"Who has believed what he has heard from us…?" – Isaiah 53:1
For some time now I have been making my way through the book of Isaiah as part of my devotional time. Recently I again read Isaiah 53. As a Christian, try as hard as I can, I simply cannot understand that chapter as anything other than a prophetic passage about Jesus. I know that unbelieving Jews have suggested it is speaking of Israel as a nation, but it sure sounds a lot more like a prophecy about Jesus. Indeed, the fact that a reading of Isaiah 53 is skipped over in synagogues today implies that even most Jewish leaders are troubled by it (thinking that, yes, it sure does sound a lot like Jesus).
So here is my question: why don't modern Jews just accept that that is what Isaiah 53 is about? Why don't…why won't…modern Jews accept Jesus as the promised Messiah?
• I get it that there has been a lot of "bad blood" between some Christians and Jews.
• I get it that for a long time, in Europe, Jews were being persecuted as "Christ killers."
• I get it that to confess Jesus now would potentially upset a lot of Jewish relatives.
• I get it that Martin Luther sure comes across as being anti-Semitic in his later years.
• I get it that there are a lot of cultural bridges that would end up being neglected if, as a Jew, one now acknowledged Jesus.
But deep down I sincerely don't get it…I don't understand what is preventing Jewish people from acknowledging that which is so obvious: that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah. I mean, does anyone seriously expect someone else to yet come along who will more closely fulfill/match Isaiah 53 than Jesus already has? Or to put it another way, if one were to paint a verbal portrait of what the Messiah should look like, based upon the Old Testament prophecies, the truth is that verbal portrait would look a lot like Jesus. So why not just admit that he was and is the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel?
A study, some 20+ years ago, revealed that 17% of all Jews, globally, identify as Christians. That may seem like a small percent, but to have 17% identify as being Jewish AND as being a follower of Jesus is pretty good. The apostle Paul spoke of a day when "all Israel" will be saved (Romans 11:26). We pray for that day to come!
If you know someone who is Jewish, I think you would do well to ask them very kindly if they have accepted Jesus as being the Jewish Messiah, and if not, why not. For of all people on the face of the earth, it is the Jewish people who should still be leading the way in pointing the world to God's plan of salvation that was "for the Jew first, and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). That's a plan centered on Jesus.