by Stephen D. Eckstein, Sr.
Published in 20th Century Christian in 1963
Judaism “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18 KJV).
In the beginning, God ordained for his chosen people, the Jews, a way of life. If the teachings and prophecies of that life had been accepted and followed, they would have been led to the better and Living Way, which appeared when the “fulness of time was come” (Galatians 4:4). Instead, there arose doctors of the law (Rabbis) who set about to establish a righteousness of their own. They compiled a voluminous work of laws — 613 precepts which take in every branch of Jewish lore recorded in the Talmud. The Talmud is the record of the oral law and the commentaries of numerous rabbis. Thus, the Jews en masse left the Old Testament with its law, teaching, and prophecy. As a result, most Jews had no knowledge of the Scriptures and followed these leaders into spiritual darkness. Paul described their state in the first century in Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Unfortunately, this condition still exists for most of them.
JUDAISM IS BUT A TALMUDIC SYSTEM
Today, Judaism is but a Talmudic system built by the Rabbis. There are three observances which bind Jews together — “the rite of circumcision,” the “Sabbath,” and “Jahrzeit” (memorial prayers on the anniversary of the death of their father and mother). Generally, Jews will attend synagogue on three Jewish holidays — New Year, Day of Atonement, and Passover.
Let us examine more closely Jahrzeit. In large Jewish communities, there are bureaus where a Jew who is apt to let the observance pass may register in order to be reminded at the approach of the anniversary. Strange as it may seem to us, this day of remembrance takes on a different significance to a Jew even though he may not have observed the three holidays. As he enters the synagogue on Jahrzeit, the ground becomes holy to him. He is overwhelmed. Standing before the symbolic ark where the candles are lighted, he reverently recites the sacred prayer, “Kaddish” (a prayer recited in intercession for the dead). His emotions are unmixed as he pours out his heart to God. The effect upon him is incomprehensible to the non-Jew and is proof of the power of the traditions of men.
To a Jew, all in the western world who are not Jews are Christians. Therefore, Christianity is charged with being responsible for the atrocities and calamities which they have suffered. Throughout their existence, Jews have been denied a place upon the earth and have been driven from pillar to post. Millions of innocent men, women, and children have been tortured and burned alive. Through many centuries, the traditional concepts and customs which they have observed, they believe, have helped them to survive. The countless traditions of men are so interwoven into Jewish life that they are inseparable. One without the other is unthinkable. This has tremendous significance in creating the animosity that prevails against Christians. Instinctively, the subject of Jesus as the Messiah arouses in them contempt and hatred. (The Jewish prejudices against Christians are only from a religious aspect, and should not be taken in any other way. This must be stressed.)
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
It is vitally important that Jews see genuine Christianity lived before them. They long for the portrayal of the substance and principle set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is extremely important. It is a classic, praised and eulogized even by Jews as a pearl of literature. The manifestation of its teaching would be as ground work in leading them to him who is sinless, compassionate, and always ready to forgive. Even when he was upon the cross, he not only forgave them himself but also asked the Father to forgive. No finer or nobler attribute can be imagined. This gracious attitude, blending in an expression of love and mercy, has a telling effect upon the Jew and helps to melt away the barriers of deep-seated enmity.
THE GOSPEL AND THE JEW
Truth crystallized! That “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” Saul, who adhered to the Jewish religion with sincere conviction and blameless good faith, became Paul, the apostle. And even Paul lived no longer, but Christ lived in him. Jesus had become his source of faith, courage, and fortitude, even when he faced the Roman executioner. There was no insincerity in his fearlessness. His decisions were motivated by real valor. He was willing to give his uttermost so that his kinsmen might accept Jesus as the Sin-Bearer, the Messiah. Paul says, “the gospel is the power (duna-mis) of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Paul knew Jews, perhaps including his classmates, who had sat at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel, drunk deeply at the fountain of knowledge, and picked up the grains of wisdom, who too had been converted. Their conversion, as well as Paul's, demonstrated that Christianity is divine and should have weight with the Jews. May the Lord open their eyes that more and more Jews may accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord of Lords!
MOTIVATED BY LOVE
As Christians, love must be the controlling element of our every action. Our ambitions and desires must be to fulfill our privilege to bring all the Good News. It is an eternal responsibility. It is indisputable that hundreds of references in the Old Testament foretold of Jesus the Messiah in the most minute details. Having been fulfilled, these Messianic prophecies as recorded in the New Testament deserve unbiased investigation! The Jew is ignorant: he simply does not understand. Saul, prior to his conversion, ignorantly, energetically persecuted the church. By kindness, prudence, and patience, it can be proved from their own Scripture that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Nicodemus, a strict rabbi, a man of great learning, politically and socially prominent, sought an interview with Jesus. He recognized him as a man from God. Jesus said to him, “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was greatly surprised. The Savior continued, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things.” What a stern and yet loving rebuke! Error must be corrected, or else truth cannot be imparted. In like manner, with firmness and love, let us emulate our Lord in telling the good news of our Savior.
The Jew associates baptism only with Christians. Any Jew who is baptized is cut off from other Jews. He may suffer persecution for his submission to the divine command. Therefore, the mere mention of baptism is loathsome and revolting to the Jew. It throws him into shock! To the Jew, it is the crux, the acid test, Christianity in the nutshell. It is hard to explain to a non-Jew.
CHRISTIANITY STANDS OUT
As Jesus reflected the glory of the Father, so “Christianity stands out” as his followers reflect the glory of the Son. Being animated by invisible and boundless forces of spiritual light, the Christ-life radiates from us. As the Jew sees it, he will be overwhelmingly affected. The Jews can be reached by personal contact as we carry to them the consuming truth, the gospel of Christ.
Many years ago I was held by the traditions of Judaism but came to know the vanity of all this. Christ has borne all our sins in his body on the tree. Therefore, these voluminous traditions with their terrifying power now have been forgotten. What is true with the writer, is true, and can be true with any other. With love and devotion put into action, our example becomes a powerful teacher to precious souls all-around us. “Christianity stands out!” What a challenge to Judaism!
Stephen D. Eckstein, Sr. also wrote From Sinai to Calvary: An Autobiography.
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