Blindness Healed

The current event that I have been asked about the most in the past few months has been the war between Israel and Palestine. Apart from questions about the history between the two nations, how this conflict started, and the role of the United States in the conflict, the most frequent questions I’ve received have been about the Jews themselves. Reports of antisemitism abound throughout the United States, especially because of the unrestrained rhetoric of social media. This article is an attempt to direct us toward an understanding of what is happening to the Jews, and why. I encourage all readers to continue this discussion in their homes and in their church societies.  

A common theme expressed today is that the Jews deserve war, death, and perpetual unrest because they have been cursed by God for rejecting Christ as the Messiah and murdering him on the cross. His blood, it is said, is now on them (a reference to Matthew 27:25). This is a broad statement that bears analysis. Ask yourself, who exactly were the Jews who denied Christ and crucified him? We know it was not all the Jews from the simple fact that Jesus himself was a Jew, and so were his disciples, family, and close friends. So not all the Jews rejected Christ. But does that still leave open the possibility that those who did were cursed?  

Paul, also a Jew, answers this question in Romans 11. His key point is that God did not reject the Jewish people whom he foreknew in Christ (v. 2), meaning that all members of the true, spiritual Israel will be saved. Jews as a people have not universally been rejected by God, as his unconditional covenant made with Abraham is still being upheld. To claim they are cursed is to go against the covenant God has made, making God a liar and his covenant promises to be untrue. 

Yet the Jewish nation, directed by their leaders, did reject the Messiah, and they have suffered ever since. Within one generation the judgment of God was revealed as Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were scattered. For almost two thousand years there was no homeland or nation for the Jewish people. There were deep and profound spiritual ramifications for their rejection of Christ as the Messiah.  

Even then, however, there remains hope for salvation of Jews. In Romans 11:13–28, Paul uses the picture of grafting to explain how it is that both Jews and Gentiles will be saved. That picture is striking for two reasons. First, the “natural branches” (Jews) have not been forsaken but are still connected to the tree rooted in Christ (v. 16). Second, the Jews will be grafted in again, for the same God who grafts in the Gentiles is able to graft in the Jews if they do not persist in unbelief (v. 23). The gospel message is the same for both the Jews and the Gentiles. The difference is that the Gentiles will be more receptive to the message than will those who rejected the message firsthand. 

The Jews truly stumbled over the stumbling stone, the rock of offense who is Christ (1 Cor. 1:23). And they were blinded by the Lord (Ex. 4:11). What is revealed is that there is an antithesis between the physical Israel and the spiritual Israel, the same as there is with the physical Gentiles and the spiritual Gentiles. Many of the Jewish people followed in the way of unbelief and pursued after their own righteousness before the law. Caught up in their own self-righteousness, they stumbled over Christ and would not accept him as the promised Messiah. What a clear and present warning for all who do not hear or see the clear message of the gospel, the message that justification before God is by faith in Christ alone apart from works.  

There are Jewish believers in Christ as there always have been. The book of Acts records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon both Jews and Gentiles, which followed sermons calling them to repent and believe. Acts also records conversions of prominent Jews, like Paul and Lydia, and the sending forth of the apostles as ambassadors of Jesus Christ throughout the nation of Israel. Peter continued to labor in Jerusalem as an apostle to the Jews, while Paul took the prominent role as apostle to the Gentiles. But even in his mission work, Paul first went to the synagogues, where the Jews were found, to preach. The message he preached was universally received and rejected by Jews and Gentiles alike. This has always been God’s purpose, that some hearing the gospel will believe, while others hearing it will be blinded and hardened in their unbelief. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5).  

True, the Jews were blinded by the unexpected form of Messiah that God sent, but the Lord loves to heal blindness. The conversion story of Saul is symbolized by his blindness and his needing to be restored to see the true light. Ananias didn’t want to baptize this Saul of Tarsus, fearing him as a man opposed to God. But God told him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). Straightway after he was healed, Paul preached Christ in the synagogue, proving the words and ministry of Jesus Christ. God gives spiritual eyesight so that we might see his mighty works throughout history and worship our enthroned Lord as our Savior.  

More than asking questions about the Jews, the current situation should cause us to ask questions about ourselves. Do the Old Testament messianic prophecies speak to us? We are just coming through the time of year where our focus has been on the festivities, joys, and gifts of the season. But during this time, has the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 spoken to our souls?  

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (vv. 4–6) 

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was a stumbling block to the Jews. Was celebrating the birth of our Messiah a stumbling block to me during my holiday parties and New Year celebrations? I ask myself, have I gone astray after my own self-indulgence, celebrating a Messiah whom I can unwrap when desired and then put back on the shelf, forgotten, even rejected, far away from my heart and mind? I need the gentle reminder that I did not ask for the gift I truly need, who was freely given to me by grace. What a joyous thing to celebrate, whether Jew or Gentile! Lord, give me eyes that I can see! 

Scott is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, MI. He worships with his family at Zion Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison.