I am still going to finish the series on the resurrection of Yeshua. This is simply on my mind and I thought I would insert it into the series.
I read something in N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God and then modified it as I saw fit. It seemed insightful to me and I hope it will be helpful to others as well.
Wright led me to think about the differences in the ways early Christians viewed the cross and the way Israel (in Yeshua’s time) saw their plight. Wright coordinates these with the way Yeshua saw his calling to the cross.
Here is my modification of Wright’s thesis:
Israelites (Yeshua’s Time)
We are in exile —> Only God can deliver —> Messiah —> Israel restored according to prophets’ vision
We are in sin —> Only God can deliver —> Messiah —> The people forgiven from sin
Yeshua’s View of His Calling to the Cross
Israel is in exile BECAUSE of sin —> Only God can deliver —> Yeshua’s calling —> restore Israel by redeeming from sin, which is the beginning of Israel’s restoration and glory for the nations
The Blind Spot of Second Temple Judaism
The Israelites in Yeshua’s time had some blind spots. They saw their problem as political more than spiritual. They saw their domination by Rome as the problem and looked to God for a solution. To a large degree, many believed the solution depended on Israel. The means to solve their problem were the Torah and the Temple. If the Temple could be run purely and if all Israel could follow Torah, then Messiah would come.
Yeshua challenged Israel’s blind spot. Yeshua knew the Torah was limited. It did not by itself provide for Israel’s restoration. Israel in the Torah was trapped outside the sanctuary with God’s presence, not even God directly, inside behind a veil. Israel could only get this close to God with constant blood purification. The Torah and Temple were limited. So Yeshua claimed to be something greater than the Temple (not to replace it, as Wright thinks, but to add to it).
Yeshua challenges early Christianity’s blind spot. This blind spot remains prevalent today in Christian theology. It is a reduction of the cross’s meaning to individual forgiveness for sins. Yeshua was doing so much more than that. As Wright has thoroughly documented, Yeshua was leading Israel out of exile by dealing with the root cause of exile: sin. Yeshua was beginning a process that would lead to the restoration of Israel and glory for the nations (Gentiles). Yeshua’s death was not for individuals, per se, but to redeem and restore Israel and the nations. The early Christians were not wrong to see personal forgiveness of sin coming from the cross, but were wrong to limit the cross’s meaning to this dimension. Yeshua died to bring the Messianic Age, not merely to forgive sins.
Let me close with two thoughts: (1) What is restored Israel and how do Gentiles fit in? (2) What does this view of the cross mean for the devotion of Christians and Messianic Jews?
First, restored Israel is the beautiful picture of the prophets. It is the time, in the Age to Come, when Israel is back in the land, when Jerusalem is enlarged, when crops grow so fast there is not time to reap them all, when all people will know God, eventually when death ceases. If you want a few prophecies to start you on your way, try Isaiah 2 and 11. If you want to know more, my book A New Look at the Old Testament has a chapter on this topic. Get it at hopeofdavid.com.
Second, what does this fuller view of the cross mean for Christians and Messianic Jews?
1. It means seeing the God of Jesus as the God of Israel.
2. It means seeing the importance of Israel in God’s continuing plan.
3. It means believing the “Our” in the Lord’s Prayer, because our faith is not individualistic; we are part of Israel and the nations which Yeshua is redeeming and perfecting.
4. It means seeing our forgiveness as a small part of a much larger plan.
5. It means seeing the gospel as more than personal forgiveness; it is about God’s coming kingdom.
6. It means being open to seeing Jews restored to Torah faithfulness in these last days and not objecting on the grounds that the Torah is (allegedly) obsolete.
7. It means continuing to see Israel as God’s people.
8. It means seeing the cross as much more powerful than we formerly realized.
9. It means our salvation is a small part of a plan to perfect the world.