by Rayola Kelley
Q: Why didn’t the Jews believe Jesus was their Messiah?
A: It is important to point out that the first Church was made up of believing Jews. This simply shows us that salvation, even for the Jews, is a personal matter. I have had the wonderful privilege of meeting some of these people and hear how they came to the saving knowledge of their Messiah. However, due to their unbelief as a nation towards Jesus in His first advent, darkness came over them as a people. They became blinded to the truth of Jesus being their Messiah.
The Word of God speaks about this unbelief towards Jesus. In John 1:10-11, we are told how the world would not recognize Him, but the Jewish people would not receive Him. On the “shirttails” of these Scriptures follow this glorious promise, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Jesus explained the spiritual condition of the Jewish people in Matthew 13:14-16. He was actually quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, declaring that it was being fulfilled, “By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall not perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should hear them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” As the last Scripture states a person can see and hear, but his or her heart needs to be open and receptive to receive from the Lord.
Due to the religious system, the Jewish people did not have the heart to hear the truth nor the eyes to see Jesus. Granted, they were looking for Him, but He did not come in the way they expected. Their eyes were only conditioned to see Him as a victorious King who would set up a new Jewish kingdom, not as a Passover Lamb who came to redeem. As a result, their understanding was dulled as their ears became deaf to the truth and their eyes became closed to those very things that confirmed His identity. In essence, they refused to believe what was even being made obvious by the pure, miraculous, and incredible. John the Baptist made this statement about the religious system that was in place, “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).
God is not surprised or limited by circumstances. Once again, we must remember people are saved individually and the blindness that is present where the Jewish people are concerned has to do with national Israel. When we receive Christ, the veil of darkness is taken away from our minds and hearts (2 Corinthians 3:13-16). However, God has taken what could be considered a tragedy and has turned it around as a blessing. We are told in Romans 11:8-12 that a spirit of slumber resides on national Israel so that full salvation can come to the Gentiles. Subsequently, it would be the believing Gentiles that would provoke Israel to jealousy concerning their Messiah. As the parable of the prodigal son reveals, Israel will one day come home seeking forgiveness and restoration with God.
The prophet Zechariah talks about the complete spiritual and physical restoration of Israel as a nation in chapters 12-14. Sadly, there will only be a third of the Jewish people saved, but when their Messiah comes back to set up His kingdom in that day, they will be ready to recognize and receive Him as the Promised One. In spite of the erroneous teachings that the Church is national Israel, God made a covenant with Abraham in regard to his biological seed and God has not forgotten those promises nor would He become unfaithful towards them by taking them away from national Israel and giving them to another. That would be like taking the wedding ring of a former spouse and giving it to a new one. God is committed to bring forth His covenants and promises in regard to both national Israel and the Church. Therefore, we can be assured that we will see every one of Zachariah’s prophecies about Israel fulfilled to the glory of Jehovah God.