The King of the Jews
If I mention names like Simon of Peraea, Theudas, Menahem ben Judah, or Bar Kochba, only Jewish history scholars know who they are. All are first and second century Jews who claimed to be the Messiah and then were forgotten. In the first half of the first century, however, there is a Jew who claimed to be the Messiah, and his name has become the most known name in history.
The great 12th century Jewish Rabbi Maimonides argued that this Jew could not be the Messiah because he caused the nations to destroy Israel by the sword, scattered their remnant, humiliated them, exchanged the Torah, and made the majority of the world fall into error because they serve a divinity besides God. In his Epistle to Yemen, Maimonides rejects Jesus the Nazarene and states, “May his bones be ground to dust.” He curses Jesus because in his view, Jesus has turned millions away from the valid monotheistic belief in the true God.
So more than a thousand years after Jesus the debate continues. Maimonides sides with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who had Jesus killed as a heretic and blasphemer, and Dr. Luke presents Jesus as the true King of the Jews who alone will return in the future to set up the Messianic Kingdom that Maimonides could eloquently describe. Ironically, the Gentile Pilate got it right in the inscription he placed over Jesus’ head on the cross.
“Now the people stood there watching. They and the rulers ridiculed, ‘You saved others. Save yourself if you’re God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ So they mocked him. And the soldiers approached with sour wine, offering it to him, and saying, ‘If you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Now there was an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’” - Luke 23:35-38
When I’m challenged, it often makes me angry. Praise God, Jesus didn’t respond to the taunts of the Jewish leaders, the crowd, and the soldiers. If He had saved Himself, none of us could be saved, and the Messianic hope of the Jews would have no future for their Scripture didn’t just predict the mighty ruler that Maimonides presents, but also the suffering servant who died as a sacrifice for sin.
Whether or not Jesus is the King of the Jews continues to divide because what we believe about Jesus of Nazareth reveals what’s actually going on in our heart.
LORD, when the Church has become politicized and economically powerful, it has persecuted and murdered the Jewish people. Faced with the Crusades with its forced conversions and murder of Jews, I can understand Maimonides animosity toward Jesus. Help me to be used to teach the truth about Jesus that the Gospel of Luke so powerfully presents. Open Jewish hearts to Jesus as their true Hope and King.
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