"I don't need Jesus because I'm Jewish"

Jewish friends sometimes say to me, “If you believe in Jesus, fine! He’s the Messiah for you but not for me because I’m Jewish. We Jewish people are already with God, so we don’t need Jesus”. These friends might not be aware of the “two-covenant” theology of various Jewish and Christian writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, but this is what underlies their thinking. The approach owes much to the writings of the German-Jewish thinker Franz Rosenweig (1886-1929) who said:
What Christ and his Church mean within the world—on this point we are agreed. No one comes to the Father except through him ... but the situation is different when one need no longer come to the Father because he is already with him. That is the case with the nation of Israel (cited in H J Schoeps, The Jewish-Christian Argument, New York, 1963).

There are various things to be said in response to the claim that Jewish people don’t need Jesus.

I point out that the Hebrew prophets make it clear that the Jewish people were never automatically saved simply by being Jewish. To the contrary, the prophets call their Jewish brethren again and again to repent and turn back to God, with warnings of judgment if they should fail to do so.

I highlight that the Torah of Moses also makes it clear that it is not enough simply to be Jewish. Whilst God gave many special promises to the Jewish people, there was no promise of automatic salvation for each individual member of the covenant nation. To the contrary, Jewish people, like all of us, have broken God’s commandments and so come under the curse of a broken law: “Cursed is he who does not confirm all the words of this law by doing them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). This being the case, the Torah makes it clear that there is no way of approach to God except through the God-appointed atonement for sin: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given the blood upon the altar to make atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). However, the Temple and altar of atonement have gone and the only way of salvation is in the atoning death of Jesus: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Finally, I emphasise that if Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, he is clearly the Jewish Messiah, and God therefore wants all Jewish people to believe in him. I then draw attention to some of the key prophecies of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, such as Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Micah 5:2 and Zechariah 9:9.

Jesus made the point very clearly. For when he stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” He was undoubtedly declaring the only way to the Father for those Jewish people to whom he addressed his words.
This article first appeared in the September 2005 edition of the Herald

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