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Maoz Israel Ministries

 
PERSPECTIVES

The Jews Who Did Not Deny Jesus

By Shira Sorko-Ram
Maoz Israel Report

CBN.comWe all know how Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, cursed Capernaum over its indifference, and was chased out of His hometown of Nazareth and unceremoniously asked to leave the Gadarenes.

From day one, the religious rulers of Israel were on his case. They abhorred his healing on the Sabbath day. They resented the fact that his disciples did not always carry out ceremonial washings before eating. Most of all they were intensely jealous of Jesus' popularity. And they found insufferable the possibility that their nation might turn to Him.

Moreover, Jesus hated the behavior of many of the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. He condemned their love of fame and privilege, their desire to be venerated, adulated and adored. He found their self-righteousness and their ambition to keep power and position in their hands insufferable. He abhorred their love of money, their stealing from the poor among the Jewish people and their disregard of justice and true love of God.

But have we ever considered just how many Jewish citizens of Israel did love and follow him during those three short years that he ministered in Israel, healing the sick and preaching repentance from sin?

The Gospels tell us, as soon as Jesus began his full-scale ministry, He was immediately surrounded by literally thousands of Jewish people. The New Testament records some of the events that occurred while great multitudes listened, watched and followed Him.

They came from every part of Israel and walked days to see Him. Clearly, the multitudes were needy and spiritually hungry for the things of God.

As he taught and healed, the throngs grew and "there was a great multitude of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon [Lebanon],…and all the multitude were trying to touch Him… Luke 6:17,19

How can we imagine the feelings of the poor and the hopeless among the Jewish people who wanted to hear Him, but couldn't get close enough to do so… with no microphones, speakers or auditoriums? Yet the multitudes continued to come. They saw the sick healed and they said, "Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel." Matt. 9:33

Because of the crowds, men of faith climbed a roof of somebody's house, tore it apart, and let down a cot with a paralyzed man.

Because of the great crowds, Jesus got in a boat and taught the people on the shore so that more could hear His voice.

His own family, totally bewildered by the mammoth crowds, did not know what to make of Him.

And so the crowds continued, and the healings and teachings drew them to God: "Great multitudes came to Him,…the multitude marveled at the healings and miracles that the Lord performed, "and they glorified the God of Israel".

But just how big were these crowds? One of the two times we are given an actual number, we are told that a multitude followed Jesus around for three whole days in a desolate place - without food. Surely, then, this would have been one of his smaller crowds. Yet we are told that there were 4,000 men - anywhere from 8-12,000 people following Jesus.

At times, Jesus tried to get away from the crowd to be by Himself, but the multitudes wouldn't let Him. They followed Him everywhere. On one occasion, His disciples advised Jesus to send a mass of people home. Again, they were in a desolate place with no food. How many were in the crowd that Jesus Himself fed? The record says 5,000 plus women and children - probably between 10,000 - 15,000.

Luke says that "so many thousands of the multitude gathered together they were stepping on each other." 12:1 Another time, when Jesus reached the land by boat, "…the multitude welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him." Luke 8:40

Imagine, waiting for a preacher or prophet to show up, not knowing when he would arrive - with no McDonalds, no pampers, no public bathrooms, no hotels nor motels. No water fountains, no paid vacation time. Nothing.

JESUS LOVED THESE CROWDS

When Jesus faced these huge, desperate crowds, compassion would well up inside Him, because He knew that these people "were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd." They were without true spiritual leaders. It was in response to such a scene that He said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."

"Many therefore of the Jews [here, read Judeans - vs. Galileans] who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him." John 11:45 In fact, so many Judeans became His followers that the chief priests and the Pharisees "convened a council, and were saying, 'What are we doing?… If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him." John 11:47-48

Among these throngs of the people of Israel were religious leaders who did accept Jesus. Like Jairus, a Jewish synagogue official in Capernaum, who received his daughter back from the grave. Like Nicodemus in Jerusalem, who came at night to ask how to be born-again.

Then there were others who believed, but didn't act, just like today wherever the Gospel is preached: "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." John 12:42-43

As Jesus' ministry grew towards its close, Jesus left Galilee for Judea and crossed the Jordan River. Again, great crowds followed Him. The multitude caused the blind man in Jericho to wonder what was going on. When he heard, he instantly cried out, "Son of David [i.e. Messiah] have mercy on me." The commotion caused a hungry man, Zaccheus, to climb a tree to see just who this Man was.

THE PEOPLE LOVED JESUS

As He neared Jerusalem, Jesus stayed at different Jewish homes in Bethany - Simon the (former) Leper, Lazarus the former dead man along with his sisters Mary and Martha. Everywhere Jesus went, there were Jewish people who loved Him.

"And as the multitude followed Jesus up to Jerusalem, they spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road. And the multitude going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying,

'Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!'" Matthew 21:8-9

Calling Him the Son of David meant they were calling him the Messiah, Root of Jessie, the Inheritor of the Throne of David.

The Bible says that when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, the city was stirred as the multitude told everyone, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

As Jesus continued to preach and teach, the multitudes stayed with Him - in the Temple and everywhere He went. The chief priests, the scribes and the leading men among the people tried to humiliate him by catching him with some spiritual question that He couldn't answer. "They could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging upon His words." Luke 19:47-48

To make matters more intense, Jesus strongly warned the people of the corruptness and hypocrisy of these same religious rulers. Finally, they had had enough and were determined to get rid of the Man who threatened to put them out of business.
But they had a problem. "When they sought to seize Him, they feared the multitude, because they held Him to be a prophet." Mat. 22:15

"Then the chief priest and the elders of the people were gathered…and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. And they were saying, "Not during the festival, lest a riot occur among the people." Matt. 26:3-4

WHY THEY CAME AT NIGHT

When the time came for His death, a great multitude with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people came and arrested Him. Jesus asked them why they came secretly at night to take Him…"Everyday I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me." Matt. 26:55 The reason, of course, was that there were huge crowds of Jewish visitors during the Passover season, and many of them believed He was sent from God - so much so, that the religious leaders were afraid to arrest Him in daylight.

The multitude that clamored for Barabbas, is described as a multitude that was rounded up by the chief priests and the elders, not the average man on the street. Not the people who had laid the branches and clothes on the street and welcomed Him to Jerusalem.

What could these simple citizens have done against such determined, evil men in their government? Think of the laws that are passed today against God and His Word in civilized countries, even with the millions of born-again believers praying and working for morality and justice to prevail.

Hear the hopelessness in the voices of two Jewish men on the way to Emmaus as they spoke about these events to Jesus, not knowing it was He: "Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days? The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel." Luke 24:18, 21

We know that a short time after His crucifixion - 50 days to be exact - 3,000 Jews responded to Peter's message, and after that "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were saved." Soon after, another 5,000 came to the Lord. In fact, years later, the Apostles told Paul, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed…." Acts 21:21

I remember reading years ago a book written by Abba Eban, Israel's former ambassador to the UN and a scholar. He stated that at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the third largest group of Jews in Israel were the followers of Jesus, after the Pharisees and Sadducees.

In Jesus' day, there were an estimated 7-8,000,000 Jews in the world, with 1-2,000,000 living in Israel - Galileans, Judeans, Sidonians and those residing in the eastern part of Israel. The men and women of Israel who had a chance, wanted to hear Jesus, and many of them accepted Him. Out of some 80,000 Judeans living in Jerusalem, probably no more than a couple of thousand religious leaders were responsible for leading the nation away from salvation, and into destruction and dispersion.

The Lord knew the outcome all the time. Centuries before, He spoke through Jeremiah: "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture, declares the Lord." Jeremiah. 23:1 A nation must have godly men and women to lead. Just like today. Otherwise, she is lost. Israel was weighed in the balance and found wanting. Just like every other nation in the world then and now.

NO PEOPLE COULD HAVE PASSED THAT TEST

Many years ago, a teacher gave an example I never forgot. He said that somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia, the residents of a small town all became violently sick. The State authorities rushed to the scene and immediately took test tubes of water from the local well back to their labs. There they confirmed their suspicions; the town's water supply was polluted. They checked the well, and found that a sow and her piglets had fallen into the well and drowned.

The state authorities did not have to take all the well-water to their labs. They were able to check a small specimen and from that declare with certainty that the entire water supply was contaminated.

Israel was God's test tube. He examined the Jewish nation, found it polluted and from that declared the whole world defiled.

"Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all." Rom. 3:19,11:32

No other nation would have done any differently.

Yet, because of God's promises of redemption, after 2000 years, we are beginning to see more Israelis saved now than since the first century. We are seeing whole families in Israel quite supernaturally return to God - brothers and sisters, parents, uncles and aunts and children. Sometimes, when I see an unusual number of individuals from the same family receive salvation, I wonder if perhaps their forefathers were some of those many Jews of the first century who believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and who prayed for their children and their children's children….

Finally, if there had not been many Jewish people who guarded the oracles of God and recorded them in the Old and New Testaments, and who were ready to lay down their lives to traverse the known world and bring the message of salvation to the Gentiles, where would the world be today?

Find peace with God.

Do you have questions about Jesus Christ? Learn more about who Jesus is at this special section.

More from our special Passion of the Christ section


Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are the founders of Maoz Israel Ministries. The above article is from the March issue of the "Maoz Israel Report," used by permission.

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