Why Did the Jews Reject Jesus?

by David Goldstein LL.D, 1943. A Jewish convert to Catholicism.
Named a "Knight of St. Gregory" by Pope Pius XII in 1955.

It is interesting to note, that nearly all the questions you put up to me, are questions I have asked myself while studying, doubting, and fighting off Catholic claims. One of them, taken from your first letter, is-

"If Jesus is the Messiah, as Christians claim him to be, do you think the Jews of his time would have rejected him?"

   Yes, is the answer. The Jewish leaders of those days, and not the Jewish populace, were the cause. That was partly due to the desire for a monarchial personage, if any, to free Jewry from the tyranny of Caesar, rather than an humble, spiritual personage, an advocate of a kingdom that is not of this world.

   Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, and the controlling members of the Sanhedrin, who were mainly Sadducees, the Pharisees (also enemies of Jesus) being in the minority, were the cause. These Sadducees were the Protestants of Jewry. The leading authoritative Jewish writings inform us, as you very likely know, that they opposed many of the primary Old Testament teachings that Jesus advocated. They denied belief in spiritual beings, the immortality of the human soul, a future life of rewards and punishments, and the resurrection of the body. They ignored the Messianic teachings of Moses and the prophets, and looked forward for freedom from Rome rather than emancipation from the affliction of original sin. The Sadducees were a wealthy class, who were hated by the Jewish populace. Jesus openly warned the people to "beware" of them (St. Matt. 16:6).

   The Talmud says that the benedictions in the Temple used to end with "blessed be the lord God of Israel unto eternity," but when the Sadducees corrupted the Jewish faith by denying the immortality of the soul, it was enacted that the benedictions should end with, "from eternity to eternity" (Berachotd, fol. 29, col, I). In Derech eretz Zuta, chapter 1, the Jews were cautioned to "Learn or inquire nothing of the Sadducees, lest they be drawn into hell."

   In these times, when one man in Germany, who is not a German, could plunge the world into a total war, the evil result of which cannot be estimated at present, it is easy to realize how the populace could be misled by the leaders of first century Judaism. And remember that we Israelites have inherited a false concept of the character of Jesus, which has been intensified by the injustices suffered during the centuries that have sometimes been Christian in name rather than in fact.

   The hope of Israel then, as it is among the Orthodox Jews of our day, was for a Messianic temporal ruler or emancipator. Jesus to such people was a disappointment. He was the opposite of their cherished worldly expectation, for

"He came not in regal splendor drest,
The haughty diadem, the Tyrian vest;
Not armed in flame all glorious from afar,
Of hosts the Captain, the Lord of war."

   The power of Jesus aroused the envy of the rulers of Israel, for the common people loved Him. They flocked around Jesus by the thousands. The most dramatic occasion was on the Sunday before His crucifixion, which we call Palm Sunday. The "common people" gathered with palms, which they waved with joy at the coming of their Messianic King. They took off their garments and laid them on the dusty road, for Jesus to ride over them in His triumphal procession through Jerusalem on an ass. They hailed Him as their Messiah, with words that have rung down through the Christian centuries, royal words that will be heard until the end of the world -

"Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest."

   So great was the enthusiasm for Jesus that fear entered the hearts of the leaders. The Pharisees pleaded with Jesus to check the populace, to "rebuke" His disciples. Jesus replied -

"I say to you that if these (people) keep silence, the stones will cry out" (St. Luke 19:40).

In other words, no power on earth can smother the fact that I am the Messiah. If the enthusiasm for Me is repressed, the very stones will make known that I am your King.

   The Sadducees and Pharisees in power would have hailed Jesus on His triumphal journey through Jerusalem, if He had come as a warrior seated on a horse, instead of as the King of Peace, meekly on an ass.

   It is well to digress here for a moment, to say that the ass, which in our country is known to be stupid and stubborn, was known in the East for his patience, gentleness, submission, and great power of endurance. The animal Jesus rode, on that historic occasion, was the fulfillment of one of the incidental Messianic prophesies. The Midrash (explanation of biblical tests) says that just as Abraham and Moses rode on asses, so "the Son of David also shall ride" (Pirke de R. Eliezar, Chap. 31).

   Abraham saddled his ass and rode with Isaac, carrying wood along with them for the holocaust which God had commanded (Gen. 22:3). This prefigured Jesus carrying His cross to the holocaust on Mount Calvary.

   Moses took his wife and sons, set them on an ass, and drove back to Egypt, "for they (his enemies) are dead who sought his life" (Exod. 4:19-20). Herod also was dead, who sought the life of Jesus. Hence, Joseph could take Mary and her Son Jesus, on an ass, back from Egypt to Nazareth.

   Thus it is plain that the "common people," not the leaders of Jewry, saw in Jesus mounted on the ass, in the City of Peace, the fulfillment of the prophesy of Zacharias (9:9).

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy King will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass -."

   To come back directly once more to your question, please to see that the Jewish populace did not reject Jesus. You need but to recall Anthony's famous oration over Caesar's body to realize how easily the honest sentiment of the populace can be changed to the very opposite. It was the clever and powerful influence of the rulers in Jewry that caused the Hosanna's to the Son of David to be changed to "Crucify him. Crucify him," for "both the Pharisees and Sadducees tried (with success) to weaken the influence of Jesus with the populace," as the Jewish author, Prof. Solomon Grayzell, tells us in Vallentine's Jewish Encyclopedia. If the minds of the Jews had not been beclouded, and their hearts hardened, by spiritual darkness engendered by the unworthy leaders of Israel, the principles, life and miracles of Jesus, as well as what He said of Himself, would have convinced them that He is their Messiah.

   The day will no doubt come, please God it will be soon, when the hearts of the remnant of Israel, who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will turn from their misguided forebears, who rejected Jesus, to those who accepted Him as their Messiah. Then will their hearts leap with joy because from the Jews came the King of Kings, the Apostolic Band, the teaching Church, the first thousands that were incorporated into the Mystical Body of the Messiah. Then will their song be changed from the mournful melody of the Kol Nedri to the joyful "Hosanna to the Son of David."