Tens of millions of evangelical Christians from 192 countries tuned into God TV on October 7 to watch the annual Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, organized by Bishop Robert Stearns through his organization Eagles’ Wings. The lively event on the Haas Promenade overlooking the Old City and Temple Mount was attended by hundreds of Christian Zionists from around the world, along with a kosher catered reception for their Jewish friends. I was one of those friends.
Seated in the front row with other rabbis and Jewish guests, we were caught off guard as a gospel group began singing, “Mashiach! Mashiach! Mashiach!” Hundreds of Christians chimed in, dancing and throwing their arms up in praise.
I was initially amused, so I live-streamed this unusual scene for my friends on Facebook. One Jewish friend asked derisively, “Which mashiach (messiah) are they celebrating?”
Thus began a heated Facebook conversation about what to make of Christian support for Israel in general, and what to think of the catchy Mashiach tune that is catching on in some Christian circles.
A bit of background is in order.
The words of the Mashiach song were written by the Medieval sage Maimonides and are taken from the 12th of his 13 principles of faith: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. And even if he tarries, nevertheless, I will await him every day.”
Maimonides insisted that a Jew must believe in 13 principles of faith: that God is the creator; He is one; He has no physical body; He is omnipotent; He alone is to be worshipped; belief in the revelation of the prophets; Moses was the greatest of all prophets; divine authorship of the Torah; immutability of the Torah; God is all-knowing; justice through reward and punishment; the messiah will come and we will await expectantly; and that there will be a resurrection of the dead.
While Christians can enthusiastically get behind principle number 12, they certainly wouldn’t agree with several other principles of Jewish faith. Indeed, there are many important differences between Christianity and Judaism. When it comes to the Messiah, Christians believe he has come and will come again, Jews believe he hasn’t yet come. The question is, how significant a difference is this?
Evangelical leader Pastor John Hagee has seemed to minimize this distinction with a joke he is fond of saying. Pointing to his Orthodox Jewish friends, Hagee would say, “We both await the Messiah to come riding a donkey into Jerusalem. We will simply ask him, is this your first or second time here?”
Essentially, many on both sides of the growing movement of Jewish and Christian reconciliation agree that our common beliefs and interests outweigh our disagreements.
While, according to Jewish tradition, Jews are required to believe in certain tenets of faith, nonJews are not. Judaism does have several laws guiding non-Jews which are known as the seven Noahide commandments. These include: not to worship idols; not to curse God; to establish courts of justice; not to commit murder; not to commit adultery or sexual immorality; not to steal; and not to eat flesh torn from a living animal.
The seven Noahide commandments address actions, not beliefs. While Jews are required to observe and believe, non-Jews are only required to observe.
When Jews dismiss Christians who sing about belief in their Messiah, are we in fact holding them up to an unfair standard? Do we ask our fellow Jews how many of us wait for the Mashiach every day?
Through my work at Israel365 in strengthening relationships between Christian Zionists and Israel, I am often attacked by fellow Jews who think they know exactly what Christians believe.
“Don’t you know all Christians only want to help us come back to Israel so that we will die in the apocalypse?” is what I am often asked. So many Jews are quick to dismiss our Christian friends because of what they “really” believe will happen in the future.
Despite the fact there are thousands of Christian denominations that have different belief systems, why are we so bothered about what they do and don’t believe? Maimonides established his principles of faith for us, not them.
Furthermore, Maimonides himself addressed the notion of Christians believing in their Messiah with a shocking comment that would surprise many Jewish critics. After establishing the criteria for the Jewish Messiah and explaining why Jesus did not fulfill those standards, the 12th century sage wrote that, nevertheless, Christian belief in the Messiah is a positive development to “prepare the entire world to worship God together” (Laws of Kings 11:4).
Hundreds of Christians bought plane tickets and flew across the world at their own expense to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in the Jewish capital. Even if they were thinking about a different Messiah when singing about the Mashiach, rather than rejecting them because of their beliefs, let’s thank our new friends for the many positive actions they take on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post