Jews for Jesus

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I'm basically a good person and I'm very happy with my own religion, so why should I believe in Jesus?

To tell you the truth, if everyone were good in God's sight, nobody would need Jesus and we wouldn't be spending our efforts making web sites like this one.

The psalmist long ago said that there is no one that does good, not even one."1 Oh, to be sure, most of us aren't murderers or thieves or anything like that. We like to think of ourselves as respectable, with no need for major changes in our lives. Yet the picture the Scriptures present is that even the best of us is desperately sinful, deeply alienated from God, from each other and even from ourselves.

The problem of mankind, according to the Bible, is precisely that we are "happy with our own religion," "happy with what we believe." Usually what we believe is not what the Scriptures teach. We're happy to think that we're good, that surely God will overlook our "little" mistakes and shortcomings and that He isn't really serious about our sins. We're happy to place our own wills and desires at the center of our private universe, rather than making the will and the desires of our Creator primary.

But God is serious about our sin. As Jews we tend to think that sin is exclusively a matter of committing individual acts. But sin is much more than that. The Scriptures show us that sin is a condition of human existence which does not pertain to a particular act, but rather to an attitude, one of arrogance and rebellion. The best of men, like Abraham, Moses and King David, all committed acts of sin. The prophet Isaiah said, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way."2 This righteous prophet indicated that it is only human for each man, himself included, to seek self-fulfillment rather than to seek to fulfill the precepts of God. King David said that his sin was a condition from birth.3 Sin is universal--that's why the Day of Atonement is universally observed among Jewish people as the most solemn of all holidays. And that's why God provided a way of forgiveness, beginning with the Old Testament animal sacrifices and culminating in the death of the Messiah. Our responsibility is to respond in faith and to place our trust in Jesus as our atonement. We must return to a view of life centered in God's way of looking at things, rather than in our own preferences.

We really are sinful in the depths of our being, and all the education, affluence and technology in the world hasn't changed that; it's only enabled us to express our rebellion in a more sophisticated fashion. Jesus really did come in history, really did die and really did rise from the dead. All the objections in the world and all the ignoring of the evidence won't make that reality go away. Perhaps your attitude is that of the skeptic who said, "I won't believe--and don't confuse me with the facts!" But God really does hold us responsible for facing the facts about ourselves, and accepting His offer of forgiveness through Jesus.

In a word, you should believe in Jesus, not because it will make you happy, but because it's true.

  1. Psalm 14:3
  2. Isaiah 53:6
  3. Psalm 51:5

The Holocaust

People often describe the Holocaust as the climax of 2,000 years of Christian mistreatment of Jews. Some invoke the Shoah as the ultimate reason for Jews not to believe in Jesus.

Jewish believer Moishe Rosen challenges that view: The phrase '2,000 years of history leading up to the Holocaust' is more than a reference to past prejudice and persecution. It is an indictment against Christianity that misrepresents Christ's message and intent. Anyone who gives credence to such an accusation bestows upon Hitler the power to change theology."1

Neither Jesus nor Christian ideals produced the Holocaust. Those murders were generated by the same perversion of human nature that the holy Scriptures depict, beginning in the Book of Genesis. Cain turned on his own brother and became the first murderer. And while the Jewish people have been singled out more often for genocide than any other people, we are by no means the only group of people to be methodically murdered. Consider the "ethnic cleansing," the systematic rape and murder of the Bosnian people perpetrated in the 1990s. No, genocide neither began nor ended with Hitler and the Jewish people.

Some see the Holocaust not merely as an indictment against Christianity but against God. Many who suffered through the concentration camps either blame God or refuse to believe that he exists.

Such people find themselves in a quandary, ever restless until they know in what or in whom they can place their faith. Will they dismiss God on the grounds that the Holocaust proves him cruel, incapable or non-existent and instead put their faith in humanity? If God is not to be trusted because he permits humans to be cruel, does it make more sense to trust humans when it is human beings-not God-who have proved to be inescapably, or at least repeatedly, corrupt?

Often those who say they don't believe in God because of the terrible acts that have been committed actually try to punish God for what they see as his failure to prevent suffering. What can a person do to show his or her displeasure with God, other than refuse to acknowledge his existence? Yet it is we, not God, who suffer when we deny that he exists and that he cares.

Deep down, most of us realize that we need to have faith in someone or something more worthy of trust than ourselves. If God is "dead," then so, too, is humanity. If we had only each other or ourselves to depend upon, we would soon be reduced to cynical misanthropes.

How much better it is to have faith in the God of the Scriptures, who will see that ultimate justice prevails. Evil people who acted out their own hatred--not God, not Jesus--are to blame for the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Could it be that those who blame God or Jesus or Christianity simply can't bear the awful reality that since history began, human beings from all walks of life have demonstrated the potential to commit any horror imaginable?

Could it be that each person is capable of hatred and that we don't want to face that truth about ourselves?

Jesus called upon all he met, from every walk of life, to face their flawed nature and corrupt inclinations and repent of pride, prejudice and every other evil that can bear the fruit of violence.

It is horrendous that of all names, his has been used to accomplish the exact opposite of everything he instructed. How can we allow this obvious perversion to color our response to his teachings and his claims?

Could it be that blaming Jesus for the evils of the centuries is less painful than admitting the dark shadows that exist in every human heart?

There is no way we can undo the tragedy of the Holocaust. We have no control over what has already happened. We do, however, have the ability to prevent Hitler from continuing to reach us from beyond the grave.

Why should he have the power to prevent us from investigating who Y'shua is? He will only have that power if we give it to him.

  1. Moishe Rosen, "Am Yisrael Chai," Issues 9:4 (1993), p. 2.

This article originally appeared in The Y'shua Challenge booklet.

Christians Persecute Jews

Persecution in the name of Jesus is the most emotionally charged strand of the net of objections. More than anything else, many people point to Christian anti-Semitism" as a reason to dismiss Jesus. When Jewish people find themselves questioning whether Jesus might be the Messiah, thoughts of the Crusades and the Holocaust quickly rush to mind, setting off a warning signal-Jews who believe join the same league as those who hate our people. When Jewish people allow that signal to block any further contemplation of Jesus, they base their decisions not upon who Jesus is, but rather upon who they do not want to be (namely, among those who persecute Jews).

How can a Jewish believer respond to the accusation that we have joined the persecutors? Anti-Semitism is a fact that should never be minimized or pushed out of mind. Nor can we avoid the fact that many people have used the name of Jesus as a justification for their anti-Semitic crimes. Yet we need to ask questions. For example, can we truly blame our sufferings on Jesus and the things he taught? Can those who have wrongly used the name of Jesus make it wrong for us to believe and trust in him? Can the evil committed in Y'shua's name free us from the responsibility of considering his true identity? These are important questions, because if the answer is no and we continue to allow anti-Semitism to prevent us from considering Jesus, we allow anti-Semites to keep us in the dark about the greatest Jew who ever lived--which produces an even greater injustice against us.

It is important to remember that Jesus never taught hatred of Jewish people, nor did that hatred begin with the church. Persecution was a fact of Jewish existence in the days of Pharaoh and Haman. People justify their hatred in various ways, and some of the worst sins committed are cloaked in false piety. It is human nature to justify ourselves, no matter how ugly our actions. To claim loyalty to a noble person or cause is the perfect justification for the worst possible crimes. Such associations (however false) enable people to deceive themselves into believing that their wicked deeds are righteous.

The French Revolution was a bloodbath in the name of liberty, fraternity and equality. But who would say that liberty, fraternity and equality are ideals to be despised because of that bloodshed? People have committed terrible acts in the name of freedom and justice, but that doesn't make freedom and justice wrong. Nor do we label everyone who advocates freedom and justice as murderers, even though so many criminals have attempted to justify their terrible deeds in the name of those noble causes.

Jesus and his teachings have no connection to crimes committed in his name.

How can we blame Jesus for those who claim to follow his teachings but do not? We might say that if he had never existed, no one could misuse his name, but that is like burying our heads in the sand. Jesus is not to blame for the misuse of his name. In the same way, how are those who wish to explain his teachings to be blamed for those who have distorted them? If (as some have done) we blame all believers in Jesus for killing people they never knew, we become guilty of the same thing our persecutors do when they wrongly blame all Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

What a frightening (but not unnatural) phenomenon it is when the wrongly judged and hated turn around and wrongly judge and hate others. It takes tremendous determination for those who have been persecuted not to persecute others in turn. We must remember not to do to others what we hate having done to ourselves. As Jesus put it, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise"(Luke 6:31).

This article originally appeared in The Y'shua Challenge booklet.

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