It was on this day, in 1263, that a famous discussion occurred between the noted Rabbi Maimonides and a Jew who had converted to Christianity by the name of Pablo Christiani. Christiani had taken it upon himself to challenge Judaism and its views on writings other than Scripture, such as the Talmud, and, of course, the rabbinical view of the Messiah. Christiani’s position was that Jesus was the Messiah and that these other writings should be banned.
This debate is indicative of the centuries-old enmity that has existed between Christianity and Judaism. Over the years, this dispute has resulted in very unfortunate consequences from time to time, leaving many deaths in its wake. To this very day, people on one side insist that Jews are Christ-killers and, on the other side, some Jews regard most Christians as heretics and/or idolaters. This wretched situation is quite ironic considering that the Messiah came, in large part, to unite these two groups into one. Regarding Yeshua’s purpose, Paul said:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might create in Himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
The two that Paul referred to are, generally speaking, Jews and Christians – circumcision and those who are regarded as uncircumcision. The Messiah broke down the middle wall of separation that these two could be united in Him, not separated from one another. And even though we believe He broke down that middle wall, it seems that Judaism and Christianity, collectively, have made Him the middle wall of separation.
In John’s Gospel we are told that Messiah died for the sake of the Jewish people, but not for them alone. In Chapter 11, John wrote that He died so that the people of God near and those who were “scattered abroad” might be gathered together as one people. Again, He determined to break down the barriers that separate His people; man has been just as determined to rebuild those barriers through their religious doctrines and dogma.
I believe that both sides of the issue – those who are circumcision and those regarded as uncircumcision – have something to offer. In other words, both Judaism and Christianity possess something that is true and eternal. But I also believe that both sides have added their spin to the truth they possess. Both sides are guilty of taking away and adding to the truth. As as result of this forbidden practice (see Deuteronomy 4:2 & 12:32), they have developed their various doctrines as it relates to the Messiah and what His followers are to do. It is the doctrines of men that so often send people into different and opposing directions. In some ways, as a whole, we are undermining the purpose of the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection. He is intent upon presenting His people unto the Father as one body while we seem intent on fracturing that body.
This scenario, not only addresses the differences between Judaism and Christianity, but unfortunately, often describes what is going on inside the body of Messiah, itself. In other words, there are people in the body of Messiah who put their spin on God’s word, they develop their doctrines and, in turn, those doctrines create walls between brethren. And as we all know, separation and division within the body is not what God intended; division and strife is not what the Messiah came to spawn among His people. To the contrary, He prayed that we would be one even as He and the Father are One (John 17:11). Furthermore, He said that the world would recognize us as His disciples because of our love for one another.
If unity among God’s people was important enough that the Creator would give His only Son as a sacrifice on our behalf and for the purpose of uniting us, then how important should it be to us that we become one people? Is it important enough that we are willing to lay our agenda aside that His will may be done? We can’t control what other people do, but we do have a say when it comes to our actions and our attitudes. And so, let us all do our part to break down the walls we have built between brethren so that the family can become one. Doing what we can to cultivate unity of the faith among the brethren, furthers His purposes and demonstrates that we are surrendering our will to His.