Summary: The British have a condescending saying: “How odd of God to choose the Jews.”
The British have a condescending saying: “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” They sneeringly look down on God’s chosen people. Yet God’s choice is not odd. The Jews chose God. And through them came our Savior. Some people deny that Jesus was Jewish; the idea that Jesus was a Jew is distasteful to them. Yet both the Old and New Testaments were written by Jews. We could not exist without Judaism. It’s impossible to “de-Judaize” Christianity; if we did, nothing would be left. Nearly all the first Christians were Jews. Bottom line: The most Jewish thing we can do is believe in Jesus. The Church is the new recipient of Old Testament promises--but not the only!
There are more anti-Semites in the world than there are Jews. Rabbi Evan Moffic states that “Anti-Semitism is history’s most enduring hatred, and a world not safe for Jews is not safe for anyone.” In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that those who bless his people will be blessed, and those who curse them will be cursed. I wouldn’t want to be an enemy of Israel, without divine protection. Anti-Semitism carries with it a curse!
Our Jewish friends have been a widely-persecuted people…and Christians bear some of the responsibility. Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen stated: “What Christ did never has been much of an issue to most Jewish people as what has been done in His name.” The biggest hurdle for Jews is not Jesus, but the legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.
There are many excuses for Anti-Semitism:
•Religious dissension, claiming “the Jews killed Jesus”
•Economic envy/resentment of Jews as “greedy” and successful
•Nationalistic suspicion that regards Jews as disloyal outsiders
•Racial prejudice, regarding Jews as ethnically inferior, subhuman
•Blaming Jews as the cause of society’s ills and human suffering
•Attacking Jews’ right to self-determination and self-defense
•Political bias--seeing Jews as a threat to civil order, coveting power
•Conspiracy theories viewing Jews as money, media and foreign policy manipulators
•Disdain over the Sabbath rest, seen as laziness/unworthiness
•Moral resentment for giving the world the burden of ethical demands, the Law
•Hatred of (perceived) Jewish elitism/superiority by their chosen status
•Fear of Jewish foreignness, non-conformity and separateness from the wider culture
I don’t think I need to explain why these “reasons” are reprehensible!
Jesus was widely popular in Israel, with the exception of some of the religious leaders. In Jerusalem a small group of them called for His crucifixion. They spoke to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, a notable anti-Semite. He hated Jews, and often offended them by his actions. He was a weak leader, but with absolute authority. He had considerable leeway in dealing with Jesus. Nonetheless he caved into pressure and knowingly executed an innocent man. He knew Jesus was no threat to Rome. And so the buck stops with him.
Pilate bears the bulk of responsibility--he could have released Jesus. Instead, he gave in. He then performed a Jewish ritual the crowd would understand. He washed his hands, as if to say “Don’t blame me if you regret this.” Some things you can’t simply “wash your hands” of. Like Lady Macbeth, Pilate could not wash the blood-guilt away. Others instigated Jesus’ execution, but the Governor killed Him. “In the end, Jesus did not have many executioners. He had one” (Wroe). According to tradition, Pilate became obsessed with compulsively washing his hands. According to history, his problematic rule ended in exile.
The earliest confession of faith, the Apostles Creed, recited by Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, declares that Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate.” It says nothing of the Jews. We have more reason to be anti-Italian than anti-Semitic! But “no one thinks of holding Italians responsible for what their forebears did centuries ago” (Yancey).
So what do we do with verse 25? The crowd shouted: “Let his blood be on us and our children!” There are three ways to understand these words…
1. The first interpretation justifies anti-Semitism. These words have been used to argue that God’s curse is on His “former” people. This interpretation came up with “replacement theology,” the idea that God is done with Israel and the Church replaces Judaism as God’s chosen people. And so persecution of Jews is sanctioned.
2. I’ve interpreted this statement from the crowd differently. My view has been that the crowd did not have any right to speak for the nation, nor did they have the authority to call down a curse from the Almighty. God doesn’t take orders from anyone.
“Let his blood be on us and our children” sounds like collective guilt… however we can’t blame all Jews for the death of Christ. Most Jews saw Jesus as a prophet and healer, and they flocked to hear him. The crowd who stood before Pilate did not reflect the attitude of most Jews, and God is not obligated to abide by their oath.