Atonement: Participating and Anticipating

Aime Palliere was a Frenchman, a Catholic, who became a Noahide, a non-converting adherent to Judaism.

In other words, he rejected the Jesus of his own family and Catholic faith because he was drawn to things he saw in Judaism. Yet he did not convert because he felt his family heritage was too important.

It was an experience he had at 17 that drew him powerfully away from Catholicism and toward Judaism. He was on vacation in Lyons, France, and knew it was a strange day. Many shops in the area were closed, and, asking around, he found that it was Yom Kippur. A friend suggested they slip into a synagogue and observe the customs of the Jewish people.

Palliere did not want to go into the building of another religion, but did so under pressure from his friend. What he saw electrified him. All of the men wore tallitot. Draped, each one of them in white, Palliere could see a room full of priests, a room of people all actively participating in the atonement ceremony. It was the closing prayer of Yom Kippur, the Neilah service that he witnessed.

The second thing he noticed, as they stood, shuckling and silently mouthing the words of the Amidah, was that they seemed expectant. Something was about to happen, a moment greatly to be desired.

These worshippers were doing two things that won Palliere over to the beauty of their cause. They were participating and they were anticipating. He opened a book of prayer which was laying out to be used and saw the Hebrew characters there. The next day he bought a Hebrew grammar and began studying.

The truth is Palliere had no need to abandon Jesus in order to find what he was searching for. Yet in the rigid world of his time, the end of the nineteenth century, denominations had fixed practices and there was little room for variation or new ideas.

But we should talk about this discovery that so excited him, the discovery that atonement could be about participating and anticipating.

As Messianic Jews, we have so much material to draw on to understand atonement. The word is an artificial one, a word coined much later than the time of the Bible. It refers to a collection of biblical concepts. It refers to many ideas in the Bible about people being made AT ONE with God, this the term AT-ONE-ment.

The first concept of atonement is that we are not at one with God. The book of Genesis explains how humanity came into this condition.

The second concept of atonement is that we are estranged and need to be reconciled as God’s friends. This concept is found in the story of Abraham and the covenant God made with Abraham , his friend.

The third concept of atonement is that we are slaves in need of redemption from our slavery. This is in the Passover story.

The fourth concept of atonement is that we are guilty of defiling the holy Presence of God and in need of cleansing. This is in the regulations for the Tabernacle and the sacrifices.

The fifth concept of atonement is that we are broken and need to be healed physically and spiritually. This concept is found near the end of Deuteronomy, in the promise of the divine transformation of uncircumcised hearts in the last days.

The sixth concept of atonement is that we are guilty and in need of judicial forgiveness by the Judge. This concept is found in Isaiah 59, as God intervenes to rescue us from his own divine lawsuit against us.

So far, as I’ve shown you, all of these concepts are in the Hebrew Bible, available to Judaism apart from Yeshua. But there is something missing, something that Aime Palliere missed, a crucial something.

What he missed is the fact that all of these atonement concepts are unanswered questions waiting for God’s answer. God’s answer is the cross of our Messiah.

The separation between humanity and God, that first concept of atonement, requires bringing them back together. As there was a first Adam, a first man in whom the whole human race was ejected from the presence of the Divine, there should be a second Adam, another representative man in whom humanity is brought back. That man is Messiah.

In the reconciliation of God and people through the covenant with Abraham, it is not said how the blessing will come about. The blessing of Abraham is to go to all the families of the earth. How will a blessing go out from the Jewish people to every people on the earth? This is what happened because of the cross of our Messiah.

In the redemption from slavery that is the Passover story, the story of Israel’s election, the end result is supposed to be a people freed from the ways of slavery. But Israel’s story ends up back in slavery and exile again. Idols, failure, and persecution are the reality for God’s Chosen People. How can a people find true release from the ways of slavery? The answer is only found in the cross of our Messiah.

In the principle of defilement, that the ways of sin and death pollute the holiness of this world and offend God’s Presence, there is a need for a cleansing. The sacrifices could only effect a cleansing of an altar and a sanctuary. Something more personal is needed, a cleansing that makes us undefiled and able to be in the Presence of God directly. Nothing in the sanctuary of Israel made this possible. The answer is in the cross of our Messiah.

In the need for healing and spiritual transformation, God never declares how he will circumcise hearts. The transformation is needed but not means is given. It will have to be an extraordinary act of God, something he does that affects us and not something we can do as surgery upon our own spirits. The answer is in the cross of our Messiah.

Finally, in the need for a verdict of innocence on the last day, when we stand before the Judge, we cannot bring about this result. We are not capable of erasing our guilt. We have no mechanism to induce the Judge to find us innocent. Isaiah 59 says God himself intervenes, he himself will come to Zion as a redeemer. The answer is in the cross of our Messiah.

Let me restate all of these positively. What I have said is that the Hebrew Bible shows the needs but leaves the solution mysterious. This is the plan of God, to reveal hope and then to teach us the meaning of that hope.

Humanity is separated from divinity, so the divine became also human to rejoin us.

People are in need of reconciliation to God, so God came to us in person to restore the friendship and complete the covenant he began with Abraham.

We need to escape the ways of slavery and be redeemed, so Messiah bought us back with an act of priceless love.

The defilement of death and sin is opposed to the holiness of God’s presence, so Messiah defeated the verdict of death for sin by taking it on himself and reversing it.

The transformation we require is beyond our capability, so Messiah brings the Spirit who mysteriously changes us without taking over, as Messiah’s lordship claims more and more ground in us.

The judgment we deserve is unchangeable, except that Messiah, who is the Divine Presence, took the guilty verdict on himself so we need not carry it.

Aime Palliere saw a room full of people participating and anticipating atonement.

He did not sense the same spirit in his own Catholic experience. The sense of need was not so poignant. The participation of all the men was not part of his Catholic experience. What he saw touched him.

What Christians get wrong, sometimes Jews can teach them. What Jewish people get wrong, sometimes Christians can teach them.

Atonement is something we participate in. It is not just a judicial verdict by the Judge which we wait to receive. It is reconciliation with God, freedom from enslavement, transformation for a better life of love and mercy.

Those who sit back and wait for God miss the incomparable joy of seeing Abraham’s covenant fulfilled, of seeing mutual blessing between people fill our world and our friendships with shalom. Without participation, the benefits of being able to draw nearer to God are theory and not reality.

Atonement is something we anticipate. There is a false notion that since Messiah did it all, the deep felt sense of need is erased in Messiah. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Messiah taught us to hunger and thirst, not to be satisfied. As long as we still see ourselves and others trapped in slavery, as long as we see mutual cursing and not mutual blessing, as long as we see uncomforted mourners, we anticipate the kingdom intensely.

Atonement involves participation and anticipation. If Palliere could peer in on our community, what would he see? He should see a room full of people this Yom Kippur expectant and on edge. When will Messiah come? When will redemption be full? He should see a room full of people participating. When will we be free of all our enslavements? When will we bless and not curse? The answer is in the cross of our Messiah.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, The Cross, The Messiah, Theology, Yeshua and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Atonement: Participating and Anticipating

  1. hannahlaylah says:

    Derek,
    I love Aime Palliere. His book The Unknown Sanctuary is a revolution by itself. He was the President of the Universal Union of Jewish Youth for almost 10 years.

    According to Wladimir Rabinovitch, who was also a member of UUJJ (in French), Palliere preached a solution for both Christians and Jews, which he learned from his Rabbi, the Kabbalist Rabbi of Livorno: to create a universal religion for non-Jews that would reserve the priesthood for Jews… He worked his entire life trying to bring back to Judaism his contemporary Jews, who had lost their calling as a Chosen people.

    Due to his work as a Zionist, Tunisian Jews made alyiah on 1930 and founded the future Medinat Israel.

  2. Thank you, Hannahlaylah. I wonder if Unknown Sanctuary is available in English.

    Do you think it possible that Palliere retained faith in Yeshua? There is some ambiguity about that in things I have read.

  3. hannahlaylah says:

    Derek,

    Palliere, with the permission of his Rabbi attended both Catholic and Protestant churches along with synagogues, and he retained some Catholic practices, despite living as an Orthodox Jew. I believe he was a truly Messianic Jew, living in a very difficult time, including the German – Nazi occupation in France.

    I read Palliere in Portuguese, and now it’s very difficult to find his book here.

    Ana Clelia

  4. hannahlaylah says:

    The title of the Book was The Unknown Sanctuary: My Conversion to Judaism (Santuario Desconhecido: Minha Conversao ao Judaismo).

    Ana Clelia

  5. asadia says:

    wow. this article was right on time!!! thank you. sometimes it’s hard to combat the many differing messianic views about this holy day, and it is refreshing to have it so wonderfully and simply examined. now the real question is do we keep all the traditions and liturgies for this holy day even though we have Messiah or do we develop a hybrid sort of liturgy and observance?

  6. Pingback: Weekly Meanderings | Jesus Creed

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