Why Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel
Most Christians are aware that Jewish people do not accept the gospel. Some have learned that the methods of evangelism they use with Gentiles do not work when they talk to their Jewish friends about Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered why Jewish people don’t accept the gospel? This article examines some of the reasons for their rejection.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…Many Believers Don’t Know How to Relate to Them.
Many Christians are intimidated by Jewish people. They do not have a good frame of reference concerning their Jewish friends. Or they do not know any Jewish people well enough to understand their lifestyle, beliefs, and practices. In fact, some believers are not even aware that the majority of Jewish people are lost. “After all,” many Christians say, “they are God’s chosen people, aren’t they?”
This feeling of intimidation makes Christians reluctant to witness to their Jewish friends. They assume that the sons of Jacob know far more about the Old Testament than they do. Being thus intimidated, they feel that their witness is either weak or nonexistent. In reality, the majority of Jewish people are not well-versed in the Scriptures.
Many Gentile believers have questions about Jewish people but lack the courage to ask them. Their questions usually run in the following vein: Why don’t Jewish people accept the gospel? Why don’t they believe in Jesus? Why don’t they believe that the New Testament is the Word of God? These questions require honest, detailed answers, which will result in Christians being better and more effective witnesses to God’s chosen people.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…As a Nation, They Are Spiritually Blinded.
Jewish people are usually very intelligent and perceptive. They are able to cut through the periphery and get to the bottom line. Whether they are in business or other professions, they often rise above their peers and move directly to the top of their fields. Yet, with all their brilliance and perception, they are, as a nation, blinded to the gospel.
The Testimony of Moses
The first clue about the cause of this blindness comes in one of the final messages of Moses: “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lᴏʀᴅ did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land, The great trials which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles; Yet the Lᴏʀᴅ hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” (Dt. 29:2–4).
The Testimony of Isaiah
Years later the Lord called Isaiah. In answering that call, Isaiah was given a message similar to that given to Moses: “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and be healed” (Isa. 6:9–10).
To best understand the Book of Isaiah, one must recognize one of the basic concepts of the book. Isaiah depicts three servants, each one distinct from the other: the discouraged servant—Isaiah himself, the disappointing servant—Israel, who, as a nation, let God down by turning away from Him; and the divine servant—the Messiah. Two of these servants are mentioned in chapter 49. “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (v. 3). Another servant is mentioned who will bring Israel to the Lord: “And now, saith the Lᴏʀᴅ who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him” (v. 5).
Israel, the servant who is blind, cannot be the servant who will bring Jacob to the Lord. Neither can it be Isaiah, for he is not promised such great success. The third servant—the one who will open the blind eyes—is the Messiah-Servant of Isaiah 53.
And so, the Word of God teaches that in spite of Israel’s blindness, the Messiah will one day open the eyes of the blind servant and redeem her. That will surely be a great day.
The Testimony of John
The Apostle John delivered the same message as he spoke of Jesus: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him; That the saying of Isaiah, the prophet, might be fulfilled, which he spoke, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore, they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him” (Jn. 12:37–41).
John was very clear. As a nation, Israel was blinded and could not see her Messiah. Therefore, even to this day the nation remains far from the Lord.
The Testimony of Paul
The apostle to the Gentiles put it all together in one verse: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits: that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).
Nationally, Israel will be blinded until a day yet future. At that time the remaining portion of a then-battered nation will, en masse, turn to the Lord. What a glorious day that will be! But as we await that day, it is our responsibility to take the gospel to all the Jewish people, for we do not know who will believe and who will not. “Blindness in part” means that there is a remnant who will turn to the Lord when properly approached with the gospel. Today this remnant of believing Jews is much larger than ever before.
So, then, one of the basic reasons Jewish people do not turn to the Lord is because of national blindness to the gospel. However, there are many other reasons.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…They Do Not Believe the New Testament is the Word of God.
A standard Jewish objection to the New Testament is, “What is this about the Old and the New? We have what God gave us, and we don’t need any more.” Many Jewish people think that the New Testament was written by Gentiles for Gentiles. The Jesus of the New Testament is, therefore, for Gentiles. In fact, when some portions of the Old Testament are read to them (such as Isaiah 53), they often claim it to be from the New Testament. “We have our Bible, and you have yours,” they say. “Why should we pay any heed to a Gentile Bible?” This matter must often be dealt with when witnessing to Jewish people.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…They Fear Becoming Gentiles.
Each of us comes from some national or ethnic background. We all have a heritage. My father’s family came from Germany, while my mother is of British and Swedish extraction. But, so far as I know, my heritage is all Gentile.
To the Jewish mind-set, there are Jews and there are Gentiles. Regardless of the part of the world in which they live (because of the dispersion), the Jews have, more than any other people, preserved their religion and culture. They love their culture, their ways, and their identity.
One of the first fears of a Jewish person who hears the gospel is, If I become a Christian, I will then be a Gentile. They do not want to lose their identity, even if they have never been religious. In our witnessing process, we must make it clear that a person who was born Jewish will always be Jewish in background and culture, no matter what religion he practices. Jewish people believe that a Jew remains Jewish even if he is an agnostic or an atheist. Based on the same premise, a Jewish Christian remains a Jew as long as he lives, in spite of what others may say about him.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…They Fear Becoming Outcasts.
In extreme cases, and not as often today as in previous generations, when a Jewish person trusts Christ he becomes totally ostracized from the Jewish community. Some parents even go so far as to declare their child dead, conduct a funeral, and bury an empty casket. It is not unusual for Hebrew Christians to lose their jobs, families, and social status in the community. They literally become outcasts. Families forsake them, and parents reject them. Their lot can be most difficult, and they may even experience emotional disturbances in extreme cases.
When a Jewish person is wiring to listen to the claims of the Messiah, we should rejoice and praise God for the opportunity to present them. His decision to become a believer in Jesus may cost him a great deal, probably far more than it ever costs most Gentiles.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…Of the Way They Have Been Treated by So-Called Christians.
A rabbi once said, “If what Christians have offered us over the last two thousand years is the best they have, I don’t want anything to do with it!” Pretty harsh words, those, but we would do well to pay close heed to them, for that rabbi had good reason for making such a strong statement.
So-called Christianity has been very hard on the Jews. It is not my intention to give a complete history of the battle that has been waged between Christianity and Judaism for nearly two thousand years, but I would like to examine three cases in point.
First, consider the crusades, which began in the eleventh century and lasted for approximately two hundred years. Palestine was ruled over and controlled by the Muslims. Religious zealots from Europe wanted to free the Holy Land from these “pagan” rulers, so they set out for Jerusalem, rallying more troops to their cause as they marched across Europe to battle the “enemy.” Passing through village after village on the way, they ran across pockets of Jewish people and called them “Christ killers.” They burned their homes, raped their women, and slew these sons of Abraham unmercifully. This process continued for nearly two hundred years, causing distress for multitudes of Jewish people—and all in the name of Christ.
Second, pogroms took place in Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia, around the turn of this century. During these raids, Jewish people were tortured, their homes and synagogues were burned, and they were killed merely because they were Jewish. The survivors noted that many of their persecutors and aggressors went to church every Sunday. To the Jewish mind, therefore, these persecutions were carried out in the name of Christ.
Third, remember the Holocaust of World War II. Although there are some people today who claim it never happened, it did, and it was real. Visit Yad Vashem, the memorial to Holocaust victims in Jerusalem, and view the photographs and memorabilia. Talk to the survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms from the concentration camps. You will know that it was real. Of all nationalities on earth, the Jewish people alone were singled out for extinction during those terror-filled years of Nazi Germany. To the Jewish mind, the perpetrators of this awesome Holocaust were Christians. After all, they weren’t Hindus, Buddhists, or followers of Confucius; therefore, they had to be Christians. And once again, the Jews perceived that they were persecuted in the name of Christ.
There must be an understanding in the Jewish community that there are Christians and there are Christians. Israel’s most loyal supporters are true Bible-believing Christians—those who know the Word of God and the future blessings God has promised to His chosen people. They are the ones with a burden for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. They take the scriptural promises to the Jews literally and have a love for the Lord’s brethren according to the flesh.
However, there are many so-called Christians who do not have a personal relationship with Israel’s Messiah. They have no love or even concern for God’s ancient people. A clear distinction between these two groups must be made to the Jewish people to whom you witness.
Jewish People Don’t Accept the Gospel Because…of Rabbinic Tradition.
Jews follow the Talmud, and the laws aid interpretations of men have, in some instances, become more important than what the Bible says. Often, when a Jewish person is questioned about a portion of Scripture, he will say, “Ask my rabbi; I don’t know what it means.” He is saying that the rabbi will either know what the Talmud has to say on the subject or will check it out for him.
There are many and varied reasons why Jewish people do not accept the gospel. A few—and only a few—have been examined here. Some are very valid reasons, and others are merely excuses.
We must remember, as we seek to present the Messiah to our Jewish friends and acquaintances, that there are great barriers to overcome. This, however, does not preclude us from taking the gospel to them. We must also remember that we will often have to work our way through at least some of the problems discussed above. It is for this reason that we must approach Jewish people in a slightly different manner than we would Gentiles.
We have a responsibility to take the gospel to all people, including the Jews. We never know if that son or daughter of Abraham is part of the remnant who will believe in the Messiah. Praise God when the opportunity presents itself, and make the most of it for His glory.