There is a discussion at the RoshPinaProject on rabbis who followed Jesus/Yeshua. I paraphrase the conversation:
Matt asked why there wasn’t a single modern-day orthodox rabbi (or as far as he know even liberal rabbi) who has accepted Jesus as the messiah. He also mentioned many modern-day evangelical Christians (including Christian pastors) who have converted to Judaism. Gev replied that the reason was probably because if they came out of the closet, they would get serious grief and probably lose their job. Matt thought that it was absurd that rabbis are not converting today to Jesus because they might lose their “high paying pulpit jobs.” This, Matt, retorted, was a pretty lame reason, because most orthodox rabbis and scholars are not well funded by their congregations or donors, whereas an orthodox rabbi who accepted Jesus as his messiah would soon have access to a nice share of the millions of dollars which goes to support Jewish evangelism.
On Matt’s second thoughts, he offers an alternative explanation. Christian Apologetics hasn’t provided any convincing argument to convert Jews with even a basic knowledge of Judaism, whereas Jewish counter-missionary work, which has been tailored to protect Jews with weaker backgrounds has provided a much more truthful scenario that even evangelical pastors were unable to deny. Further, a belief that would succumb to fear of orthodox Jews is quite a lame belief indeed. Many people have indeed converted to different religions and have suffered subsequent rejection from their former co-religionists, which they accepted as part of the conversion package.
I’d like comment on Matt’s view that a belief that folds through fear is “lame” (Matt’s word). It would be useful at this point to introduce into the discussion a companion topic on believers in Jesus/Yeshua remaining in the closet, (on the RoshPinaProject), which deals with the hard choices Jewish believers in Jesus have to make, either to live peacefully in the land of their birth, Israel, or to be accepted as a Jewish immigrant to Israel.
In a previous post, I described the time the 1967 Israel-Arab six-day war began. There were a few hundred Jews in South Africa who went to Israel as volunteers. We couldn’t get into Israel during the war because the Israeli air space was a war zone. Let me back up a bit in time:
While at university (1960), I joined the Catholic Church. By 1967, I was a lapsed Catholic. In relatively small Jewish communities in countries like South Africa, everybody knows everybody else’s business. So, when, in June 1967, I went to the Cape Town offices of the Zionist Federation to offer my services as a mitnadev (volunteer) they said they’d heard that I was a Christian. I said, not any more. My conscience pricked a bit. A few days later about June 9-10, I was on a plane to Israel with about 50 other Cape Town Jews. I spent about seven months on Kibbutz Nachshon. I wanted to settle in Israel, but events at home prevented this, and so I returned to Cape Town.
The question is: What if I had NOT lapsed from the Catholic church and yet still wanted to get accepted as an immigrant (make Aliyah)? I would have had to deny my DIVINE Saviour before men. What would I have done? There are probably some (many?) who were allowed to make Aliyah because they made the painfully hard choice that I was – ironically – “saved” from making: remaining in the closet.
What does the NT says about believers that do have to make a hard choice?
36 When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes
an hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John quotes from Isaiah 6).
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
It seems only right that the believer should obey his LORD unto death, for does not the scripture ask, “do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans, 6:3-4). You may ask: “how can a believer walk in newness of life, if Christ buries him or her in His death?” That’s a good question, because I had removed the verses I just quoted from their context, which is given in the two verses that precede Romans 6:3-4, namely, Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Every closet Christian will say, “Yes, I must die to sin.” But, for a Christian there is more to “death” than death to sin, which in itself involves much suffering. Besides “death to sin,” there is another kind of suffering and death, as Paul described so powerfully describes in Romans (8:35-39):
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What follows immediately after this? Paul’s sorrow for his Jewish people: Romans 9. Many Bible commentators regard Romans 9 – 11 (about the Jews) as an intercalation that has nothing to do with the chapters that proceed and follow it. “It’s Paul going on a Jewish detour.” Not at all. Romans 9 cannot be understood without Romans 6,7 and 8. So lets read on from where we left Paul at the end of Romans 8 and proceed on to Romans (9:1-5):
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— hat I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Now, the closet Jews in this discussion are believers in Jesus; so, if Paul were present, he would not be anguishing (as he was for his fellow Jews in Romans 9), but rather rejoicing, over them, not because they were “closetting,” but because they were believing. What did Paul say about his fellow persecuted Jewish believers in Yeshua? Let us return to Romans 8:36: As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Paul is quoting Psalm 44:22. Here are the verses that come before verse 22. Before we read in, keep in mind that this passage is about “Israel”, the Jewish people. Paul is using this Psalm as a typology of the believer – Jew and Gentile – in Jesus. For a Jew, this identification of suffering Israel with the suffering believer in Jesus is an execration, almost as abhorrent as identifying the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 with the Messiah; with Jesus Christ the Messiah: “…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah
But let us focus on some contextual verses of Paul’s quotation of Psalm 44:22, namely, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Isaiah 53:7).
11You give us as sheep to be eaten and have scattered us among the nations. 12You sell Your people cheaply, and have not profited by their sale. 13You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scoffing and a derision to those/q around us.
Most other instances of Israel’s suffering is a punishment for disobedience and breaking of the covenant, but in Psalm 44 – as the following verses indicate – Israel was an innocent sufferer. This is probably why Paul quotes Psalm 44 in Romans 8, where Christians were persecuted for their faith in Christ. We continue with Psalm 44:
17 All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You, and we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant. 18 Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from Your way, Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. 20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, 21 Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. 22 But for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
We have just examined Romans 8:36, which Paul quoted from Psalm 44:22 (last verse underlined above). Now, consider John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
In Romans 8:36, the believer is “killed every day.” In John 8:36, we see the result of being “killed every day;” the Son will set you free. Free to be killed all the day long; free to be regarded – not only by others, but by ourselves – as sheep to be slaughtered.
Jesus Christ asks us to be prepared to die for our belief in Him, as we read:
Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:12-19).
Why will “they” lay hands on “you” and kill “you”? Because God has blinded “them” that they may not see. As we read earlier in John 12:
37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah [Chapter 6] might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes an hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Here are the complete verses of Isaiah 6:9-10 partly quoted by John. (I’ve added verse 11 and 12):
9 He said, “Go and tell this people:”‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 2 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
Isaiah 6:10 is a hard saying, alien to human reasoning. You won’t find such a thought in any philosophical treatise on the human will. If humans beings – in this context, the Jews – are free to choose what they want to believe, why does God blind their eyes, harden their hearts to prevent them from seeing, from understanding, from turning to Him. Surely, if they want to turn to Him, He should give them the opportunity to choose. The verse is clear: God decides (ordains, determines) whose eyes he will open. This raises the core issue of the Gospel: “How do we come to Christ.” I have dealt with this issue in two previous two posts, “What happened to faith in the Gospel of Grace?” and “Faith, freedom and the very dead,” to be read in that order.
Blessed be Jesus the Anointed, the Christ, my redeemer: the author and finisher of my faith.