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My fellow Jews: We need Jesus, too

Reuters/Thomas Peter
Reuters/Thomas Peter

Growing up in Israel, people never really talked about Jesus. Among secular Jews, he’s no more than an afterthought. People are aware of His historical existence and His death at the hands of the Romans, but that’s about it. Among religious Jews, especially within the Ultra-Orthodox community, His name is met exclusively with scorn and derision. In either case, your average Jewish person — secular or religious — doesn’t care to know more about Jesus’ significance.

Sadly, this isn’t restricted to average modern-day Israeli Jews. The same spirit pervades our ruling elites. Congressman Max Miller, R-Ohio, is a case in point.  A recent X, previously known as Twitter, post by former Ohio Right for Life's communications director Lizzie Marbach had provoked Miller so much that he called the post “bigoted” and asked her to delete it. What triggered him so, you ask? This statement:

“There is no hope for any of us outside of having faith in Jesus Christ alone.”

Now, to any believing Christian, this is as basic as it gets. It’s the very essence of the Gospel itself. It’s nothing more than the central message Christians have believed for more than 2,000 years. It’s as old as Christianity itself. Nothing new.

So, why the outrage?

I can see why the exclusivity of that claim is so offensive. It’s offensive to the natural mind to hear that not all paths lead to God.

But I believe it also has to do with a low view of God’s holiness.

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I remember that as a young Jewish man, the thought of receiving forgiveness from God never really crossed my mind. God was, at best, a gentle grandfatherly figure. He blesses you, and He overlooks your transgressions. If you live a righteous enough life and keep your nose clean, He will be pleased with you. Your sin doesn’t really bother Him. His holiness is as abstract as the afterlife itself.

It's that kind of mentality that keeps too many of my fellow Jews in spiritual bondage.

How do we receive forgiveness?

According to the Hebrew Bible, the only way to receive forgiveness from God is by having our sins atoned for — a substitute must bear the punishment in our stead. The very heart of the Law rests on the sacrificial system instituted by Moses. Why? Because only through the blood of the sacrifices can God pass over the sins of His people and assuage His own righteous wrath against them. When God makes His covenant with the Israelites, He institutes it by blood:

  • “And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8, ESV).
  • “Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord” (Exodus 30:10).

Notice how central the blood is to the entire system. The Talmud and the great Jewish commentator Rashi repeat the mantra that, “There is no atonement without blood.” No sacrifice? No forgiveness of sins. Leviticus 17:11 says this even more forcefully:

“The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”

You might be asking yourself at this point why this is at all relevant for us today. Even if what the Bible says is true, we have been deprived of the Temple sacrifices for more than 2,000 years. So why does any of this matter?

Asking that question is the first step in understanding why Jesus is so important. Without a substitute, we have no atonement. Without atonement, we cannot be reconciled with our Maker. We stand condemned before God by our own sins — and our sins just keep stacking up day by day. There’s no end in sight because as long as we live and breathe, we will keep sinning. It’s in our nature. At the end of the day, the only thing God can do is condemn us. No forgiveness, no reconciliation, no peace.

This is scary stuff.

Is there any way around this problem?

The popular narrative among most Rabbis is that in lieu of substitutionary sacrifices, repentance and prayer are sufficient to atone for our sins. Chabad says: “When there is no Temple, sincere teshuvah (repentance) is all that G‑d demands.” It’s not that the sacrifices won’t be necessary in the future. All Orthodox Jews believe that when the Messiah comes, he will re-build the Temple and resume the old sacrificial system. But as things stand now, God doesn't really care. Just repent, pray, and lead a righteous life.

These ideas come from a few passages of Scripture where God, allegedly, rejects sacrifices and extols righteous living instead. Proverbs 21:3, Psalm 51:16, 1 Samuel 15:22, and Isaiah 1:11 are just a few examples. However, when read in context, these passages condemn hypocritical devotion to God — not blood atonement per se. When God says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:22), He’s merely stating the obvious truth that the ritual itself does nothing if it’s detached from sincere devotion to God. Merely going through the motions will not avail before the Almighty. God desires a “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) — not mindless ceremonies.

We all agree with that.

But there is nothing in those passages that even remotely denies the absolute necessity of blood sacrifices. Not only are the sacrifices repeatedly described as a “pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 3:5), but such an interpretation would render even other cherished Jewish traditions like Sabbath observance obsolete. After all, God condemns hypocritical Sabbaths and New Moons in Isaiah 1 just as fervently as He does sacrifices. This would make God contradict Himself. It simply doesn’t work.

What’s the solution?

Either God provided the final sacrifice — a perfect sacrifice — or we are left without eternal hope. Our sins still cling to us, our guilt is ever before us, and our alienation from God looms large over us.  

Yes, you know where I’m going with this. It’s not too subtle a point, but a very important one: The only option we have is Jesus. We can’t get around this. Jesus, as God-incarnate, possesses perfect righteousness. That’s why His atoning work on the cross is the last and final sacrifice, never to be repeated. Only God can breach the eternal gap that stands between us and Him. Only He can “put away sin” forever (Hebrews 9:26).

If it’s not Him, it’s nobody.

As a young 26-year-old Jewish grad student, I finally came to realize this. It took me a while. But I’ve never looked back. And as Micah’s prophecy says, “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God … And He shall be their peace.”

My dear Jewish friend, will He be yours? I sincerely pray so.

Daniel Vaida is Assistant Opinion Editor at The Christian Post in Washington, D.C. 

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