If the Root is Killed, What Happens To the Branches?
Vol: 152 Issue: 22 Thursday, May 22, 2014
I once had a most interesting discussion about Israel and the role she occupies in the Plan of God. At least, that is where the discussion began. We hadn’t gone far before the conversation shifted from discussing Israel as a nation to a discussion about ‘the Jews’.
It seemed quite important to my conversation partner that he explain that he wasn’t an anti-Semite. I lost count of how many times he said so after the fourteenth time in a single conversation.
Things like, “I’ve got nothing against the Jews, but . . .” and “I love the Jewish people, but. . .” and of course, “Some of my best friends are Jews, but . . .”
My ‘friend’ also told me at least ten times that he was a devout Catholic who ‘had the Sacred Heart of Jesus’, each time pulling a crucifix from around his neck to kiss the image of the broken Body of Jesus depicted as still hanging dead on a Cross.
Although my friend demonstrated virtually no knowledge of the Scriptures themselves, he was extremely well-versed in the reasons why the Jews were responsible for the Crucifixion, telling me at least four times that Pilate had absolved himself (and all Gentiles) of His murder by ‘washing his hands’ of the crime.
It seemed very important to him that I understood that Pilate was a Roman, most probably due to the fact that my friend was of Italian descent and therefore Pilate’s self-absolution was equally extended to Italians in particular.
His arguments were classic; the first was, of course, that the Jews were ‘Christ-killers’ (although he had nothing personal against the Jews, he assured me.)
Since the Jews rejected their Messiah, they were cursed by God, and that is why Israel has no right to exist. God has abandoned the Jews for their crime, and now the blessings of Israel are the property of the Church.
Each of us at that table attempted to disabuse him of this notion to no avail, but the points raised are worthy of repeating here.
First, had the Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah, He would not have gone to the Cross. As he (accurately) noted it wasn’t the Romans who sought His execution, it was the Jews. Indeed, had the Jews accepted the Messiah at His First Advent, God’s Plan for the redemption of all mankind would have been thwarted.
It is worthy of noting that Satan’s penchant for overplaying his hand is most perfectly demonstrated at the Cross.
Had he not withstood Jesus, had he not actively worked to blind the Jews to His identity, had he not indwelt Judas to betray Him, had he not inspired the Sanhedrin to condemn Him, had he not whipped the crowds into a frenzy against Him, God’s promise of a Redeemer would not have been kept.
As the Apostle Paul noted,
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (1st Corinthians 2:7-8)
My interlocutor DID know one Bible verse well enough to quote – Matthew 27:25:
“His blood be on us, and on our children.”
However, he assured us all, “he had nothing against Jews personally.” They pronounced their own curse, he argued. That self-pronounced curse was binding on the Jews, he argued.
When Jesus looked over the crowd gathered to watch His death, Luke says He granted them all absolution:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
My friend never missed a beat, claiming that absolution was given to the Romans, not the Jews. After all, he argued, Pilate ‘washed his hands’ of the murder of Jesus, whereas the Jews pronounced their own curse upon themselves.
This view only makes sense from the perspective that man is capable of his own absolution or condemnation, but he was unmovable.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
We tried to explain what Paul meant when he said ‘the wages of sin is death’ and that it was the practice of the Jews, as commanded by God, to sacrifice an innocent lamb as payment for the sins of the family that offered it.
“That’s disgusting!” he snorted. “How could anybody do such a thing? What kind of God would demand such a thing!”
“I would NEVER do that!” he exclaimed between bites of his bratwurst. I pointed out that he had no apparent philosophical disagreement with sacrificing an innocent animal to provide life for his body by eating it.
“That’s different,” he said, as he helped himself to another brat. The Jews, (which he had nothing against, personally, he reassured us all) practiced a barbaric custom of animal sacrifice that Jesus put an end to on the Cross.
(Great. Jesus died so animals wouldn’t be sacrificed for sins. Much better that they should be sacrificed to make bratwurst. That’s different.)
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18)
If the Jews really loved God, he argued, then why aren’t there any Israeli Christians? By this time, I had pretty much lost my normally sweet gentle spirit and was resisting the temptation to stuff his bratwurst up his, umm, nose, so I left the table to let my friend Messianic Rabbi Ric Worshill field this question.
Ric explained that Jews don’t reject Jesus because they hate God – they reject Him because they love God and fear that in order to become a Christian requires abandoning God.
As an illustration, suppose that as a Christian, suppose, just for a second, that Islam made some sense to you. Maybe, you suppose, those Muslims have something there. Maybe the Koran really is the final testament of God. Maybe . . . but maybe not.
And all your Christian friends, your pastor, all your Christian books, and the Koran itself tell you that by accepting Islam, you must first reject Jesus. (Which is true enough).
To a Jew, accepting Christ means rejecting the faith of their fathers, from Abraham forward, every sage, every teacher, every rabbi, their own parents, brothers, sisters and friends. All that they’ve ever known or been taught.
To a Jew contemplating Jesus, it means rejecting the Abrahamic covenant, abandoning their place among God’s Chosen People, and worst of all, accepting that when the Messiah DID come, they killed him.
Plus, Jewish history is filled with examples of Jews being themselves murdered as ‘Christ-killers’ under the shadow of a Cross. To a Jew, the Cross is only slightly less repugnant than a swastika. The swastika itself is simply a bent cross.
Moreover, the Abrahamic covenant promises the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. After the conclusion of the Church Age, God’s plan for Israel’s national redemption is accomplished during the Tribulation Period, explains the Apostle Paul:
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. . . I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. . . And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but THE ROOT THEE. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.” (Romans 11:7,11, 15-19)
“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 fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)
Therefore, concludes the Apostle Paul, himself a Jew and formerly a Jewish lawyer (Pharisee),
“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father’s sakes. For the GIFTS AND CALLING OF GOD ARE WITHOUT REPENTANCE.” (Romans 11:28-29)
“For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:30-32)
Sadly, after some three hours of discussion, my interlocutor was unmoved. At the last, he turned his attention to flying saucers and I turned my attention to getting another soda.
I prayed that the seeds we planted might one day bear fruit. Nonetheless, the discussion was not wasted. At some point, I feel confident that some of you may find yourselves in a similar discussion.
1st Peter 3:15 reminds us of our obligation to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
But Ephesians tells us that the purpose of evangelism is not limited to leading the lost to Christ.
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. . .”
Evangelism means to preach Christ and Him crucified, but it is more than just that. It is also given the Church,
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
The Jews may be the enemies of the Gospel now, but that is part of God’s plan to accomplish our own redemption. As such we who are saved owe the Jews an incalculable debt.
It is our obligation to understand WHY we stand with Israel. And to be able to explain why when called upon to do so.
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 2:5)