Shalom and blessings in the name of Jesus the Jewish Messiah.
I know the sentence above is perhaps a bit inflammatory to you; especially since many groups who share their faith of Messiah Jesus are categorized by such groups as Jews for Judaism as being similar to the picture to the left. Groups such as Jews for Judaism or Rabbi Tovia Singer want to picture us as somewhat angry individuals who walk around carrying big Bibles who want to “steal Jewish souls” away from the Jewish community. This could not be farther from the truth. For while I do believe that Jesus is the Jewish and Gentile Messiah, I don’t fit into the category that such anti-missionary groups try to pigeon-hole and/or stereotype me into belonging. Consequently, I want this letter to explain who Tzedakah Ministries is, who I am, and why this ministry shares the truth of Jesus the Jewish and Gentile Messiah with everyone but especially “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16).
I do believe Jesus is the Jewish and Gentile Messiah. In fact, I once told anti-missionary leader Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz personally, and in front of a room full of Jewish people, that if Jesus is not the Messiah that I am heading to hell when I die. He was shocked by my response as was the Jewish people who heard my response but it was necessary to illustrate to the rabbi my absolute belief and affirmation of Jesus’ Messiahship (BTW, I had at least two or three Jewish people come up to me afterwards to indicate that I had given them “spiritual” food for thought). I would not be dedicating my life, my health, my future to this work if I did not believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Because despite counter-missionaries allegations to the contrary, Jewish evangelism is not easy and popular within most Christian venues. It is awkward. It is uncomfortable. It doe not have a high ROI on the missions radar and so many evangelistic agencies look to other people groups where it is easier and results in more people coming to faith in Jesus. I know this goes against some of your PR advertising but I wanted to tell you the truth.
I realize that this short blog post could turn into a large booklet if I took the time to respond to all the anti-missionaries arguments against Jesus the Jewish Messiah. In fact, Tzedakah Ministries and this blog has somewhat done this throughout the history of Mystery Solved with Messiah Jesus, especially when it took the time to begin responding point-by-point to Norman Asher’s Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus. I have to admit that I still haven’t finished responding to all 26 points (because I honestly believe some of them are ridiculous and redundant); however, you can search this blog for some of those responses to Norman Asher’s book.
Instead, I will take the time to illustrate my belief in Jesus through three prophecies from the Tanakh, one issue from the “intertestamental” period, and one quotation/question related to today.
Prophecies from the Tanakh — Daniel 9; Isaiah 53; and Psalm 22
Depending upon whom one asks, there are a multiple number of answers regarding the number of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, fulfilling or will fulfill. Some are more obvious than others and some are more subjective than others. However, this specific apologetic methodology will limit itself to three prophecies as it relates to the Crucifixion narrative of Jesus–Daniel 9; Isaiah 53; and Psalm 22. A secondary reason why these three prophecies were selected for this methodology is primarily due to the fact that they are relatively ignored by modern Judaism due to their “awkwardness” as it relates to Jesus and because of an almost universal recognition that there is something special about these passages.
Of all the Messianic prophecies, Daniel 9:24-27 (esp. v. 25-26) is one of the most complicated and convoluted:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city until the measure of transgression is filled and that of sin complete, until inquiry is expiated, and eternal righteousness ushered in; and prophetic vision ratified, and the Holy of Holies anointed. You must know and understand: From the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks, and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress.
Interpretation depends on whether one views the prophecy to be literal and when the order to rebuild Jerusalem was actually given. The classic work by anti-missionary Issac Troki argues for a Cyrus fulfillment of the passage based on Ezra 1 and 2 Chronicles 36; however, this called for only a rebuilding of the Temple. Is this a fulfillment of the passage in Daniel and how does one respond to the cutting off of the anointed one (Messiah) after the sixty-nine weeks if that would be 483 years after 536 BC and Cyrus’ decree? The Messianic/Christian option is to consider this fulfillment of Daniel 9 to lie with the order of King Xerxes’ order to rebuild the walls of the city in c.445 BC which would bring fulfillment and the cutting off of the anointed one around AD 29-30. The Messianic fulfillment in Jesus does make more logical sense; however, it is the relative avoidance of the passage by anti-missionaries (except for Troki) and the neglect of the passage in the synagogue that would open the passage up for an apologetic consideration among both the Jewish people as well as the non-Jewish audience. Controversy is contagious for discussion, especially when one considers that regardless of when the order of Daniel 9 began to be fulfilled the Messiah (anointed one) should have appeared before AD 70.
Given that Daniel 9 provides the timing of the arrival of the Messiah (pre-AD 70), the next prophetic passage is in what form should the Messiah come. The next prophetic passage of Isaiah 53 provides the answer and this is one of the most discussed in the Christian world and one of the most avoid in the Jewish world. The passage is not included in the Haftarah portion of synagogue readings and from anecdotal experiences it can be stated that most Jewish people have never studied the passage for themselves. However, there is virtually little difference between the Christian and Jewish version of the text, especially in verse 5, “But he was wounded because of our sins, Crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole, And by his bruises we were healed.” Therefore, and this is true for both the non-Jewish and Jewish audience, a simple exposure to the text opens and perhaps even “blows” the mind of those who hear/read it for the first time.
Tzedakah Ministries has developed a simple tract for Christians and churches to use to explain how the common anti-missionary options for the Suffering Servant fail and how Jesus is the literal fulfillment of the passage.Daniel 9 provides the timing of the Messiah’s arrival. Isaiah 53 depicts the nature of how the Messiah would be received, the Suffering Servant. Psalm 22 provides the details of His suffering. Therefore, these three prophecies provide a layering (a Cumulative Case) which provide the reality that the Messiah was to die/suffer for the sins of the world. And while there is controversy over the translation of verse 17, “Dogs surround me; a pack of evil ones close in on me, like lions [they maul] my hands and feet,” between the Jewish and Christian Bibles, the point of the passage and perhaps the reason why Jesus purposefully called out verse one from the cross is that an innocent man died for the sins of others and in this death lost a connection, for a while, to the Father God. This final layering of Biblical prophecies is intrinsically important based upon an anecdotal experience in which an Israeli believer related that everyone who heard Jesus shout out, “My God, my God,” knew that He was claiming Psalm 22 for Himself. Therefore, Jesus came at the right time (Daniel 9), came as the right Servant (Isaiah 53), and died in the right manner for the right reason (Psalm 22). This layering of prophecy creates a Cumulative Case of apologetic method that would be difficult for anyone, Jewish or Gentile, to counter.
Messiah ben Joseph/Messiah ben David
One of the little known secrets of Rabbinic and intertestamental Jewish literature is the story of Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. There was during the intertestamental period the idea that there were would be two Messiahs, one who would suffer and die for the people (Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12 ) and one who would rule triumphantly as sovereign ruler. Joseph would suffer and David would reign. One of the passages in which reference to these two Messiahs is found is in the Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52a-b. And while the Talmud is a difficult “encyclopedia” to process through, the concept of not only the Messiah but also Jesus himself is present in the pages and provides evidentiary proof that the concept of Messiah is important and the person of Jesus is controversial. This controversy, along with the evidentiary material provided, builds upon the cumulative case that this apologetic method is seeking to build. The Talmud also provides other interesting evidence about the connection of Jesus to the Temple, including the fact that after AD 30 the Yom Kippur goat was never again properly selected and the Menorah candles refused to stay lit in the Temple.
Tzedakah Ministries would argue, and I believe quite persuasively, that the rabbis in the Talmud came very close to understanding/recognizing the truth of Jesus the Jewish Messiah. Jesus came the first time in His role as the Messiah to suffer (i.e., as a Joseph figure). He will come the second time to rule in his role as the descendant of David on the throne of David forever and ever. Therefore, the reason why all the events happened in CE/AD 70 was that the events at Jesus’ crucifixion/resurrection satisfied God’s requirement for atonement. I know that Rabbi Tovia Singer attempts to argue against this interpretation in BT Yoma 39b but seriously does his argument really make sense? Seriously?
Rabbi Pinchas Lapide, who incidentally did not believe in the truth of Jesus’ Messiahship, did believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Did you know that to be the case? Rabbi Lapide once stated in his book, The Resurrection of Jesus:
“The fact that this resurrection had only a few witnesses is no obstacle but rather a further proof of its genuineness.”
If Rabbi Lapide could believe in Jesus’ resurrection, why can’t you? I wish that the Rabbi would have believed in the truth of Jesus’ Messiahship before He died but the rabbi acknowledged that believing in the resurrection was in fact a very Jewish concept. I would suggest you read the book for yourself. For this brings me to my last question …
ARE YOU AFRAID OF NOT ONLY THE MESSIAHSHIP OF JESUS BUT ALSO THE MIRACLE OF JESUS?
I would argue that this fear of Jesus has created a fear of miracles for many Jewish people today. Howard Schwartz notes, “…few among the followers of the modern branches of Judaism believe in the literal parting of the Red Sea, much less the existence of angels. Along with our belief in miracles, we have lost much of our spiritual faith. But in recent years many Jews have begun to search for way to restore the lost spiritual realm.” In my personal and reflective perspective, modern Judaism has lost its day-to-day impact on the life of its members not only because of their refusal to see that Jesus is the Messiah but also because of their fear of the miraculous. This fear of the miraculous, especially the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, lies around the idea that it will turn Jewish individuals towards Jesus the Jewish miracle worker and Jewish Messiah. Is this your fear? There is truly no reason for your fear of miracles or your fear of Jesus. Jesus is ready to calm your fears. Jesus is ready to answer your questions. Jesus is ready to be your Messiah.
I want to close my letter with an explanation. I want to explain to you why I do what I do. I have no choice.
Jesus saved me. He saved me as my Messiah from the hell I told Rabbi Kravitz I was headed towards. He saved me because He loved me and He gave me a love and a commission to share His message of love and forgiveness with everyone I meet, including and especially His Jewish brothers and sisters. If I choose not to share this message with you, I would deny the message of love He gave to me. I would deny the love He wants to give to you. I would deny the truth of His Messiahship to the world. I just cannot do that. Would you really want me to do it to you … to Him?
I hope by now you will recognize that I do not fit the picture that you have of Jewish evangelists and missionaries. My mom loves me! My Messiah Jesus loves me. And I love you because and since He loves us both.
Amy Downey — Director