Everyone knows I love Israel.
I lead some of the largest tour groups from America every year.
I spend about 5 percent of my time there.
I have been there six times in the last five years, usually for at least two weeks.
But when Israel makes a mistake, I’m the first to admit it. And the Israeli Sanhedrin, or rabbinic court, made one this week – just as it did nearly 2,000 years ago when it condemned the one and only legitimate candidate for the Jewish Messiah.
Tuesday, the Sanhedrin ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country.
An Israeli couple who follow Jesus was essentially told they would need to deny their faith in Jesus as the Son of God to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
All marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Islamic, Christian or Druze, according to laws first handed down under the Ottoman Empire. These laws were retained by the British Mandate and continued after the state of Israel was founded in 1948.
The judges wrote that if the couple “declares before the court they have completely given up their Christian beliefs, including their belonging to a Messianic Jewish community and missionary activities, the court will discuss their matter anew.”
“Although I was disappointed to see the decision of the rabbinic court, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author of many books on Christianity and Judaism, including “The Real Kosher Jesus.” “In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews. Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”
Still, the decision is disappointing, he said, since all official Jewish weddings performed in Israel must be done by Orthodox rabbis, “who would gladly perform a ceremony for two atheists.”
“So we should protest this decision to the government while still recognizing that our calling to follow Yeshua will bring us persecution and rejection.”
I agree. And, I, a guy who sometimes refers to himself as a “messianic Arab” and a noted defender of Israel, do protest.
In my new book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” I make the point that all early believers in Messiah Jesus were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. They never deviated from the faith. Jesus did not come to start a new religion. Gentiles did not begin following Jesus in big numbers for decades after His death and resurrection.
Christianity began as an entirely Jewish faith. In fact, most Christians don’t even realize that the Greek word “Christ” means “Messiah.” It was not Jesus’ last name. It was his identity. He was the Jewish Messiah.
And that’s why today’s believers follow Him.
It’s strange because there are Jews today who follow others as Messiah. There is no discrimination against them – even though those beliefs sometimes prompt some scoff and chuckles. They’re not prevented from getting married in Israel as Jews.
The good news is that one day all of Israel and, in fact, the whole world will recognize Jesus as Lord, Savior, Messiah, King of Kings and Prince of Peace. That’s when He returns to this Earth and rules and reigns from Jerusalem – which today turns its back on Him still.
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