While Twittering the other day, I ran across a fascinating question from NorthPoint Church’s Online Pastor Dave Adamson (@aussiedave–a good follow): “If you could ask a Jewish Rabbi one thing, what would it be?”
I rarely answer these things but my interest was piqued. I hammered out a reply. “What was Jesus’ ‘flaw’ to show he was not the expected one?”
I’ve always wondered what the Jews didn’t–and don’t–see in Jesus. My question was not designed to start an argument; but I think it would be interesting to ask the question and listen carefully to Jewish reasoning on this subject.
Dave replied quickly, saying he had actually asked a similar question. “His answer was about the most challenging I have ever heard.”
Now I was really interested. Thankfully, Dave didn’t leave me hanging. “They judge the authority of a rabbi by the actions of his followers,” he tweeted back.
Kind of a mic-drop answer for modern-day Christianity, right?
Of course, I also thought of replies for the rabbi; some ways to respond and say “But, but, but . . . .”
One thought? The premise of the rabbi’s response is wrong. Moses’ “followers” (the Israelite people) failed all the time. Was Moses a poor leader? Why are we judging Jesus more stringently than Moses, whom the Jews do see as a giant of a leader?
Another is, the disciples–those first rejected by the Jewish leadership–were tremendous followers, men who spoke with boldness, lived out tremendous love and were willing to die for their belief in Jesus as the messiah. Who could judge their actions negatively?
Still, the rabbi’s response to Dave’s question gives me uneasy feeling, and a Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven bumper sticker won’t help.
Whether the person who is yet to follow Jesus is Jewish or something else, we can be sure he or she is watching Jesus’ followers. If the actions of the followers don’t line up with the teachings of Jesus, it’s fair to ask, “Why join them?”
Another alarming truth is, many, many Jews did choose to follow Jesus in those early days of Christianity. In the first few chapters of Acts alone we see 8,000 Jewish men and women baptized into this new faith.
Perhaps one reason was, they were impressed by the power they saw in Jesus’ followers.
And in Acts 18:8, Crispus, described as “the leader of the synagogue,” dropped everything to follow Jesus after hearing from Paul. He’s another guy who must have seen something in Paul; enough to listen and then go all in with Paul’s teaching.
While some of the Jewish faith still convert today, it’s not the same as back in the first century.
We can make excuses, like the two I listed above. And those rationalizations aren’t entirely wrong.
But instead of rationalizing and going on about my life without giving the rabbi’s words a second thought, what if I determined to live like Paul? Like Peter?
What if I focused solely on what they taught; and lived out a faith bold in its love and daring in its desire to share and show what I believe?
What if I were to take the rabbi’s words to heart and change whatever I need to change?
I don’t know if my change would cause a Jewish rabbi to follow Jesus as his messiah. But I do know this; Jesus would notice.
And if Jesus noticed? I might find more opportunities to share the power of his message.
Find me on Twitter @KirkWalden