Jesus and Jewish Suffering: an Israeli Perspective
Suffering is international and cross-cultural. It is something that unites all human beings, because we all experience it at one point or another. Therefore, suffering is not specifically Jewish—although in Jewish history there has been a great deal of suffering.
My country, Israel, was birthed from the pain of one of humanity’s greatest experiences of suffering, the Holocaust. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, said: “The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.”[ 1 ]
Today, Jewish suffering continues, both in the diaspora with the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and even in Israel, the Jewish homeland, where we are always ready for, even expecting, war—not just against our external neighbors but also internally against terrorism.
Maybe it is ironic that most Jewish people in Israel do not feel compassion over Jesus’ suffering, even though they know how painful suffering can be. For the most part I find non-believing Israelis to almost feel comfort in the knowledge that Jesus suffered. It is an attitude of, “I am glad that Jesus suffered, because we have suffered in his name—therefore he deserved to suffer.”
This statement comes from ignorance, yet it also has some truth in it. John Stott, in his wonderful book The Cross of Christ,writes these words:
It is wonderful that we may share in Christ’s sufferings; it is more wonderful still that he shares in ours. Truly his name is “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” But his “sympathy” is not limited to his suffering with his covenant people. Did Jesus not say that in ministering to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner, we would be ministering to him, indicating that he identified himself with all needy and suffering people?[ 2 ]
Yes, Jewish people have suffered in the name of Jesus. But the most amazing thing is that God came in the incarnation as Jesus, and chose to suffer and ultimately die for us. Our people have endured suffering. And Jesus’ suffering was endured for us, and in spite of us.
Dan Sered is the Israel Director of Jews for Jesus.
[ 1 ] Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, various editions.
[ 2 ] John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity Press, 2012), p. 326.
Chief Operating Officer
Dan was born in Israel to a secular Jewish family and later relocated to the United States while he was in his teens. Dan attended Stony Brook University in New York where he met Dinah, a Jewish believer in Jesus who showed him how Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. Dan’s eyes were opened and he committed his life to the Lord. In 1999, Dan & Dinah were married and soon after began serving as missionaries, joining Jews for Jesus and later moving to Israel. In 2006, Dan became the Israel Director of Jews for Jesus, which quickly became the largest branch of the ministry worldwide. In 2018, Dan was appointed as Chief Operating Officer for the organization and specifically supervises the day-to-day efforts of the branches in Europe, South Africa, Israel, and Australia. Dan received his M.A. in Ministry and Leadership from Western Seminary and is currently a doctoral student and working on his D. Min. through Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also an adjunct professor at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya and helps to pastor All Nations Church; a vibrant and growing congregation in the Tel Aviv area. Dan & Dinah have 3 children; Yael, Eithan, and Yoav.