In America, many of us are sleep deprived after watching Virginia defeat Texas Tech in overtime last night. Meanwhile, much of the world is focused on Israel, where one of the most significant elections in years is taking place.
I have led approximately thirty study tours to Israel over the years. Each time, the two most common questions I’m asked are: “Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah?” and “How does the Israeli government work?”
The two questions are more related than one might think.
Since Israelis are voting today in parliamentary elections, we’ll address the second question first. Here’s the process:
Fourteen parties are vying for votes. Citizens vote for parties, not people. At stake is control of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and its 120 seats. The more votes a party receives, the more seats it wins.
No party has ever won a sixty-one-seat majority. After today’s vote, the president of Israel (a largely ceremonial position) will invite one party’s leader to form a governing coalition with other parties. That person will have twenty-eight days to form a government, with a possible fourteen-day extension.
The president selects the leader who, in his opinion, has the best chance of forming a multi-party coalition to reach sixty-one Knesset seats. This is usually the leader of the party that received the most votes in the election, but not always.
If that leader is successful, he or she becomes the prime minister of the country. If not, the president invites a different candidate to form a governing coalition.
Making history in three ways
Today’s election is historic for three reasons.
One: If Benjamin Netanyahu is reelected, he will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history.
Two: Mr. Netanyahu is facing the possibility of indictment later this year on corruption charges. He would be the first prime minister to face trial while in office. He denies any wrongdoing.
Three: Mr. Netanyahu faces strong competition from a coalition led by three former heads of the army. This is the first such coalition to run for office in Israeli history.
Their “Blue and White” party (named for the colors of the Israeli flag) is led by Benny Gantz, who has teamed up with a well-known centrist party led by Yair Lapid, a former television host and finance minister. Mr. Gantz has agreed to transfer the prime minister position to Mr. Lapid after two and a half years if their parties win.
We will soon know which leader will be given the first opportunity to form a governing coalition, but it may take weeks to determine the final outcome.
Prime ministers and the Messiah
Israelis typically elect leaders based primarily on their ability to provide security for the nation. A tiny country surrounded by enemies is understandably focused on this issue.
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day had a similar concern with regard to their Messiah, a fact that connects our second question with our first: Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah?
The Jews of Jesus’ day were waiting and hoping for a military conqueror who would overthrow the Romans and establish their nation in safety and prosperity. Since Jesus died on a Roman cross, in their minds he obviously could not be the Messiah they expected.
Many Jews today make the same theological mistake.
“With his wounds we are healed”
When Jesus returns as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16), he will indeed be a conquering hero (cf. Philippians 2:10–11). When he came to earth the first time, however, he came as the Suffering Servant who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” so that “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4, 5).
This is why Christians believe him to be the Messiah whose death atoned for our sins and purchased our salvation (cf. Romans 5:8).
Here’s the problem: Many Jews believe that Isaiah 53 and other references to the Suffering Servant are fulfilled in the sufferings of the Jewish people over the centuries. Therefore, they discount the Christian declaration that Jesus is their Messiah.
In their view, the claim that he died for their sins is the very reason he could not be their Messiah.
“No cross, no crown”
The foundational problem with such logic is its assumption that the sufferings of the Jewish people could suffice to atone for their sins (Isaiah 53:5). As we will see tomorrow, the reason Jesus had to die is transformingly relevant, both for them and for us.
For today, let’s close by embracing with gratitude the significance of Jesus’ death for us. William Penn: “No thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”
Because Jesus wore the cross of death, you and I will wear “the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
How will you express your gratitude to your Savior today?