“Why didn’t the Jews accept Jesus as the Lord God when he came?” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 24–25
Robert C. Patch, Professor of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University: Initially, it should be remembered that some Jewish people did receive Jesus as the Messiah.
A good indication of the acceptance of Jesus is given in the Gospel of John and in the Acts of the Apostles. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, word of the miracle spread quickly throughout Jerusalem. Multitudes of people called, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” at the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city. (See John 11:45; John 12:11–13; Matt. 21.) Nevertheless, a week later, only a few Christians stood around the cross or talked with the apostles, and among them there was misunderstanding. (See Luke 24:21, 27; John 20:9.)
Shortly before Pentecost, about seven weeks after Easter, the apostle Peter spoke to the church members about filling the vacancy caused by the death of Judas. Acts records that Peter addressed 120 disciples. (See Acts 1:15.)
The popularity shift from the throngs at the triumphal entry to the single, small congregation just before Pentecost reflects the common opinion about the expected Messiah. It was assumed that the Messiah would restore the glory of the Davidic Monarchy with great power. (See Isa. 9:6, 7; Acts 1:6; Matt. 24:3.) One who could feed multitudes and perform miracles could attract a following (see John 6:14, 15, 26), but one who could be crucified by the Romans lost popular following.
Almost 25 years after Christ’s resurrection, when writing the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul cautioned those Gentile Christians against disparaging the Jews. He answered our same question for the saints of his own day. Paul gave five reasons why the Jews had not obtained the blessings of the “law of righteousness”:
1. The Jews had sought the “law of righteousness,” but they had not done it by faith. Instead, they looked to the works of the law and stumbled at the “stumblingstone.” (See Rom. 9:32–33.)
2. The Jews, ignorant of God’s righteousness, “have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Instead, they tried to establish their own righteousness. They had a zeal toward God that was not based upon knowledge. (See Rom. 10:2–3.)
3. Paul referred to Isaiah 28:16 [Isa. 28:16]: “… Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” He then asked the Jews, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:11, 14.)
5. Word of the gospel was sent to both Jews and Greeks. Moses prophesied that God would provoke Israel to jealousy by a Gentile people. Gentiles received the Holy Ghost and accepted the gospel, but Paul, together with Isaiah, accusingly said, “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” (Rom. 10:21.)
Paul explained that his own countrymen had neither the knowledge nor the faith to obtain the “law of righteousness”; instead, they were disobedient and contrary.
On the other hand, Paul observed that because the Jews had stumbled, the gospel went to the Gentiles. (See Rom. 11:11.) He observed that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom. 11:25.) Finally, he observed that after God had grafted them back into the parent tree, “all Israel shall be saved.” (Rom. 11:23, 26.)
It was apparent to Samuel that the Israelite people desired an earthly king so they might appear more like the other nations among whom they lived. (See 1 Sam. 8:5.) This temptation to measure, to conform, or to build the kingdom of heaven according to the accepted norms of secular traditions or societies is the source of much apostasy.