I was raised to believe that Jews can’t believe in Jesus and remain Jews. The vast majority of Jewish people would call this a “no-brainer!” But how did this type of thinking come about?
The historical facts of the case would actually lead to the opposite conclusion. Jesus Himself was Jewish! Also, His disciples and nearly all the writers of the New Testament were Jewish. One of the very first controversies discussed by Yeshua’s followers was whether non-Jews could believe in Jesus the Messiah and be viewed as equal citizens in the kingdom of God! The answer, of course, was a heartfelt and resounding “Yes!”
As these early Jewish Jesus-followers shared the message of His death and resurrection, Gentiles began to embrace the message in far greater numbers than Jewish people. Within two centuries, the communities of Yeshua’s followers lost their Jewish character, as Gentiles became the dominant force within the community. Increased polarization on both sides fueled the belief that Jews cannot believe in Jesus and that Jewish people who did believe must abandon Jewish customs. These positions became matters of Jewish and Christian law (in the Talmud, Roman Law, and Canon Law), leading to today’s status quo.
Nevertheless, some Jewish people did believe and continue to believe in Yeshua while remaining Jewish. They celebrate the Jewish holidays, identify with the Jewish past, present, and future, and keep many of the Jewish traditions that remain consistent with both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament message. Whether we speak of rabbis like Rabbi Cohn, or politicians like British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, or Messianic Jews in Israel or North America, we find that it is indeed possible for Jewish people to believe in Jesus. There are also hundreds of Messianic Jewish congregations around the globe, and they are growing in number and vitality, without abandoning their Jewish identity.
From the New Testament until today, Jewish people have believed in Jesus while maintaining their Jewish heritage. They believe in Him despite the pressure of a growing secular culture, where neither being Jewish nor following Jesus is very popular. When asked why they believe in the Jewish Messiah, most of today’s Jewish followers of Yeshua would simply say it is because He fulfills the Messianic prophecies found in the Hebrew Scriptures. And even more so, these Messianic Jews have experienced God in ways they never had before they embraced Yeshua as their Messiah. It is hard to argue with another person’s experience!
By Bruce Kleinberg, A Jewish Believer from Dallas, Texas