Part 4: The Early Church. Lesson 4 of 7.
Lesson 22. Jews and Jesus

Goal: To see more deeply that God fulfilled his promises to the Jews, and be moved to share those promises with Jews.

1.Messiah is for the Jews.  Paul writes, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, for the Jews first ….” 1  Jesus was a Jew, and Jesus was the Messiah/savior promised to the Jews in the Old Testament. This lesson shows that some Jews believed in Jesus and entered the church; others rejected Jesus and founded Judaism.

2.Jewish worship.  The temple in Jerusalem was the only place where the ceremony of sacrificing animals for the forgiveness of sins was allowed.  Another place for worship was called the synagogue. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, because it appeared during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. Since there was no animal sacrifice there, it did not require priests. The Jewish people were able to maintain their unity no matter how far they moved from Jerusalem, because 12 Jewish men in any city could form a synagogue. The nearby Jewish people would gather there once a week for Psalms, Bible readings, and prayers. After the temple was destroyed in AD 70, and animal sacrifice came to an end, the Jewish people still had the synagogue to keep their religion going. Paul found that the  synagogue in each city was a natural place to find Jews and tell them about Jesus. After people accepted Jesus, they continued to meet once a week, and today Christianity and Judaism still use the worship pattern of Psalms, Bible readings and prayers.

3.Jewish groups. At the time of Jesus, Jews in Israel belonged to several differing groups. These groups are not mentioned in the Old Testament because they developed in the 400 years between the Old and New Testament. One group, the Zealots. felt it was their duty to kill the Romans.  One of Jesus disciples is called “the zealot. “ 2  Jesus did not agree with killing the Romans.  When Peter wanted to use his knife to protect Jesus, Jesus said  “put your sword away. All who take the sword will perish with the sword.”  3  In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and defeated most of the zealots . The zealots tried to fight the Romans again in 130 AD, but were defeated again, and after that he Romans prohibited Jews from living in Jerusalem.

4.Sadducees. These Jews were the leaders of the priests. The “chief priest” was usually a Sadducee.  Many members of the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) were Sadducees. Therefore they were a link between the Jewish people and the Roman government, including King Herod They valued the temple, and took care of the temple money. They criticized Jesus, and they persecuted the believers 4  After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple,  Sadducees lost power because there were no priests to supervise and no need for a link with the Roman government. so, after that history does not mention them.

5.Pharisees. These Jews carefully obeyed all of God’s laws, such as for hand-washing ceremonies and avoiding work on the Sabbath day (Saturday).  They criticized the common people, who did not obey all the rules.  They criticized Jesus because he healed people on the Sabbath day. Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” who obeyed many rules but did not consider justice and mercy. 5  Jesus told about a publican (tax-collector for the Romans) who received forgiveness when he said “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner,” but that a Pharisees who did not ask for mercy but rather boasted about how good he was did not receive forgiveness. 6

6.Dissension. Paul was a Pharisee and persecuted the believers before he became a Christian. When Paul was on trial before the Jewish Council, he “perceived that one part were Pharisee and the other Sadducees. He cried out, “brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead.” As he said this, there was a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided, for the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angels, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.” 7  (the Sadducees accepted only the first five books of the Bible).

7.Jewish Believers.  After Jesus rose from the dead, some Jews became believers, but many did not. 50 days after Jesus died, 3000 Jews became believers in Jesus. 8   Many of the priests became believers. 9   Barnabas, who later helped Paul, was from the tribe of Levi, some of whom were priests . 10  Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to see Jesus 11  and brought spices when Jesus was brought to the tomb 12    In AD 70, Roman soldiers destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and killed many Jews.  But the Jews who believed in Jesus had left the city before the Romans came, and were safe, thanks to the warnings of Jesus 13 `

8.The poor ones. Not much is known about the Jews who believed in Jesus.  Most of them did not have much money.  They were called the Ebionites, which means the “poor ones.”  They were persecuted by the Jews who did not believe in Jesus.  After 70, curses against Jews who believe in Jesus were added to the prayers in the Jewish synagogues; after 75, believers in Jesus were not allowed to attend the Jewish synagogue.    However, after 400 years, millions of Jews had become believers in Jesus. 14

9.Jews and churches. Today, when Jews come to believe in Jesus, many of them join Gentile congregations.  However, there are some who form their own congregations.  These Jewish believers are called “Messianic Jews.” They worship on Saturdays, continue to celebrate Jewish customs and festivals, but because of Jesus these customs have a deep meaning for them.

10.A forgiveness  problem. After the temple was destroyed, there was no place to sacrifice animals to receive forgiveness.  This was not a problem for Jews who believed in Jesus, because they regarded Jesus as the final and complete sacrifice for sins, so that animal sacrifices were no longer needed. But it was a big problem for the Jews who did not believe in Jesus, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, and did not believe he was the final sacrifice for sins.

11.An answer.  The problem was solved in the years after AD 70 by a Pharisee who said that doing acts of love brings forgiveness of sin just as much as the animal sacrifices did.  Paul had written the exact opposite: “a man is not justified by obeying the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” 15    Though forgiveness is taught in Judaism, the primary hope for being accepted by God is to do a sufficient number of good works.  Paul already could see this emphasis in Judaism. He wrote that those who practice Judaism did not know the righteousness that comes from God, and sought to establish their own. 16   Those who depend on good works for acceptance by God can never know whether they have done enough.

12.Judaism. Judaism and Christianity are two different religions that each claim to be the continuation of the Old Testament religion.  Not all Jews practice Judaism.  Those who practice Judaism believe that Jesus was not the Messiah, and God’s kingdom has not come yet, because only the Messiah can bring it.  With no temple, and no sacrifices, Judaism places special emphasis on the first five books of the Old Testament as the presence of God in their midst.  Believers in Judaism strive to follow God’s laws, and even many additional laws that are meant to keep them from breaking God’s laws.  Like Christianity, Judaism today has divided into many different groups. 17    Today, the word Pharisee is no longer used, but leaders of the Jewish synagogues are still addressed by the Hebrew word “rabbi,” which means teacher.

13.The Torah. Around the year AD 100, the leading Pharisees held a meeting to determine which of their ancient Hebrew writings were regarded as coming from God. These books became the Jewish Bible, also called the Torah.  The newest of these books was Malachi, written around 400 BC.  The Protestant churches call these books “The Old Testament.”  Other Christian groups such as Catholic and Orthodox include additional books that were written by Jews in Greek during the 200 years before Christ.18

14.Persecuting Jews. Paul hoped that his ministry will make the Jews feel jealous.  He means that the Jews will see that the blessings promised to the Old Testament people have been given to the Gentiles,  19  and that will make them willing to consider the possibility that Jesus is the real Messiah.  Unfortunately, many things have happened over the past 2000 years that have given Jews the impression that Christianity is evil, rather than something to be jealous about.  The rejection of the Jews is called “anti-semitism.”  Here are some examples:

15.Anti-semitism. In 388, a Christian mob burned a Jewish synagogue.  After Christianity became legal, more and more laws were passed that took away rights from the Jews.  Around 400 a Greek preacher popularized the mistaken idea that Jews were “Christ-killers” (the actual fact is Jesus’ own disciples were Jews: it was only certain Jewish leaders who riled up the crowd and pushed the Roman governor to kill Jesus.)  In 1096, soldiers from the crusades destroyed many Jewish communities in Germany.  In 1290 the Jews were expelled from England.  In 1492 the Jews were driven out of Spain or forced to become Christians.  In 1648 thousands of Jews were killed in Poland.  From1938 to 1945, Hitler killed millions of Jews.

16.Jewish survival. The Jews today are permitted to live in most countries of the world.  They still must face ups and downs in the prejudice against them.  They want to be sure that they can continue to survive into the future.  But this presents a barrier for those who want to bring the gospel to them.  Even today, Jews commonly feel that a Jew who believes in Jesus is no longer a true Jew.  Those who encourage Jews to accept Jesus are looked at as anti-semites, ”finishing the task that Hitler did not finish.”  Anyone who desires to bring the gospel to the Jews must be prepared for these barriers, and the only way to respond to these barriers is with love. As with any conversation, you do not know what your conversation partner believes unless that person tells you. In the case of a Jew, you might be talking to a “practicing” Jew (one who attends weekly services and follows the laws about food), or someone who attends events only occasionally and selects only certain customs, or even a secular Jew (one who does not observe any Jewish traditions). The person you are talking to may or may not believe in life after death, in whether to await a Messiah, or how relevant the Bible is for today.

17.Sharing with Jews. Paragraph 1 above said that the gospel has power, and is meant first of all to help the Jews.  The gospel is the promise of a free gift: the gift of forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus.  In talking to a Jew, you can explain your faith with special emphasis on the Old Testament connections. Here are some suggestions. The basic problem of humankind was expressed in the Old Testament, by Isaiah: when he wrote that the human race is separated from God because of sin. 20   Isaiah also prophesied that one day someone, whom he called a suffering servant, would substitute for us because God will put all of our sin upon him, the suffering servant. 21  Isaiah calls this person “Immanuel.” 22   It is a Hebrew word, meaning that God will come to be with us.  Jesus claimed to be that one: God in the flesh.  Isaiah also explained that though he would die, he would live again when he writes that he poured out his life unto death, but that after his suffering, he will see the good results of his suffering.  23  The fact that God accepts us through faith, not based on good works, is seen in the example of Abraham: because Abraham believed God, God considered Abraham to be righteous. 24   Paul did not hesitate to bring this message to his fellows Jews, trying to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 25   It is the message about Jesus that can change hearts.


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1 Romans 1:16
2 Matthew 10:6
3 Matthew 26:52
4 Acts 4:1-3 and 5:17
5 Matthew 23:23
6 Luke 18:10-14
7 Acts 23:6-8
8 Acts 2:41
9 Acts 6:7
10 Acts 4:36
11 John 3
12 John 19:39
13 Matthew 24:16
14 In the first century, there were about 6 million Jews in the Roman Empire. By the fifth century, there were at most a million. Some scholars suggest it is because most Jews accepted Christ, and so were no longer counted as Jews.  First Things (magazine), February 2005.
15 Galatians 2:16
16 Romans 10:3
17 For more detail on today’s orthodox, reform, and conservative groups in Judaism, go to
18 These books not found in the Hebrew Bible, called apocrypha or deuterocanonical, are described at

19 Romans 11:13
20 Isaiah 59:2
21  Isaiah 53:4-6
22 Isaiah 7:14
23 Isaiah 53:11
24 :Genesis 15:6
25  Acts 9:20-2