These are those times


Last week at Bible study, although we were studying the Gospel of John, a cross reference led us to the Isaiah quote describing Yeshua being led as a lamb to slaughter. It being the week leading up to Easter, the passage seemed quite appropriate.


As the words were read, inexplicably, I saw a picture in my mind of WW2 concentration camp prisoners saying the Shema while standing at the edge of the mass grave they had just dug right before they were to fall into it after being shot to death. Later in our study a member of our group repeated the quote from Isaiah and again the picture came to mind.


We went on to study John and various cross references about Yeshua when our newest member who is Jewish asked a broader question, “If all this is true then why is there so much pain and suffering still in this world? Look at the Holocaust!” As she asked her question, I didn’t have an answer, but it brought up the recurring picture in an enigmatic way . . .


There are many ways to look at that mental image of the victims at the edge of the mass grave. We know there was resistance too. Yet it felt just as Yeshua went silently to His death with His Father’s name on His lips, perhaps the killing of millions of Jews in this way, and with them going silently still with God on their lips, somehow changed mankind in a way I had not fully understood.


The Holocaust being a catalyst for change was a perplexing thought at the time and in no way minimizes the horror of each person who died and the effect on their families. It really only took one horrible person’s rise to leadership and the domino effect of so many bad choices by those influenced by and around that person for the Holocaust to occur. Yet it did. Could such a silent yet horrific mass sacrifice, even beyond its obvious catastrophic facts at the time, possibly have changed mankind?


So I asked the group, “Just as Yeshua’s sacrifice changed the world, is it possible the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust changed mankind’s feelings about the Jewish people?” There was no comment by the group as I shared the possible connection. I had no more to say as well.


The next day I decided to research Passion plays and learned so much more about them than I already knew. In the course of that research I ran across an article about the Passion play in Oberammergau, Germany,  apparently one of the most famous of this genre.


This particular play has been presented every ten years since 1634. It typically has drawn an audience of over half a million people, many who undertake a pilgrimage for its viewing. When Hitler saw this play on its 300th anniversary he used it to further his anti-Semitic agenda saying, “Never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed.”


Interestingly, I also learned that after the Holocaust other Passion plays began to modify their portrayal of Jews in this story. Yet the one at Oberammergau remained unchanged for decades. Into the 1980s its rendition of the story was vehemently anti-Semitic at a time when the Christian world generally had made great strides in its attitudes toward the Jewish people.


In 1990 a new director of the Oberammergau play was hired. Since then, under his direction and vision for change, not only is the play more accurate on the main story line about “who killed Jesus”, it now even has a scene of Yeshua lifting a Torah as hundreds sing “Shema Yisrael” (not mentioned here for its accuracy, but rather, for the embracive Jewish tone).


Aside from these fascinating details, the sentence that jumped out at me in this article was this: “With the post-Holocaust transformation of Christian attitudes toward Jews and Judaism, . . .  “.


I realized in this one statement contrasting Oberammergau’s play from the rest that it was a known fact understood by historians that the Holocaust did change mankind’s attitudes toward the Jewish people. Of course the change didn’t happen overnight but it was the beginning of the rethinking. The Holocaust was a catalyst for change.


That’s how history works. It’s hard to see it when we’re living it, yet for scholars who study history, there is seen an evolution at least in this case for the better regarding anti-Semitism pegging the change to the Holocaust. I just never put together this change in attitude may have started post WW2 since my personal experiences decades later still included run-ins with anti-Semitism. Then to see the deaths in the Holocaust alongside Yeshua on the cross definitely pierced my heart as an image, especially during the week of the world’s observance of His Resurrection.


We have times in history where pivotal events have occurred, like the Catholic Church’s enlightened writings on this subject as far back as 1965 in the “Nostra Aetate”.  Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger’s (the Jewish Cardinal’s) decades long push for advancement in the Church’s understanding of the Holocaust into the 1990s, and the Oberammergau Passion Play transformation during that same decade perhaps evidence the ‘90s as another time of accelerated change of attitude for the better toward the Jewish people.


We often don’t know the deeper changes occurring when we are living during those years. The Six-Day War in 1967 and Jesus Movement in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were clearly the beginnings of another wave of changes affecting the Jewish people as well as a time of heightened religious awakening for many of our Catholic and non Catholic brothers and sisters as well. It is really only in retrospect that our older Messianic Jewish leaders can look back over the last almost 60(!) years to fully appreciate the revival and depth of development of our modern Messianic Jewish movement from its miraculous rebirth in the late ‘60s.


I want to suggest we are now also living in those times of radical change. Can’t you feel it?


The days of reconciliation of Christians and Jews are upon us and moving quickly. Ironically, but understandably, we also see destructive stories recently of rising anti-Semitism, for the evil one surely does not want this healing to happen.


As we know, history repeats itself, and we also know that progress is often two steps forward, one step back. All the more reason to be aware of what is at stake and to not give into fear or despair. To the contrary, be invigorated to work even harder to advance His Kingdom here on earth. Fight for good, but do so with love.


No one can really escape His Love for it is eternal and all encompassing whether or not all who are receiving it are in a place to accept or understand it. Yeshua taught us how to love our enemy, to love the unlovable, how to share His Love with all. We just need to steep ourselves in Scripture to be reminded of that fact and how to do it.


Even more days of wonder are surely coming as we progress on the path of all coming together in Him. We are living in those days. Baruch HaShem! Aslan is on the move.


Be encouraged. Do your part.


Love. Love. Love.


Shabbat shalom.



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