When Jesus began his ministry in Jerusalem, the overwhelming tone in the land was unrest. His people were living in occupied territory. The Romans ruled over them. They were desperate for a Messiah to come and liberate them from this oppressive domination and re-establish the Kingdom of God [as they understood it] in Jerusalem.
In the years prior to the coming of Jesus, there were numerous wannabe Messiahs who gathered disciples, armed them and attempted to lead a rebellion against the Roman regime. Each of them failed miserably, and resulted in the brutal deaths of everyone associated with those who supported their insurrection.
So, when Jesus arrived there were plenty who sought to “make him King by force” in hopes that he might be the Messiah who would lead the ultimate and final overthrow of the Roman rule.
But, instead, Jesus shows up and says that they all need to “think differently” [literally “metanoia” in the Greek which is often mistranslated as “repent” in our English Bibles, and has nothing to do with feeling sorry for our sins].
Jesus explains what this change of mind and heart is all about when he suggests that his people stop trying to kill their enemies and resist the evil oppression of the Romans. He says they should instead love their enemies, and bless them and do good to them. Jesus says that they will usher in the Kingdom of God by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and overcoming violence with kindness, not with more violence.
It was because Jesus loved his people, and the entire Jewish nation of Israel, that he warned them against this continual desire to overthrow Rome by force. He could see what they could not see: That the fruit of this rebellion would always and only be more bloodshed and – ultimately – lead to the destruction of their entire way of life.
Jesus did not warn them about this coming destruction because he hated the Jewish people – his own flesh and blood – but because he loved them deeply.
Jesus did not want this destruction to come. Jesus was doing everything he could to warn them about it and show them a path that would lead them away from this destruction, not towards it.
So, when his own people finally got tired of this anti-rebellion message and turned against him, his response was to model this same love and forgiveness that he was hoping they might show to their Roman oppressors. He went like a lamb to the slaughter without fighting back or resisting their violence. He loved them in spite of their rejection. He forgave them even as he was being put to death.
And when he rose from the dead, he breathed “peace” to them all. He instructed his disciples to continue to travel the countryside and go to every village and town in the region to offer this alternative to armed rebellion which would only lead – he knew – to their own genocide.
Sadly, about 40 years later, the very thing that Jesus tried so desperately to help his people avoid came to pass. The Romans had had enough and they sent their armies to surround the city of Jerusalem [just as he had warned them would happen], and after a long and bloody battle, the city was burned to the ground, millions of his people were slaughtered, and the Jewish temple was totally destroyed [as he had told them it would be].
None of this was what Jesus [or the Father] wanted to happen. None of what Jesus warned them about was said out of any sense of wrath or condemnation. It wasn’t that Jesus rejected them. Not at all. But, sadly, they had turned a deaf ear to the messenger sent by their loving Heavenly Father; a messenger who did everything possible to warn them – over and over again – with bitter tears, to open their eyes and see the path to peace, [laid out for them by the Prince of Peace, whose birth was announced by angels declaring peace].
While all of this is extremely sad and unfortunate, it’s even more sad to me that some take this message of love and mercy spoken by Jesus and twist it into a message that sounds anti-Jewish. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So, when I hear people take this message of love from Jesus and use it to condemn Jewish people, it really makes me angry. Because there is absolutely nothing in the message of Jesus that is hateful or wrathful or anti-Jewish.
And there is nothing in the message of Jesus that is merely for Jewish people. His message of love in reaction to oppression is still valid to this very day. If we respond to hate with more hate, it will consume us. If we respond to violence with more violence, we will experience a violent end. That’s not the wrath of God. That’s cause and effect. It’s a simple fact. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. But those who live in love live in God [because God is love] and if we live in love then God [who is love] lives in us.
Make no mistake. Jesus was not anti-Jewish when he stood on the hillside and warned his own, dearly beloved people that the path they were on was going to lead them to a violent end. He said these things with tears in his eyes. He called out to his people with a broken heart and a burden upon his soul that hoped desperately that they would listen to his warning and turn and follow him in the path of peace and life.
Anyone who takes this warning of love and twists it into a message of hate for the Jewish people, or a rejection of the nation of Israel doesn’t understand what’s actually going on, and they certainly don’t understand the heart of Jesus who wept over his people because “they did not know the things that make for peace.”
Keith’s new book, “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” is available now on Amazon.