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Chosen People’s Ministries, Jews for Jesus, and ARIEL all seek to proclaim to Jews that Yeshua Ben David is the Messiah. It’s estimated that more than 8000 Jews a year cross over to accept Jesus as their Messiah and Rabi Tovia Singer founded Outreach Judaism to directly counter what he calls “the manipulative rhetoric and persuasive techniques of the Hebrew Christian missionary movement.”
Remember the questions I asked you yesterday to get us to think openly about different points of view and how they dominate the conclusions we come to?
In the first century the debate over Jesus’ claims generated heated debates in synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. Before the Jewish revolt in AD 67 Judaism was a legal religion and the Jews proclaiming that Jesus, a Jew, was the Messiah were a small growing group under the umbrella of Judaism. Luke shows us how some of the Jewish leaders used their political and civic influence to silence Jews like Paul and Silas, using the common techniques of crowd manipulation, flaming disturbances, and then getting authorities to throw out outsiders to stop the spread of the Gospel.
These Jews rejected an open discussion over whether or not their Scriptures pointed to a Messiah who would suffer and die and whether Jesus fulfilled these prophesies. But Luke also introduces us to other Jews who were willing to lay aside the politics, culture, and petty jealousies and have an open, honest debate about the identity of Jesus. This is the kind of noble Jews Paul and Silas met in the synagogue of Berea.
“Now the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night. When they arrived in Berea, they went into the Jewish synagogue. And this audience was more honorable than the Thessalonians. They received the Word with a great deal of earnestness and daily investigated their Sacred Writings to see if the things Paul and Silas were teaching might be so. Therefore, many of the Jews believed, as well as prominent Greek women and not a few influential men.
But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that Paul was also proclaiming the Word of God at Berea, they came there too, stirring up and inciting the crowds. Immediately, the brothers sent Paul off on his way to the sea while Silas and Timothy remained there in Berea. The brothers who escorted Pau brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions from Paul that Silas and Timothy should join him as soon as possible, they left to return home to Berea.” Acts 17:10-15
When the Gentile Christian numbers grew and they gained the political and cultural power in the fourth century, they used this power against Jews to force conversions by threats and executions. Mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church have reacted to this history of persecuting Jews by declaring that they will not seek to tell Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the World. This means that they believe it is ethical and right to fail to explain to Jews who the most influential Jew in all of history is and what He did for us all.
A better solution is for us all to look to the open-minded nobility of the Bereans and search to see whether major episodes in the Jewish story like the attempted slaying of Isaac, Moses lifting up the serpent on the pole in the wilderness, and the need for a king greater than both David and Solomon point us forward in the Story that climaxes at the cross where a Jew born in Bethlehem died, and then the resolution. He rose again from the dead.
LORD, thanks that you expose our hearts and reveal the false points of view that can dominate our thinking. Cause both Jews and Gentiles to have the openness and integrity of the Bereans who daily analyzed and sought to understand the Jewish Scriptures to see whether Jesus’ claims were true. May there be more Bereans.
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