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The God Squad: Why don’t Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah?

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: Dear Rabbi Gellman, I read your weekly column in Newsday “faithfully”. I learn so much from you. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and I have many wonderful Jewish friends. My DNA shows that I am 2 percent Ashkenazi (European) Jewish. I am proud of that, especially since I have traveled to Dachau, Prague, Amsterdam, and Budapest. I honor and empathize with the Jewish culture and history. We all pray to the same God.

My question is: Why haven’t the Jews accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah? It’s been more than 2,000 years since Christians accepted Jesus as the Messiah. If your Messiah still has not appeared, have you not missed out, all those years? If Jesus, a practicing Jew himself, performed miracles, died on the cross for our sins, and was resurrected, what else could he have done to prove that he is the same Messiah for all of us? This has been on my mind for years, but I don’t feel comfortable discussing it with any of my dear Jewish friends. They have every right to believe as they do, so I don’t probe or disrespect. I hope you will respond to my query. Warmest regards. – (From A)

A: Well, dear A, it is time to finally respond to the biggest question I have often been asked and never answered. I know the answer. It is simple and direct. Jews do not accept Jesus as the Christ (which means messiah) because Jesus did not do everything that the Messiah was supposed to do. Jesus did not gather all the Jews to Israel. Jesus did not fight the forces of evil in the world and overcome them at the head of an army led by a descendent of King David. And, finally, Jesus did not resurrect all the dead people who died before him. That is a long list and though there is a dispute about how many tasks remain to be performed, every Christian believes that the ultimate proof of Jesus’ messiahship is not yet completed. This is why Christians believe in a second coming of Jesus where he will finally complete his messianic tasks (called the Parousia in Greek).

So to sum this up, BOTH Jews and Christians believe in the messiah and both Jews and Christians are waiting for the messiah. Some of us are waiting for the messiah to come and some of us are waiting for the messiah to return.

In the meantime, while we wait, we are commanded to live lives worthy of the messiah’s arrival. We must fill our days with kindness and compassion, with justice and love. This is exactly why Father Tom and I could be best friends. We were both good waiters. We were both happy to teach people to get on with living lives of human flourishing while we waited for the eschaton — the end of time. We were happy to concentrate on the way we should live now.

We did talk about whether God was waiting for the world to become more righteous before sending the messiah or perhaps God had picked out a date for the first/second coming that had nothing to do with how we all behaved. I followed an old Jewish teaching that the messiah is here right now. He is a leper at the gates of Rome and he is waiting for some kind soul to pass by and offer to change his bandages.

 

Whatever the messianic timeline might be, it is most certainly above our pay grade. We used to joke about it. I said, “Tommy, if Jesus returns and he is just a carpenter — a REALLY GOOD carpenter but not the messiah, are you going to regret giving up the physical and spiritual pleasures of being married?” Then Tommy would say, “Well, let me ask you, Marc, if Jesus returns and he actually IS the Messiah, are you going to regret giving up pork?” We would both laugh and then I would say, “Let me just tell you, Tommy — it’s better than pork!”

My favorite messiah legend is told by both Jews and Christians. It is the legend that when the messiah arrives, he will be riding a white donkey over the hills around Safed and then down to Jerusalem.

At the end of Tommy’s life we were alone together in his room. I was crying like a baby and he was still. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Hey, pal, I am praying that God is saddling up the white donkey and waiting for you.”

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


(c) 2024 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

 

 

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