Summary: The cross is a stumbling block to the Jews.
Crucifixion in the Jewish Mind
March 2, 2008
Views of the Cross: Jewish
Understanding the Cross is vital to understanding Christ. Understanding Christ is vital to following Him. Following Him is vital to the life of a Christian. Basically if you truly want to be a Christian…you have to understand the cross of Christ. We have a limited view of the cross. Our 21st century thinking does not give us adequate understanding of such an important thing. We have looked at the Roman perspective of the Cross and seen the shame, and the offensiveness, and their reason for the use of the cross. To the Romans the cross was a means for pacifying politically rebellious groups. To the Jews however, the cross was seen in a very different light.
At this time Rome had conquered much of the known world which included Judea. Rome employed crucifixion as a tool for maintaining social order within the empire. Yet despite their military use of this tool it was widely considered to be offensive and shameful. Now you can imagine if those who inflict the crucifixion on others find it so distasteful, that those who have crucifixion inflicted on them would find it all the more revolting.
To understand the Jewish view of the cross we have to understand the position they were in during the Biblical period. Basically we have to see their history. The Jewish people had been set apart by God, they were His chosen people and they felt that it was their right as God’s chosen people to govern themselves. The existence of an outside ruler was interpreted by the Jews to be a form of punishment from God for their failure to follow Him. They had been taken time and time again into captivity as a result of their unfaithfulness. So the Jewish people had been conditioned to believe outside rule meant punishment. At this particular juncture a group of Jewish leaders known as the Pharisees had began to work on fixing the Jewish nation. They believed that if they could get the Jewish people to follow the law correctly then God would cease to punish them. Perhaps when they had done this well enough, God would then send His messiah to deliver them from their captivity. Let’s look backstage:
The Jews had been struggling for the independence for many years. In 167 B.C after about 500 years of subjugation, the Syrians in control of Judea tried to destroy the Jewish religion. They erected a statue of Zeus in the most Holy place and tried to force the priests to sacrifice a pig in the temple. That is not very kosher. This resulted in a massive revolt lead by Mattathias the Hasmonean and carried on by his son Judah Maccabee which interestingly means ‘the hammer’. The Maccabean revolutionaries were made famous for their use of guerilla warfare. The fought masterfully and won many victories. The Maccabean brothers were not just incredible fighters but brilliant leaders. At first they succeeded in winning religious freedom from the Syrians, but later they would win complete political independence that would last for 100 years.