How do you like my family?
I remember when our son Joe brought Carmen to meet Marion and me. Although they had only been dating for a few weeks, Joe and Carmen had begun to contemplate the possibility of a future together. Wisely, he decided that it would be a good idea to introduce her to his parents. Marion and I were eager to meet Carmen, and we found her to be a delightful person. A few months later, when Joe and Carmen married, it was my privilege to welcome her into our family.
This is more than just an empty formality. It’s been said that when you marry someone, for better or for worse, you marry that person’s family as well. In God’s design such relationships are intended to be a blessing to all concerned. Because of the broken condition of fallen humanity, it doesn’t always work out that way, but I think we can all recognize that it is a very good thing when the marriage partners are genuinely able to honour, appreciate and embrace the family heritage of the person that they are marrying.
So far, so good.
Now, let’s apply this nice little life lesson to our relationship with Jesus.
Over the past two or three decades, millions of Christians worldwide have come into a fresh appreciation of what is sometimes called the Bridal Paradigm of the Kingdom. I’m referring to the Biblical depiction of Jesus as our coming Bridegroom King, who loves his Bride with a passionate love. To be a Christian is to be betrothed to Jesus, looking forward to the wedding feast that will commence when He returns to reign.
At our church, we frequently sing passionate love songs to Jesus. We tell Him that He is our one desire. We tell Him that we love Him with all our hearts, that we want to follow Him wherever He goes, and that we are eager for the day when His reign is fully acknowledged on the earth.
I wonder how many of us stop to consider that we are singing these love songs to a Jewish man?
We are betrothed (engaged) to a man whom the Bible calls the King of Israel. He has several other Jewish titles as well – Lamb of God, High Priest, Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Lion of the Tribe of Judah. All of these titles have huge prophetic significance in the writings of the Hebrew prophets. The Jesus to whom we sing our love songs – the Jesus who is coming to reign – was, and is, a Jewish king.
So what about his family? If Jesus were to ask us Gentile Christians “How do you like my Jewish family”, what would we say? Are we embarrassed about Jesus’ bloodline, his lineage, his heritage? Have we even thought about it?
Here are just a few of the lies that the Gentile church – or large segments of it – have believed about the Jewish people over the years. Many of these lies are based on a twisted understanding of snippets of Scripture taken out of context – always a dangerous way to read the Bible. So, where applicable, I will first acknowledge the seed of truth that gave rise to the lie, and then put it in context.
The Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and had him crucified. Therefore, they are worthy of our contempt.
The gospel writers make it very clear that the chief priests and leaders of Israel rejected Jesus and sought to have him crucified. But at the same time, many of the common people accepted him wholeheartedly. The initial 12 apostles were all Jews. The 120 who were praying in the Upper Room were all Jews. The 3000 who accepted the gospel on the day of Pentecost were all Jews. Many of these people sacrificed their lives so that the good news of Messiah could go to all the nations. They were fulfilling the promise to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed.
As for Jews being worthy of our contempt, the Jewish apostle Paul warned Gentile Christians not to be arrogant over those Israelites that had rejected Messiah. Instead, he instructed us to be humbly grateful that we are supported by a Jewish root.
God has permanently rejected Israel because of their rejection of Jesus.
This one is easy. God has not rejected his people, whom He foreknew. For more details, read the rest of Romans 11.
God has chosen the Gentiles in preference to the Jews.
I could go on to talk about the respective roles of Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, but that’s a topic for another day. What I really wanted to highlight in this post is the heartbeat of Jesus towards his own people. When Jesus warned Jerusalem of the trouble that lay ahead because of her leaders’ rejection of Him, he spoke more in sorrow than in anger. He also promised to return in her hour of greatest need, when her leaders finally cry out to him. That day is still to come, but I know His heart towards His people has not changed.
I want to appeal in the strongest possible terms to my fellow Gentile believers. If we say we love Jesus, we are saying we love a Jewish king. When you give your life to loving someone, you learn to love the things that they love. Yes, Jesus loves the people of every nation. Yes, He gave His life for us Gentiles, and wants to see us come into our destiny. But considering our own history of repeated failures, His mercy towards the Gentile church is quite amazing, and our arrogant superiority towards Israel for her failures is quite unwarranted. By that amazing mercy, we Gentiles have been grafted into the vine, included in the plan of salvation. But it was a Jewish Lamb who was slain to make the way for us to come to God without fear, and that Jewish Lamb is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who still loves His own people Israel, and longs for her to come into her inheritance. If we say we love that Jewish Lamb/Lion, then we had better learn to love the people that gave Him birth, the people He loves, the people into whom we have been grafted, the people that are still on His heart.