Whenever I go to Israel, I’m always fascinated to see posters of a man many Jews believe to be the messiah.
You see them in the markets. You see them plastered on street signs. You even encounter his followers attempting to persuade other Jews of the validity of their claims.
The name of this Hasidic rabbi, now deceased, is Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He was a leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and was, without doubt, one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.
He led a storied life, and I enjoyed reading his biography, “Rebbe” by Joseph Telushkin.
Born in the Russian Empire, now Ukraine, in 1902, he was a descendant of the third Chabod rebbe, Tzemach Tzedek, and married the middle daughter of the sixth rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, placing him line to become the seventh leader of the Chabod movement. He moved to Poland, later Germany and then France, during World War II, and fled to New York in 1941 three days before Paris fell to the Nazis.
He spent the remainder of his life in Brooklyn, succeeding his father-in-law as the leader of the Chabod movement after his death in 1950.
The beloved rabbi died in 1994.
Many of his followers still cling to the idea that he was the messiah. Some await his resurrection or believe it happened.
My point? I’ve never heard any Jewish leaders say these faithful Chabod adherents are no longer Jews because of their belief that Rabbi Schneerson was the messiah.
On the other hand, about 2,000 years ago, a rabbi named Yeshua was born. He met all of the qualifications of the Messiah, among them:
- Born in Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah foretold;
- He was from the lineage of King David as the prophet Isaiah predicted;
- He was of the tribe of Judah as was foretold in Genesis 49:10;
- He presented Himself by riding on an ass (Zechariah 9:9);
- He was tortured to death (Psalm 22:1-31);
- He was rejected, silent at his arrest and trial, would be killed and buried in a rich man’s tomb, and resurrected (Isaiah 52:13-53:12);
- He would be a light to the gentiles (nations), as Isaiah wrote;
- He called Himself the “Son of Man,” as would be expected of the Messiah, according to the prophet Daniel;
- He came before the fall of the second Temple, as Daniel predicted;
- More than a billion people around the world today – Jewish and gentile – just observed His Resurrection.
There are literally hundreds of messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. These are but a handful. His followers believe the rest will be fulfilled when He returns, as He promised to do.
Yet, this Messiah figure – probably the most famous person who ever lived – is not only rejected by most Jews today, He is sometimes reviled by Jewish authorities who contend you cannot remain a Jew if you accept Jesus-Yeshua as Messiah.
By the way, Jesus predicted that would be the case, saying that many false prophets would arise, deceiving many.
Indeed they did, beginning shortly after His death.
Two of them were Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi. Again, no one was cast out of the synagogues or the fellowship of Jews for following these false messiahs.
Yet, today there are hundreds of thousands of messianic Jews who follow Jesus. Many of them practice Torah as observantly as any other Jew. Yet, they are excluded from fellowship. They are uniquely accused of following “another religion.”
So it was in the first century following Jesus death and resurrection, when all of Jesus’ followers were Jewish.
There are some understandable reasons for this. Over the centuries after His death, horrific cruelties and countless injustices against the Jews were committed by people in His name. Until His followers comprehend that fact and repent of it, this divide between Jews and Christians will continue. And until His brethren, the Jews, cry out “Baruch haba beshem Adonai” – “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” – Jesus will not return. (Luke 13:35)
Maybe it’s time to make amends, to right injustices, to understand each other, to love one another.
Can’t make it to Israel in November? How about another opportunity for study on a spectacular cruise to Alaska with Farah and Hebrew-roots pioneer Mark Biltz?
Watch Farah’s invitation to the cruise adventure in Alaska:
Here’s a preview of WND’s Israel this year:
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