Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Why don’t most Jewish people see Jesus?

A question we often hear is, Why is it difficult for most Jewish people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah?  Have you ever wondered that?  Many Christians assume Jesus’s identity should be obvious to the Jewish people.  There is compelling evidence, they insist.  Jesus said the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) testify of Him (John 5:39). There’s the witness within the land of Israel where archeology continues to confirm the people, places, and events of the Bible.  Miracles and fulfilled prophecies live within the Jewish national story.  

Jesus should be obvious, right?  Yet, He’s not.

Seeing Jesus in a Passover Seder

“This is so convincing,” she said thoughtfully, leaning back into her chair.  Ester had just experienced her first Messianic Passover Seder, in which Jesus’s life and ministry were unveiled within the retelling of the Exodus.  She had never heard this before, had never seen Jesus in this way.  What would she do with this? 

Ester had been a child during World War 2. To keep their Jewish family alive, her parents fled Germany, escaping to Belgium where they concealed Ester and her brother in a Catholic orphanage during the brutal war and Holocaust.  Now a widow and grandmother in her 80s, Ester was compelled to reconcile the question in her heart that had been long unresolved – Who is God?  

Over the decades of her life, she remained connected to her Jewish identity, but never landed on what faith meant to her.  She had explored various spiritual avenues.  Now confronted with the idea that Jesus might be the Jewish Messiah fulfilling the Hebrew Scriptures – she was unsettled.  She polled her family who had a wide range of beliefs, from orthodox Judaism to New Age to Catholic leanings.  She was conflicted.  One minute she could see the possibility that Jesus might be the answer, but then just as fast, the pendulum swung the other direction and she’d wonder aloud, “But maybe Buddhism is the answer.” 

Why is it difficult for the Jewish people to recognize and accept Jesus? 

The answer may surprise you.  Let’s begin with more familiar answers. 

(Satan blinds our understanding)

2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us “Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Messiah . . .”

Satan hates everyone!  He’s blinding the eyes of people in every family and nation, but through history, Satan has demonstrated a particular hatred toward the Jewish people because of their unique calling by God to carry the revelation of Him to the world.  Satan would love to keep them from seeing Jesus first for themselves. Blinding their eyes of understanding is the first obstacle. 

Christian Antisemitism

Tragically, Satan formed another weapon against Israel through the Church. The first disciples and Church apostles were Jewish and welcomed Gentile believers into the family of God, not perfectly or seamlessly, but they did take the gospel to the Gentiles. Thank God they did!  Satan divided the family of God through pride and prejudice.  By the early second century the Church became more Gentile in number and culture.  The headquarters of the Church moved from Jerusalem to Rome and severed ties with its Jewish leaders and the Jewish setting from which the gospel was birthed.  Satan strategically used the Church, in the name of Jesus, to persecute the Jews for centuries. Christian antisemitism has marred Jesus’s face from recognition.  

It’s been said that the very pages of history the Church conveniently has torn out, are the pages the Jews have memorized.  Much of the Church today might insist it wasn’t them that held the spear or screamed the words “Christ killers!” but please understand to the Jewish heart and mind it is.  A tremendous, though heartbreaking, resource on this topic is Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Our Hands are Stained with Blood. 

Rabbinical Judaism

With the Roman destruction of Jerusalem including the Temple with its altar in 70 AD, Jewish religious leaders gathered at Yavneh, near Tel Aviv today, to settle their greatest dilemma of what could be done for the atonement of sins now that sacrifices were no longer possible.  Of course, the Jewish believers in Yeshua knew no further sacrifice was necessary after His once-for-all offering at Calvary, but the religious leaders who had rejected Yeshua were forced to come up with a Plan B for forgiving sins..  

A leading Pharisee, Yochanan ben Zakkai offered a “solution” by interpreting the Scripture “I desire charity and not sacrifice” to mean I desire good works instead of sacrifice.  Good works became the replacement for the sacrificial system.  By these, the Pharisees said, sins could be atoned for:  charity, prayers, and repentance.  This was the birth of Rabbinical Judaism today.  Over time, there formed a whole set of regulations and rules on how to walk that out.  

Everything the Old Testament pointed to – Jesus’s substitutionary sacrifice of His life, His blood shed on the cross, as the only means through which any one of us can be saved, was rejected and this works-based effort to gain right-standing with God was implemented, rewriting Judaism. 

Couple the idea of good works being enough for forgiveness of sin with the early Church’s horrifying treatment of the Jews, and we might understand the Jewish resistance to consider Jesus at all.  

 

“Jews don’t do Jesus”

In many Jewish homes, it’s inherently understood that you can be spiritual if you’d like – explore the options, the family will cheer you on – just don’t do Jesus.  Jews don’t do Jesus.  

These significant roadblocks to Jesus are the handiwork of Satan.  

When anyone comes to faith in Jesus, we understand they’ve had to be brought through Satan’s blockade, but when a Jewish person comes to faith, we must realize they’ve been hindered by Satan – and by God.  Here is the most misunderstood influence on why it has been historically difficult for the Jewish people to see Jesus. 

God has been hiding His face from Israel and has caused a partial and temporary hardening of the Jewish heart to the gospel. 

Some reading that will question if that statement is biblical. But it is.  It’s a difficult truth, and we need to know what the Bible says about it.  How has God hidden His face, and why?

God’s Hidden Face

After the debacle of Israel’s idolatrous worship of the golden calf at Sinai, God instructed Moses to lead the people out from there and into Canaan (Exodus 33).  God wouldn’t dwell in Israel’s midst because of their sin, but His presence, literally, “His faces” meaning the fullness of His character, would go before them and give them rest.  

God sent a very specific “angel” before Israel.  Isaiah identified this unique and extraordinary angel as the angel of God’s presence, or the angel of God’s faces, and this angel saved them in their troubles (Isaiah 63:9).  This unique presence was the preincarnate Jesus, who is the exact representation of the Father’s character, His faces.  

When the time came to enter the promised land, the Lord revealed to Moses Israel’s future (Deut. 31:16-18).  In Canaan, Israel would fall again into idolatry and forsake the Lord, and because of this, God would hide His face from Israel, and the nation would be consumed with evils and troubles.  

 

God’s Hiddenness in Isaiah

Isaiah wrote about the effects of this hiddenness when he described Israel as a people who have ears but can’t hear, eyes but can’t see, they can’t understand the voice of the Lord.  Jesus connected Isaiah’s description to the people in His day.  The condition was the same because God’s hidden face was still in effect.  Jesus taught in parables because the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven could be revealed to some, but to others – those unable to understand or perceive, whose hearts were dull – the truths of the kingdom were not revealed but concealed.  

Think about that:  Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, to seek and to save the lost, and to most His identity was hidden.  The One who perfectly reflects the face of the Father, was partially hidden.  Only a remnant understood who Jesus was.  The apostle Paul called this a mystery that we shouldn’t be uninformed about.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:14 that the Jewish minds were hardened at the reading of the scriptures.  The truth of the Messiah is not obvious to most Jewish people even at the reading of their own scriptures.  Again, there’s mystery in it.  Paul says in verse 15 that “whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”  

Removing the Veil

 

Thank God the veil can be taken away, in Jesus.  

In Romans 11:1 Paul voiced the question:  God has not rejected His people, has He?  Is God done with the Jewish people?  The answer was resolute: May it never be!  

Let’s be sure to understand God’s hidden face, the divine hardening of the Jewish heart, is partial and temporary and in no way complete and permanent.  In Romans 11:25-27, Paul wrote the “partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.  This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

One day in the future, the veil will be lifted, Jesus’s identity will be revealed to the Jewish people, and they will accept Him (Ezekiel 39:29, Zechariah 12:10).

When we understand the divine mystery, there can be a fresh wellspring of compassion from our hearts to the Jewish people.  Jesus’s identity isn’t obvious.  It’s harder at first for them to see the spiritual truths and biblical connections that may seem clear to others.   

That doesn’t mean we give up trying to present the Gospel, by no means!  

Joseph’s Unveiled Face

Genesis records the story of Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. Through a series of miraculous events and God’s profound faithfulness, after decades of struggle, Joseph was thrust into power – second only to Pharaoh.  In the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt to purchase food.  He recognized them immediately, but they could not discern his identity – his face was hidden to them because of the Egyptian context.  Twice the brothers were presented before Joseph, at his instruction.  In the first instance, Joseph took Simeon, whose name means “hearing” and put him into prison until the brothers would return with Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin.  

The brothers, who were the sons of Israel, couldn’t “see” Joseph, a foreshadow of Jesus, and “hearing” was locked up.  Think of Isaiah’s words – My people cannot see or hear the truth.

Joseph’s servants brought the brothers before him a second time, it was then he unveiled his true identity – the brothers were shocked, everyone wept – especially Joseph.

One day, this story will have its prophetic fulfillment when Jesus returns and His brethren will have the veil removed from the eyes of their hearts.  Until that day, the veil can be lifted, by faith, one individual at a time. 

Ester’s Story

Several years after that significant Passover Seder, Ester was terminally ill.  Time was short for my friend, and I desperately wanted her to know Jesus as her savior.  We’d had so many conversations about Him.  I shared the Joseph story over lunch.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, she immediately understood it.  She smiled at me and said, “You’re Joseph’s servant bringing me before him.”  That afternoon, a profound presence of Jesus, the face of God, came into the apartment in San Francisco, and Ester saw His unveiled face – the Messiah was her Messiah.  The veil was lifted.  

Lifting the Veil

The veil that prevents the Jewish people from being able to easily see the beauty and salvation found in Jesus can be lifted!

How can believers around the world help to lift this veil? In Israel, the best way to do this is through partnering with local believers who “with unveiled faces, [are] beholding the glory of the Lord, [and] being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” 2 Corinthians 3:18. The veil has been lifted for many local believers and now they are helping reveal the love of Jesus to those who do not yet know Him. They are working through local congregations and organizations that serve single mothers, families, soldiers, children, youth, and more.

Paul says “since we have such a hope, we are very bold…” 2 Corinthians 3:12. Israel’s believing Body is stepping out in boldness and shining brightly in the midst of darkness. God is giving new ways to influence and transform this society. We are filled with boldness and are unashamed of being known as followers of Yeshua — refusing to back down in fear despite what family or our friends may think.

You can partner with local believers to help lift the veil for people in Israel. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17. 

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With Unveiled Faces: Veils in the Bible and Their MeaningPurim and the Four Keys to VictoryNo Man Can See My Face and Live: Seeing God’s FaceWho is a Jew? Jewish People in the Bible and TodayWhat does the Bible say about Overcoming?

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