THE SHORT ANSWER: The bible teaches that it has always been God's plan to reveal himself to the Jewish people, and they would in turn reveal God to the Gentile nations. Jesus' ministry fulfilled this plan exactly.
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God’s plan has always been to reveal himself by way of the Jewish people.
It’s estimated that there were around 2 million Jews in Israel at the time of Christ. Jesus’ ministry lasted for about three and a half years. A population of 2 million divided over three and half years, means that if he could be seen by an average of 1,566 people per day, he could be seen by all of Israel by the end of his ministry. We know that there were days when he spoke to as many as 5000. So it’s reasonable to assume that all who lived in Israel had seen him and knew who he was by the end of his ministry.
Jesus explains that he was sent specifically to shepherd Israel, but not the Gentiles... yet.
Even when Jesus sent his disciples out to do ministry he told them to only go to the Jews. (Matthew 10:5-6) This shows that during Jesus’ life, his ministry priority was the Jews. Christianity would later spread, but while Jesus was on the Earth it was for the Jews first.
Jesus cast out a demon from a gentile’s son, even though he claimed it wasn’t his mission to minister to gentiles at that time. (Matthew 15:28)
Eventually he planned to bring in gentiles, but it wasn’t part of phase one. (John 10:16) The gentile phase would come later.
Paul points out this two step plan when he said in Romans, “for Jew first, and then Greek [Gentiles]. (Romans 1:16) Paul followed this ministry plan himself on his missionary journeys. He would go to the Jewish communities first, and then to the gentiles.
During the last week of Jesus life, Greeks [non Jews] came to See Jesus. What happened next was strange.
He appeared to all that he intended to appear to in order to fulfill the first phase of his mission.
His mission was fulfilled, nonetheless, by these small numbers. The twelve disciples and a few hundred followers were what the church started as.
Salvation was offered to the Jews first then the gentiles.
During the “times of the gentiles” a second phase of the plan was simultaneously going on. Gentiles would be offered salvation. The book of Acts records the transition of Christianity from a Jewish group of believers to a budding world wide faith that included people of all races, not just Jews.
After Jesus’ death in 33 A.D. Israel existed as a nation for another 37 years, until it was destroyed in 70 A.D. I speculate that had the Jews experienced a change of heart about Jesus in that 37 year time period, Jesus would have returned and set up his Kingdom then. The apostles seemed to be convinced that Jesus would return within their lifetimes. I theorize that he would have if Israel had turned to him. It was a 37 year period where Israel had the opportunity to repent as a nation and cry out for their messiah. However, the majority did not.
It was during this 37 year period that the gospel of Mark and Matthew were written. They were written in order to convince the Jewish people that Jesus was the Christ. They were written in hopes that Israel would come to their senses concerning what they had seen. No doubt, the authors of these books wanted to see Israel turn to Jesus in hopes that his return would happen soon.
This answers a question that comes up a lot, “why are the first three gospels so different from John?”
John’s gospel was written about 65 A.D. This was likely a decade after Mark was written. John fills in some gaps in the story that the other gospels left out. Secondly by that time, the attention of the church had begun to shift toward the gentiles. Jerusalem was nearing it’s end, and the Jewish people who were still in Israel would soon be dispersed throughout the world.
In John’s book, he seems to have accepted the fact that Israel was not gong to turn to Christ any time soon. In the gospel of John, he focuses more on the individual’s role in salvation rather than Israel’s role as a nation. He says (John 20:30-31) his purpose is that individuals would receive eternal life for believing in Jesus, as the Christ, the Son of God.
So the world is in a holding pattern.
This means that Israel’s hardness of heart toward the Messiah has stalled the return of Christ. That’s a good thing if you’re a gentile. The period known as the “time of the gentiles” lasted until 1967, when Jerusalem was taken back by the Jews. Notice that Paul said, “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” This implies that God allowed this to happen so that he could provide invitation into salvation for gentiles.
The gospel must be preaching in all of the world.
Jesus claims that these things would happen shortly after the "times of the gentiles" comes to an end. We are potentially very close to the tribulation.
So I’ve answered this question in a very circuitous way. Jesus appeared to the number of people he intended to; all of Israel. He did this because it is Israel’s responsibility to preach the gospel of the Messiah, and his Kingdom to the whole world. They have not fulfilled that mission yet, but God hasn’t forgotten the plan. Soon.