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Why did the Jews reject the Messiah?

To understand why Jews have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, we need to look at the political and religious scene at the time of Jesus’ first advent. The Jewish nation was occupied and under the heel of the Roman Empire. Although their leaders had studied the Old Testament and were in expectation of their Messiah, they thought only of the prophecies pertaining to Messiah’s greatness and overlooked the others pointing to his suffering and death. 

They expected Messiah to redeem Israel from Roman rule and were not in the proper heart condition to understand or appreciate that Messiah came to redeem the entire human race from the curse of death due to sin and to call out a special people (the faithful Jews) to a life of sacrifice in order to reign with Him in heaven. Instead, they were focused on a conquering king so much so that they ignored the other prophecies that spoke of a suffering servant. 

Furthermore, some of what Jesus taught and practiced seemed contrary to the Mosaic Law. For example, he healed on the Sabbath (a day when no work was to be done) and he told his listeners to love their enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). 

This new teaching was in complete contradiction to Deuteronomy 17:7 which says to purge evil “from among you.” The Jews did not understand that by performing miracles Jesus was illustrating what the future kingdom of God would be like when it would be established on earth. Jesus was also teaching the principles of true righteousness and love that each individual would need to exhibit and internalize in order to be a member of either the heavenly kingdom now or the kingdom on earth in the future. 

At the time of Jesus, Israel tried to find righteousness in her own striving to obey the Law and her leaders especially took pride in their efforts. Jesus was teaching a new way to live and, unfortunately, most of Israel’s leaders either could not or would not accept it. Only those who admitted that they were not measuring up and were in need of a Redeemer were the ones able to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf (Romans 9:30-33). 

Consequently, Israel, as a nation, rejected her Messiah and has continued to do so even to this day. As a result of that rejection, the opportunity to reign with Jesus in heaven has been opened up to the Gentiles during this time. However, God has not totally rejected Israel. In the future Millennial Kingdom on earth Israel will accept that Jesus was her Messiah and mourn for her loss (Zechariah 12:10). Then God will bless her and she will become a blessing to all the other nations on earth (Zechariah 8:23). 

Why did the Jews not accept the Messiah? They expected a conquering king to rid them of Roman rule, re-establish the Jewish nation and bring peace and prosperity back to Israel. They were focused on prophecies that spoke of future earthly blessings that would come to fruition at Jesus’ second advent so that they were not in the proper heart condition to understand or accept the real reason for Jesus’ first visitation, which was to redeem the entire human race and give the nation of Israel an opportunity to be part of the heavenly ruling class. 

To learn more about Israel’s role in God’s plan listen to, “Is Israel a Thorn in the Side of the World?”

To learn more about the hope the Jews still have in Jesus listen to, “Condemned to Death, How Did Jesus Love His Enemies?”