Jesus and Jewish Evangelism
By Kai Kjær-Hansen, International Coordinator of LCJE
The second half of Kai Kjær-Hansen’s opening speech at LCJE Helsinki 2003 is printed here.
A theological ”no” to Jewish evangelism means that Jewish people are deprived of the possibility of salvation through faith in Jesus, which is a serious enough matter. But it also means that Jesus has been reduced to an insignificant person for Jews. And then it is argued that this insignificant Jewish person should have a momentous importance for me, a non-Jew!
I can understand that Jewish people think the so-called two-covenant theology is a good solution to the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Jews have fellowship with Israel’s God through the Sinai covenant, non-Jews through the Calvary covenant. But it is difficult for me to understand that Christian theologians can advocate it.
This insignificant person Jesus, who has no relevance for Jews, seems to be extremely relevant for us non-Jews! There is no biblical logic in this. How can one claim, on the one hand, that the Jesus who met his own people, the Jewish people, with a demand to be heard and obeyed as God is obeyed, and who staked his own life on this, is no longer relevant for Jewish people – and on the other hand claim that his radical message is of utmost importance for all other people? As a non-Jew I cannot stake my life on a Jewish irrelevance!
Jesus can only have critical importance for me as a non-Jew if he is of critical importance for Jewish people. If he is not Messiah to the Jews, then he is not Christ to the gentiles. Biblically speaking he can only be Christ to the gentiles if he is Messiah to the Jews. It is a biblical absurdity to claim that the Jesus, who allegedly is not Messiah to Jews, yet is Christ to non-Jews – when practically all his deeds were done for Jews and practically all his teaching was addressed to Jews.
Down through the centuries the church has believed that it has replaced Israel. This is the so-called replacement theology. Most of us who are gathered here will probably dissociate ourselves from replacement theology. There is more to be said about the relationship between Israel and the church, but I will have to leave this for the moment.
There are other forms of ”replacement” that are just as destructive – if not more – for the people of Israel.
I do not mind dialogue with Jewish people. But if the dialogue becomes a replacement for mission, then we are not living up to our commitment.
I do not mind people helping Jews back to Israel. But if it becomes a replacement for – or a slowdown in – the preaching of Jesus here and now, then we are not living up to our commitment.
I do not mind people supporting the state of Israel politically and financially. But if this help becomes a replacement for mission among Jews, then we are not living up to our commitment.
I do not mind people criticizing the state of Israel and its handling of the political situation. But if this criticism becomes a replacement for mission among Jews, then we are not living up to our commitment
I do not mind people reflecting on the future of Israel in God’s salvation plan. But if these thoughts about the future become a replacement for Jewish evangelism here and now, there is something wrong – regardless of how right these thoughts may be.
What surprises me most is that there are Bible-believing Christians who are eager to proclaim the gospel to all other peoples but who, when it comes to Israel, replace the gospel proclamation with charity. And some even leave the door ajar for the salvation of Israel, the apple of God’s eye, without Jesus.
At an LCJE conference like this, there are many matters where we differ. We may even have different opinions of the best way to evangelize Jews. But the question whether it is legitimate – indeed an obligation – to proclaim the gospel to Jews is not up for discussion. This is precisely what unites us! This is what we see as an obligation. And we have the boldness to claim that if it is maintained theologically that Jesus today is an irrelevance for Jews, then it has fatal consequences – not only for them but also for gentiles, for the Christian church and its view of Jesus. The only logical conclusion is to discontinue all mission to non-Jews. On the other hand, if we can maintain that Jews need Jesus, we have made a contribution to world evangelization, for then everybody needs him for salvation.
Some years ago a Jewish antimissionary published a pamphlet with the title: “You take Jesus, I’ll take God”.
As a gentile I decline the offer. I will not be content with Jesus if he is a nobody for Jews.
I have learnt from the first Jesus-believing Jews that he is not a nobody. It is because he is Israel’s Messiah that he can be my Christ. I am happy that I have had the privilege to be involved in Jewish evangelism. It has sharpened my perception of the crux of the matter.
Either Jesus is all for all, or he is nothing for all. I have no need for a Jewish nobody who is an irrelevance to Jews. For I am as good as the average Jew. God never loved the people of Israel because they are loveable. And he does not love me, a gentile, because I am loveable. He loves me because he is love. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son! His name is Jesus.
God give that we may have an inspiring conference in this blessed name!