We are alive. I say this because some people may have heard about a tourist bus that crashed yesterday near Eilat and 24 tourists were killed. The driver was trying to race another bus to get through a checkpoint and the bus went over a cliff. The driver was a Russian Jewish Christian and the passengers were Russians. Many more are badly wounded.
Our trip has been beautiful and quite safe. We laugh about people who think it is dangerous to come to Israel. We have yet to see a rocket pass over our heads.
Let me summarize briefly our packed itinerary for the past two days, for those who are following the journey, and then I will share some thoughts about a conversation with an Orthodox shop owner.
Monday we began on the Mount of Olives, where Yeshua will return (Zech 14 and Acts 1). We walked down to Gethsemane and prayed (I wore my yarmulke). We toured the City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and the Pool of Siloam. We spent a delightful hour in a shop near the Cardo speaking with the owner and I will share some of the conversation below. We shopped on the Cardo (Roman name for “Main Street” and now this is the upscale Jewish section of shops). We ended the day at the South Wall Excavations (Davidson Center) where you can see the stones thrown down by Roman soldiers in 70 C.E. and also the stone about the place of trumpeting and many other things.
Tuesday we went on the Temple mount. We saw up there several groups of Orthodox Jews exercising their right to be on the Mount. One group was being lectured to by an eminanent Jerusalem archaeologist and another was accompanied by an extreme right-wing Knesset member.
We then went to the Bethesda Pools by the church of St. Anne and the remains of the Praetorium where the soldiers played games with Yeshua before killing him. We prayed at the Wall, always my favorite time, and attended a lecture at the Temple Institute (the group that is making the articles for the Third Temple).
We shopped on the Cardo again and then walked through the Western Wall tunnel where you can see one stone that is 600 tons, the largest Herodian stone we are aware of. The engineering is amazing. We also pass here the closest point to the Holy of Holies. We then finished the day with two sites focused on the death and resurrection of Messiah: the basement of Caiphas’ house where Yeshua was likely held prisoner overnight and the Garden Tomb, which still has the look of the real tomb, whether it is or not.
Now, about my conversation with the Orthodox shop owner. This is a guy who is friendly to Christians and Messianic Jews. He always gives our group a nice speech about Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy, about the commonalities between Jews and Christians, and about the divine appointment God has for us all in Jerusalem.
He wants people to ask him questions, so I came to him with a simple one: “If somehow you could know that Yeshua is the Messiah, would you consider Messianic Judaism a valid Judaism?”
His first response was to say that Messianic Jews, in his opinion, remain Jews. Just as atheist and Buddhist Jews remain Jews, he said, so do those who accept Jesus as Messiah and even as God.
The issue for him, he said, is not the Messiah-ship of Yeshua, but the idea of his divinity and that his death was a needed atonement for sin. These things, he said, are anti-thetical to Judaism. God cannot become a man, he said, and all Jews agree on this. Therefore, Messianic Judiasm is Christianity, in his opinion, and not Judaism.
To further clarify, I asked him if he sees it as a good thing that Messianic Jews keep Torah and pray as Jews instead of assimilating. He said yes, it is a good thing, provided Messianic Jews are doing it out of love for God and not with a motive to entice Jews away from Judaism.
Knowing, as I do, how diverse Judaism is on questions of the nature of God, I am disappointed that so many are ready to claim that the divinity of Yeshua is anti-thetical to Judaism. It would be a worthy subject of research to show the complete lack of unity in Jewish sources about the nature of God. The idea that God cannot become a man lacks proof and sounds to me like a reaction rather than a well-thought out doctrine.