Yair Zakovits, head of the Bible department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has recently published a book in Hebrew called, “Yeshua Reads the Gospels” (Am Oved Publishers, Tel Aviv). The book contains 71 poems, written as Yeshua Himself speaking in the first person.
Zakovits is not a “believer” in Yeshua. He approaches the scriptures through “document criticism,” often disrespectful and sacrilegious. Yet he is endeavoring to view Yeshua through “Hebraic” or “Israelite” eyes. The use of the proper name Yeshua, instead of Yeshu, demonstrates intellectual honesty on his part.
Over twenty of the poems speak of Yeshua’s personal experience during the crucifixion. Zakovits was bold, not only to write a book about Yeshua, but particularly to emphasize the crucifixion.
A horribly wrong image of the cross still prevails in Jewish culture. The word cross in Hebrew is used to describe the Nazi swastika (“twisted cross”). The cross has become a symbol of anti-Semitism, persecution, and paganism. Therefore, an examination of the cross in its historical context by Israeli scholars is a considerable breakthrough.
Let’s look at a few examples of Zakovits’ “crucifixion” poems (translated below by Asher). Here Yeshua is voicing His own thoughts:
The beauty of the cross is its simplicity,
and My pain is poured into the midst of it.
(The word poured is the root of a drink offering, and the word midst is like innermost being.)
In another, Yeshua reminisces of Miriam’s (Mary’s) lullabies, which she sang over Him as a baby. He forgot those songs over the years, and suddenly, while suffering on the cross, the sounds of His mother’s comforting melodies float back into His memory.
One poem depicts Yeshua smelling the fragrance of the wood of the cross. As he does so, memories of working with His father Yoseph (Joseph) in the carpentry shop come to His mind.
In another, Yeshua compares Himself hanging between heaven and earth to Moses standing on Mount Nebo. Both of them have a vision of their beloved Holy Land of which they are not able to take part.
In one of the most moving poems, Yeshua has a vision of the Holocaust while hanging on the cross:
Here am I, one Jew, hanging on the cross.
I have dark eyes, opened toward the future,
Counting there many Jews, sixty myriad times ten,
They are ripped apart, shot and burned.
They have no grave, nor even a cross.
(The dark eyes are referring to His Semitic appearance. The 60 myriad times 10 are referring to the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.)
Another poem has Yeshua quoting a traditional Jewish prayer, Nishmat (attributed by some to Simon Peter), which speaks of a mouth filled with song and arms spread wide in praise. On the cross Yeshua says His mouth is so dry that He cannot praise, and His arms are spread open by being nailed.
My favorite poem starts by Yeshua quoting Matthew 23 while on the cross:
Jerusalem, Your city, kills the prophets and stones the apostles
Binds the sons to the sacrifice, and crucifies Your only son,
The one You loved.
“Father, Father, Why have You forsaken me?”
My Father kept silent, He smiled, rubbing His hands together in pleasure,
Because everything was working out according to His master plan.
(The word binds refers to Abraham binding Isaac, and the quote “the one you loved” compares Isaac in Genesis 22 to Yeshua in John 3. Zakovits’ interpretation of “Why have You forsaken me?” as the Father’s silence in order to keep His plan of redemption a secret until its fulfillment shows a profound understanding of the meaning of the cross.)
A final example: When the axe comes to chop a tree to become the wood of the cross, all the trees harden their necks and refuse to be cut down. Yeshua forswears one of them to become the cross, promising that both He and it would blossom again.
Historical analysis of the texts of the New Covenant is now becoming popular in Israeli universities. As a Hebraic understanding of the cross is recovered, the Church will be restored to her Jewish roots, and Israel will come close to salvation and revival.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.