If You Have a Jewish Friend...

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

The book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die has an introduction that might be interesting to your Jewish friends. In answering why Jesus came to die, I tried to connect Calvary with the concentration camps. It’s risky. But I tried to be very sensitive.

I would like this introduction to be winsome for Jewish people who wonder what Christians believe about the death of Jesus. Here’s a quote from the Introduction.

I am not the first to link Calvary and the concentration camps—the suffering of Jesus Christ and the suffering of Jewish people. In his heart-wrenching, innocence-shattering, mouth-shutting book Night, Elie Wiesel tells of his experience as a teenager with his father in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald. There was always the threat of “the selection”—the taking away of the weak to be killed and burned in the ovens.

At one point—and only one—Wiesel links Calvary and the camps. He tells of an old rabbi, Akiba Dumer.

Akiba Dumer left us, a victim of the selection. Lately, he had wandered among us, his eyes glazed, telling everyone of his weakness: “I can’t go on . . . It’s all over . . .” It was impossible to raise his morale. He didn’t listen to what we told him. He could only repeat that all was over for him, that he could no longer keep up the struggle, that he had no strength left, nor faith. Suddenly his eyes would become blank, nothing but two open wounds, two pits of terror.

Then Wiesel makes this provocative comment: “Poor Akiba Dumer, if he could have gone on believing in God, if he could have seen a proof of God in this Calvary, he would not have been taken by the selection.” I will not presume to put any words in Elie Wiesel’s mouth. I am not sure what he meant. But it presses the question: Why the link between Calvary and the concentration camp? (15-16)