I love Jewish people. In fact, as the bumper sticker says: “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.” One of the great privileges of my life is to have been invited to serve as a faculty member of the Moriah International Center, a program that offers a number of courses in Israel under the auspices of the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the past four years, Pillar College has sponsored groups which have gone to Israel for the Moriah course in Archaeology and Biblical Geography.
The topics that have been approved for me to teach are:
- Ancient Biblical Worldview
- Intertestamental Era: Persia through Rome
- The Kingdom of Jesus (Mount of Beatitudes)
- Day of the Lord and Kingdom of God: Eschatological Hopes (Mount of Olives)
- Israel and the Gentile Nations in the Hebrew Prophets
- Hebrew and Christian Covenants (Garden Tomb)
But I will not be the best professor, by far. We are privileged to tour key historical, geographical, and archaeological sites with some of the greatest archaeologists and Old Testament scholars. Our next trip will be December 28, 2019 – January 7, 2020. Literally, on New Year’s Eve we will say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” — a phrase that is often sung at the end of the Passover Seder, going back to the 15th century.
Enough for the info-mercial. I was reading Acts 5 recently and had a thought you might find interesting. God was using the apostles to do signs and wonders (verses 12-16), which enraged the Sadducee leaders who put the apostles in jail (17). During the night, an angel delivered them from jail, so they went right back to the temple to teach. When the authorities found them, they brought them to trial and “they were furious and wanted to put them to death” (33).
One of the Sanhedrists, Gamaliel, a Pharisee, cautioned them by citing two other messianic movements that fizzled out after their leaders were dead. His implication, of course, was that since Jesus had been put to death, no doubt His movement would also dissolve. He said, “…if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God (vss 38-39).
On April 21, 2019 — about 1,990 years after the incident in Acts 5 — approximately 2.2 billion people in the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. Gamaliel would be impressed, but was he right? Does the success of a movement necessarily prove that it is of God? If so, we must conclude that the other major religions are also right. Some of them, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are far older than Christianity. What about Islam that was founded in beginning of the 7th century A. D.?
But Gamaliel was right. Here’s the difference between Jesus and the other religious founders: only Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, truths that He supported by many signs and wonders. And only Jesus was raised from the dead, lived on earth for 40 days after His resurrection and was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:6). Christians do not follow Jesus because He was a great teacher, did mighty miracles, or started a new religion. We follow Him because He died for our sins and was raised from the dead — the very truths that got Peter and the apostles in trouble: “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed…Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12). I pray Gamaliel was convinced and so also for his kinsmen.
David E. Schroeder