Rejection and Consequences

32 Why Was Jesus Rejected?

by Hubert F. Sturges,, December 2013

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. John 19:7

The covenant gives people faith through His presence, hope through His promise, and love through His death. Why would people ever turn against a covenant that gives faith, hope, and love? Is it not because God also asks for a response, a commitment of faith?

It is difficult to determine what the Jews in the time of Christ believed about the Messiah. The wars with Rome (AD 70 and 132) destroyed records and required that Jewish thinking be reconstituted from memory, from records in the Diaspora, or assumed from later writings of the rabbinic Jews. The New Testament writings are valuable, but they express the Christian viewpoint. However, much can be inferred about the general views of other sects of Judaism. Loss of the Temple led to the development of rabbinic Judaism. However, the Jewish views of Jesus as Messiah persist in rabbinic Judaism. Even now, Jews oppose belief in Jesus as the Messiah. This chapter is to examine some of those beliefs.

Why Jews Do Not Accept Jesus as the Messiah

The reasons Jews do not accept Jesus as Messiah include differences in prophetic interpretation and theology and other historical factors. Different writers will list different reasons. The four reasons presented below are commonly cited, but the list is not exhaustive.

1. Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies.

Jesus fulfilled some 300 Old Testament prophecies. These depict the Messiah in two seemingly contradictory ways: some, as a conquering king and others, as a suffering servant. To the Old Testament scholar in the time of Christ, the Messiah was a conquering king who would never die and who would rule on the throne of David forever. Texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls depict the Messiah as being divine.1

When Jesus came as a humble servant (Phil. 2:5-8), the leaders of the nation did not recognize Him. As Jesus’ popularity increased, the leaders could not ignore Him, and they feared that He might take the throne of David. (Should they not expect that if He were a conquering king?) When Jesus refused to be a conquering king and accepted death on the cross, they rejected Him. (Actually, they rejected Him long before He was crucified, as He preached a spiritual kingdom of God.) With this as their litmus test, it is easy to understand how they believed that Jesus did not fulfill the following expectations for the Messiah:

• Building the third temple (Ezek. 37:26-28)
• Gathering all Jews back to the land of Israel (Isa. 43:5, 6)
• Bringing in a reign of righteousness to the world (Isa. 2:4)
• Advancing the knowledge of God (Isa. 11:9)
• Uniting all humanity as one (Zech. 14:9)2

Many Jews held a corrupted view of Jesus’ mission. They were not all wrong in their expectations; mostly they were just impatient. It was not reasonable that all these expectations should be fulfilled at one time. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Old Testament authors suggest that it was God’s purpose to institute a reign of righteousness on the earth through the Messiah.

Daniel 9:24 outlines the mandate to Israel for their 490-year probation. The people and the “holy city” were to complete their God-given mission during this time. John the Baptist came as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” a last call to the nation to fulfill their mission. Because of the error and corruption of Israel at the time, Jesus faced rejection and opposition from the very first.

Building on the message of John the Baptist, Jesus preached repentance from sin and obedience from the heart. He came to establish the kingdom of grace. Human lives had to be changed before Israel could give a message to the world. In attempting to circumvent the kingdom of grace, the Jews rejected their Messiah. This postponed the kingdom of glory until Christ’s second coming.

2. Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah.

The Messiah was to be a prophet. The leaders did not accept Jesus as a prophet, but the people whom He helped immediately called Him a prophet. Many felt that the canon of prophecy closed with the book of Malachi. However, Jesus was a prophet in His own right, as He expounded upon the prophecies about Himself and gave the prophecies of Matthew 24. John the Baptist was also a prophet.3 Besides these two being prophets, there were a number of later New Testament prophets, and the gift of prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gave the church.4

Some have thought that Israel should be inhabited by the majority of the Jews in the world in order for prophecy to be fulfilled. Yet, this is an odd proposition since the majority of the Jews in the world have not lived in Israel since the Babylonian captivity. Even since the restoration, only a fraction of the Jews of the world have lived in Palestine. With Israel being a small nation, hemmed in by hostile neighbors, a majority of the Jews in the world will never live there.

Messiah was to be of the tribe of Judah and descend from David. Some argue that it must be on His father’s side, but Genesis 49:10 and Isaiah 11:1 indicate a general descent only. However, the standard today for being a Jew is that one’s mother is a Jew! The genealogies support these variations (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). Joseph and his sons accepted Jesus as part of their family.5 To deny the virgin birth raises questions about the genealogy, while belief in the virgin birth requires only that the person understand the prophecies and the omnipotence of God.

Jesus came to this world to fulfill the Ten Commandments by living a sinless life. He also came to fulfill the symbols of the ceremonial law through His true sacrifice for sin on the cross. Jesus supported the true meaning of all the laws of Moses. The Jews accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing sufferers on Sabbath (John 9:16). In truth, He always kept the Sabbath; He just did not keep all the thirty-nine categories and hundreds of ordinances added to the Sabbath. At His trial, no one charged Him with Sabbath breaking!

Jesus spoke strongly against any change in the Torah (Matt. 5:16, 17). In the Sermon on the Mount, He emphasized that the law must be kept from the heart and that love is to be our motive (Matt. 5-7; cf. Jer. 31:31-34). He declared that a superficial keeping of the letter of the law is not pleasing to God (Matt. 5:20).

3. Bible verses referring to the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus are mistranslations.

The Christian idea of a virgin birth comes from Isaiah 7:14, which describes an alma giving birth. The Hebrew word alma has always meant a young woman. It does not distinguish whether she is a virgin or not. However, the Greek equivalent for alma in this passage in the Septuagint is parthenos, which does mean “virgin.” That is why Matthew 1:23 could legitimately quote Isaiah as, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son “

Some critics claim that the idea of a virgin giving birth came from the first century pagan idea of the gods fathering children by humans and that it was worked into the story by later Christian theologians. However, the stories from paganism have maidens consorting with the gods, and Luke merely states that Mary conceived by the “power” of the Holy Spirit, while Matthew recorded the fact of the virgin birth (Matt. 1:18-25; cf. Luke 1:26-38). This was long before Christian theologians arrived on the scene. The story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels is clear. The “pagan idea of gods impregnating mortals” raises the question of which came first, the “pagan belief,” in anticipation of Jesus’ birth (Satan also is a student of the Scriptures), or the actual birth of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. The evidence supports the gospel story.

Some argue that Isaiah 53 refers to a description of the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The description of the suffering servant begins in Isaiah 52:13-15. Verse 14 says “his visage was so marred more than any man,” which can only refer to Jesus’ mistreatment at His trials and crucifixion. It cannot refer to the nation of Israel. There are other verses in Isaiah 53 that refer to Jesus’ being a sin bearer and to His being buried with the rich. Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, and they cannot refer to the exile and redemption of the Jewish people.

4. National revelation is the basis for Jewish belief.

Of all the religions in human history, only Judaism bases its belief on God’s speaking to the entire nation and not on claims of miracles. Jews accept that God will sometimes give the power of “miracles” to charlatans for the testing of Jewish loyalty to the Torah (Deut. 13:4). Maimonides stated in Foundations of Torah, chapter 8:

The Jews did not believe in Moses, our teacher, because of the miracles he performed. Whenever anyone’s belief is based on seeing miracles, he has lingering doubts, because it is possible the miracles were performed through magic or sorcery. All of the miracles performed by Moses in the desert were done because they were needed, and not as proof of his prophecy.

What then was the basis of [Jewish] belief? The Revelation at Mount Sinai, which we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears, not dependent on the testimony of others as it says, “Face to face, God spoke with you ” The Torah also states: “God did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us-who are all here alive today” (Deut. 5:3).

It is impossible to expect that national revelation has been the sole basis for Jewish beliefs. Many Jewish beliefs have come through individual patriarchs and prophets. Moreover, the Jews believe the revelations given individually to Abraham. At Sinai, after their first exposure to God, the Jews refused to hear Him further, and asked Moses to intercede for them and repeat all the messages of God to them. “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exod. 20:19). Throughout their history, God spoke through prophets and their writings, rather than to the nation as a whole, as at Sinai. The only significant belief given in the ears of the whole nation was when God spoke the Ten Commandments from Sinai.

What about miracles? A number of miracles accompanied the exodus of Israel through the desert, all of which served as teaching devices. Specifically, the daily manna and the water from the rock showed God’s provision for His people. The pillar of cloud and of fire showed God’s daily leading of the nation. The serpent on a pole demonstrated healing through faith in God. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram’s falling into a crevice opened by an earthquake demonstrated judgment on the wicked. We could cite other examples.

Christianity Contradicts Jewish Theology

The real conflict between Judaism and Christianity is that Christians believe in God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19). Contrast this with the Shema, the heart of Jewish belief: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4, emphasis supplied). Jews declare the Shema every day. The Shema is often the first words a Jew learns to speak and the last words he or she utters before death. Christians do not deny the Shema. God is indeed one. Yet, we recognize from the testimony of the Old and New Testaments that three Persons make up the unity of God. It is a mystery that we cannot explain.

In Jewish law, worship of a three-part God is idolatry. In the wisdom of God, He did not emphasize the concept of a God who is “Three in One.” However, this concept became prominent in the New Testament in explaining the Messiah, God’s Son, who lived as a human being and died that human beings might live, and in explaining the work of the Holy Spirit in making effective the work of grace. The Son often prayed to the Father, and the Holy Spirit continued the work of Christ after His ascension to heaven. We see God as being three personalities perfectly united in essence and purpose.

The Jewish critics of the Trinity, fail to recognize that there are several references to the Son and to the Spirit in the Old Testament (though more is said about the plurality of God in the New Testament) and that Elohim, the masculine plural, refers to the Creator God and allows for a plurality within the Godhead.6 “Let us make man in our image,” Elohim said in Genesis 1:26.


1. “I note that recent texts from Qumran indicate that the concept of a divine son was part of the messianic expectations of some sections of pre-Christian Judaism. Texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls attest that some Jews believed that the Messiah would possess divine qualities. For example, he will be “begotten of God” (1Qsa); he will be called “Son of God” and “Son of the Most High” (4Q246); heaven and earth will obey him; he will heal the sick and raise the dead (4Q521); and, he will be as Melchizedek and the very things said of God should be said of him (1Q13)” (Dean L. Overman, A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010], p. 70).

The Aramaic Apocalypse (4Q246) says: “9 [“| Gr]eat will he be called and he will be designated by his name, ii
1 He will be called son of God, and they will call him son of the Most High. Like the sparks
2 of the vision, so will their kingdom be. They will rule (several) years over
3 the earth and crush everything. People will crush another people and city another city.
4 vacat Until the people of God arise and make everyone rest from the sword.
5 His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom and all his paths in truth. He will judge
6 the earth in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease in the earth
7 and all the cities will pay him homage. The great God is his strength,
8 he will make war with them. He will place peoples in his hand and
9 cast them all away before him. His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom and all the abysses “
(Géza G. Xeravits, Kings, Priest, Prophet: Positive Eschatological Protagonists of the Qumran Library [Leiden, The Netherlands, Koninklijke Brill, 2003], vol. 47, pp. 83, 84).

2. Shraga Simmons (born July 1, 1961), an Orthodox Jewish rabbi involved in Orthodox Jewish outreach, gives his own list of reasons that Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah at “Why Jews do not Believe in Jesus,” available at jw/s/48892792.html, accessed 8/6/12.

3. Jesus and John the Baptist were called prophets (Matt. 21:11, 26; Luke 1:76; 7:16, 26).

4. Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit in the New Testament (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; and Eph. 4:11). The New Testament lists other prophets besides Jesus and John the Baptist (Acts 2:17, 18; 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9, 10).

5. Jesus was considered “the carpenter’s son” or the son of Joseph (Matt. 13:55, 56; Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42). He was also called the son of Mary and accepted into a family with brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3; Matt. 12:46). This shows that Jesus was adopted by Joseph and his family on a practical basis and probably on an official one as well.

6. Rich Deem, “The Triunity (Trinity) of God in the Old Testament,” available at triunity.html, accessed 8/6/12.