailed him to the cross. We may say that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross, and this is indeed an everlasting reminder to treat this subject with caution and reverence, but it does not remove the historical difficulty of what actually took place, and how we might understand it.
Indeed this is something we must understand to a degree, since the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, is our only grounds, his precious blood and body our only means of escape. His suffering was for our glory, but this cruel cross was in the first instance a witness to the Jewish people, a people whom we are called to reach with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet a people to whom we are eternally indebted for the promises of God. To love the Jewish people, and to understand them in Christ, at least to some extent, is a priority of the gospel (Romans 1 vs. 16-17). The fact that only a few Jews pressed through into the church of Jesus Christ is a reminder of Jesus’ words, ‘Enter through the narrow gate, For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it’.
In the book of Matthew we read the haunting and yet strangely interesting words spoken by the crowd prior to Jesus’ death: ‘Let his blood be upon us and on our children’. (Matthew 27 v.25) Historically these words have been used as an excuse by western theologians and European society to persecute and harass the Jews until the untimely death of 7 million Jewish people during the second world war. A death, incidentally, that could have been avoided had, western governments responded to a plea to receive them as refugees. These words do not constitute an excuse not to reach out to, love and care for, and in some instances, may be even die for the Jewish people. And yet love does not retreat from the truth but confronts people with difficult and awkward truths, whilst cushioning them as far as possible from the psychological pain of facing them, where possible.
There has been a tendency in recent historical research on Jesus by American authors such as E.P. Sanders and Jewish authors such as Geza Vermes to avoid the question of the preaching of the Christian gospel, and instead to try to atone for western sins towards the Jews by denying or failing to highlight some of the things that Jesus, the Son of God and a Jew said and lived among them. The focus has been on the collective character of the Jewish people, more than it has been on the individual influence of Jesus, a focus we dare not sustain, since it is not sustained by Christ himself.
The truth is that there is no safety in the crowd, but only in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He is the rock on which we stand. God is described in the Old Testament as a Rock (Deut. 32 vs. 28-33, Daniel 2 v.35, 1 Cor. 10 v.4). This same rock is Jesus Christ (Matt. 21 vs. 42-46, John 2 v.19). This rock is the ground of our lives as individuals and as a church. Paul says in Romans 9 verses 1-3.
‘I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying and conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.’
We all have responsibility to our own race and own people, but reaching the Jews with the message of the gospel first and foremost (this seems to me to be a different desire and more important focus than wanting to receive their blessings) was a priority to Paul. Let it also be a priority to us.
May God be with you, and strengthen you today, and cause you to stand on the secure ground of Christ.