Many people have not known that Jesus was a Jew. Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, who lived nearly 2,000 years ago, is clearly the most famous person who has ever lived. For the past more than 1,600 years, Christianity–which purports to be the religion of Jesus or about Jesus–has been the largest religion in the world. Then, how can there be people in this world who don’t know where this guy Jesus came from, that is, where he was born and where he lived?
Jesus was a Jew who was born in the land of Israel. He grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, sixty miles north of Jerusalem. He was a common laborer, a carpenter, all of his adult life until he died at the rather young age of perhaps about 33 years of age–in Jerusalem. He never hardly even left the land of Israel. Then, how can there be people who don’t even know Jesus was a Jew?
To me, one of the biggest paradoxes of the history of this world, if not the biggest, is that Jesus of Nazareth, the most famous human being who has ever lived, who caused the formation of Christianity, the largest religion in the world for more than the past sixteen centuries, was rejected by his own people–the Jews. That is absolutely AMAZING to me. I believe it is one of the strongest evidences that Jesus was the person his devotees like me say he was–he was the Messiah of Israel promised by God in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament). That Bible had predicted this would happen.
Isaiah the prophet devoted almost one fourth of his large book (laying aside the question about multiple authors) to a person he predicted would come whom he called “servant” of Yahweh, who is the God of Israel. Isaiah quotes Yahweh saying, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (Isaiah 42.1 NRSV). Isaiah later quotes Yahweh again saying, “See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high” (Isaiah 52.13). What does this mean?
According to the Christian Bible (Old Testament and New Testament), Jesus is that servant (e.g., Matthew 12.18; Acts 3.13; 4.27, 30). Him being “lifted up,” as Isaiah says, has multiple meanings. First, it refers to Jesus being lifted up on a cross (John 3.14; 12.32, 34). Second, it refers to Jesus being lifted up from the grave, thus his resurrection from the dead. Third, it refers to Jesus being “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight . . . into heaven” (Acts 1.9, 11). Christians call this “the heavenly ascension” of Jesus. The New Testament repeatedly says that Jesus then entered heaven and sat down at the right hand of God on God’s throne (e.g., Hebrews 1.3; 10.12; 12.2; Revelation 3.21). That exaltation, as Isaiah calls it, fulfilled the first part of Ps 110.1 in which Yahweh says to this servant, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Yet Isaiah also predicted about Yahweh’s servant, “He was despised and rejected by others; . . . he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, . . . and the LORD [Yahweh] has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . By a perversion of justice he was taken away. . . . he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, . . . Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain” (Isaiah 53.3-6, 8-10). So, this was God’s plan of salvation, for Jesus to die for the sins of others, and not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. Yet Isaiah adds, God “shall prolong his days,” referring to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
It is amazing that the Jews would so reject Yahweh’s servant like this. The Gospel of John says of Jesus, “He came to what was his own,” referring to his own people, the Jews, “and his own people did not accept him” (John 1.11). Indeed, the Jewish Talmud says of Jesus, “He practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” (Sanhedrin 43).
Yet Jesus is also quoted in the Gospel of John as saying of his impending crucifixion, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12.32). For so many centuries since then to this very day, people wear crosses, mostly as a reference to Jesus the Jew dying on a cross. People sympathize with this. Yet it is not Jews but Gentiles who do this cross-wearing, accept for the very few Jews who have believed Jesus is the Messiah of Israel.
People are realizing more and more that Jesus, the most famous man who ever lived, was a Jew who was rejected by his own people. Think about that! Ponder it. It is a strong evidence of the Truth that comes from the God of Israel.