Here’s a question to which an answer is owed: How dare Christians say that the Jews are the ones who ignored God and refused Him, when He came among them, when the Jews have suffered more for their faith in the same God since about 70 AD than all the Christian martyrs combined and multiplied many times?
St. Paul reminds us that God has never given up on Israel:
“I say then, have they stumbled [by refusing Christ] that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” (Romans 11:11)
The first point worth noting here, of course, is that God is faithful to the Jews. The second is that indeed the Jews are jealous; they refuse to accept that the Gentiles, without becoming Jewish, have come to share their place in God’s family. A friend said in a comment on this post that the adoption of the Gentiles is not a Jewish concept but a Christian invention. Setting aside the evidence to the contrary from prophecy (for instance, Isaiah 11:10 and Malachi 1:11), I would venture that the reason that joining with the Gentiles is anathema to Israel is Israel’s great jealousy of God’s love. That is also the reason why, even after the Pentecost of the Gentiles, Judaizers – those who claim that the Gentiles cannot continue as Christians without first becoming Jewish and observing Jewish law – appear and must be rebuked by both Peter and Paul time and again in the history of the early Church. (Curiously, Jews of the New Testament period don’t mind joining with Gentiles against Christ – see Acts 14:1-7; it is in the love of God that they refuse to be joined.)
No one should be judged harshly for being jealous. Jealousy is the natural companion of fidelity, of the steadfast love of a people suffering travesty after travesty in the name of God in the centuries since the ruin of the Temple. The bride does not sacrifice to keep herself pure for the Bridegroom, does not ready herself for the wedding feast, if she does not trust that she is His one and only.
Joyful at times and the very image of martyrdom at others, the expectation of the Bridegroom is not its own end; the end is a great reward reserved especially for the beloved Bride and for no one else – the eternal, abiding, fully revealed love of the Bridegroom. The religious Jew believes this as he waits for the Mashiach. My grandfather, the secular Jew, may not think of himself as part of the Bride of God, but for his faithfulness – for marrying Jewish, for knowing Hebrew, for writing the history of his ancestors – it seems to me that he also expects a reward, at the very least an acknowledgement that he has done something profoundly right.
But fidelity to the Bridegroom is fidelity to His family. I wrote earlier that the Gentiles must love the Jews as the family of the Bridegroom. The same is true of Israel: in Christ, God has adopted the Gentiles as children to His family, and the bride who jealously rejects them exhibits not fidelity, but lack of love for her Bridegroom. She cannot see Him in the fullness of who He is, in those whom He brings with him. It’s not that her faithfulness and her sacrifice have been in vain – they haven’t; and it’s certainly not that someone else knows how to love God better than she does. But since God Himself is the reward of her faithfulness, because of her jealousy she sets aside her ultimate reward with her own hands.