The Brick Wall
I've always liked the phrase, "See something, say something." In the Air Force, the phrase was encouraged in relation to a number of issues including safety, security and abuse. Well, there's something I saw in a television show, read about in a book and had a conversation about within the same week, so I think God wants me to say something.
Judaism and the Jewish people are not defined based on what they believe about Jesus. Whether or not they believe in Christ's death and resurrection is not what identifies them as a Jew. This thought is ignorant. Understand, I don't mean stupid. I mean ignorant as in ignoring knowledge. For example, it's ignorant to say the Bible says the Jewish religion or people have rejected Jesus as the Messiah because those very words in the Bible were written by a Jew who accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah! Something else is going on here.
Dr. Nehemiah Gordon, a Jewish Scholar and Theologian, said about growing up, "... there was Daniel and the Lion's Den, because he refused to worship the idol, and there were the Jews who jumped to their deaths during the first Crusade..." because the Crusaders "...stopped in the Rhineland where the major Jewish communities of Europe were and wiped them out. There were Jews who jumped to their deaths, off of the castle wall, rather than convert to Christianity because from their perspective it was idolatry. And to be fair, certainly at the time, (in) the 11th Century, we're talking about literal statues they (the Jews) were being asked to kiss and bow down to." To a young Dr. Gordon, the Jews who committed suicide rather then converting to Christianity during the first Crusade were considered heroes on par with Daniel. Remember, the Crusaders committed these atrocities all in the name of Christ as professing Christians.
Unfortunately, many Christians are unaware of the heritage of antisemitism they connect themselves to when they use the title Christian, especially in the eyes of many Jews. The predominantly Gentile (non-Jewish) Christian church has inflicted great pain on the Jewish people for nearly 2,000 years. The parting of the ways between Jew and Gentile is the greatest tragedy in the history of the church and is completely outside of God's will.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:11-15, ESV).
The letter to the Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul, a devout Torah observant Jewish Pharisee whose mission was to reach Gentiles with the gospel of the Jewish Messiah. In these verses, Paul is clearly addressing Gentiles, referring to them as the uncircumcision, alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenants, without hope and without God. It's important to understand the Gentiles Paul was speaking to then were nothing like non-Jews in our culture today. The Bible we have today wasn't compiled into the 66 documents of the Older and Newer Testaments until over 200 years after Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians. Paul was dealing with pagans who knew nothing and could care less about the God of Israel.
Pause and consider how much Christians appear to care about the God of Israel today?
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God was drawing close to Himself those who couldn't possibly have been farther away. This is the part of the gospel Paul describes in Ephesians 3:6, "This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
The key point to understand is this "same body" Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:6 is not a new body or family. Rather, it is the commonwealth of Israel God has brought the Gentiles into as fellow heirs. This syncs with the idea of Gentiles (wild olive shoots) being grafted into Israel (the olive tree) per Romans 11:13-18.
"Sometimes we stand before a wall. It is very high. We cannot scale it. It is hard to break through it, but even knocking our heads against the wall is full of meaning (Heshcel, Insecurity Of Freedom: Essays On Human Existence, 260, Kindle Edition)."
The dividing wall of hostility Jesus broke down between Jew and Gentile, Satan has been building back up brick, by brick, by brick. Christianity has been so de-Judaized, separated and disconnected from its Jewish roots, that any attempt to reconnect is often seen as the heresy of Judaizing. This is ignorant.
The truth is you can have Judaism without Christianity, but you cannot have Christianity without Judaism. We need to knock our heads against Satan's dividing wall and loosen up some bricks. The wall won't come down again until Messiah returns, but loosening it up a little by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) is full of meaning! Understanding the Jewishness of Jesus is a good first connection between our heads and the brick in the wall with our name on it.
First, we need to understand Jesus was a Jew.
"The fact that Jesus was a Jew is seldom questioned today, but its far-reaching ramifications for the interpretations of his life are routinely passed over... Jesus never attended a church. He never celebrated Christmas. He never wore new clothes on Easter Sunday. His cultural orientation was rooted deeply in the faith experience of his people. His teachings concerning God's love and the dignity of each human being were based on the foundations of Jewish religious thought during the Second Temple period... Jesus worshipped in the synagogue. He celebrated the Passover. He ate kosher food. He offered prayers in the temple in Jerusalem. (Young, Jesus The Jewish Theologian, 426, Kindle edition)."
The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 traces Jesus' Jewish heritage from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (renamed Israel - Genesis 32:25-29) through Joseph (Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father). In the ESV Bible, Jesus is directly linked to Nazareth 21xs in the Newer Testament. For example, Matthew 26:71, "And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Matthew 2:23 says, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene." Prophetically, this refers to Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” In Hebrew, the word Natzaret/Nazareth comes from netzer, meaning shoot or branch. Matthew 1:1 refers to Jesus as the “son of David,” which is also linked to Isaiah 11:1. Jews in the 1st Century would have immediately understood the “son of David” to be the “stump of Jesse” spoken about in Isaiah 11:1 and thus the Jewish Messiah.
Second, we need to understand Jesus is a Jew. Jesus really died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven (Acts 1:6-11). Hebrews 8 gives us some details about Jesus' living state. He is alive as a cohen gadol (high priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek/Melchizedek, seated at the HaG’dulah (right hand of the Father), in the heavenly Tent of Meeting, mediating a better covenant based on better promises. This better covenant is the New Covenant which was given in the Older Testament (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36-37) and inaugurated by Jesus' blood (1 Corinthians 11:25). Hebrews 9 describes Jesus entering the Holiest Place once and for all as described in the first covenant (i.e., the Mosaic/Israeli Covenant). Further, the commands given in the Torah (i.e., broadly speaking, Genesis-Deuteronomy in the Bible) give a vivid, earthly picture of this heavenly reality. Hebrews 9 talks about menorahs, the Bread of the Presence, the Holiest Place, the Ark of the Covenant, Aharon's rod, etc. These symbols and the reality they represent are thoroughly Jewish.
Lastly, Jesus is coming back as a Jew. The letter of Revelation is full of Jewish symbolism. Jesus refers to Himself as the One (Revelation 1:8-see Deuteronomy 6:4; there are 32 references to God as being the Holy One of Israel in the ESV Bible). Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Root of David and a slaughtered Lamb in Revelation 5. The sealed 144,000 are from the 12 tribes of Israel (see Revelation 7:4-8). The Temple is featured throughout and seven angels blow seven shofars (often translated as trumpets in English). God's glory gives light to New Yerushalayim/Jerusalem, the holy city on the new heavens and new earth at the restoration of all things.
The parting of the ways between Jew and Gentile is the greatest tragedy in the history of the Church. The Bible was written by Jews, in Jewish places about a Jewish King, so the gospel at the center of the Bible is a throughly Jewish story. To share the gospel devoid of its Jewish essence is to share a "different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:6)" and is like patching up the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile with fresh concrete. To do your part and loosen the wall, proclaim Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. In your witness, positively connect Jesus with Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people. Share Jesus as the perfectly Torah faithful and obedient Jewish Rabbi who was, is and is coming back as the Jewish Messiah. Worship the King of the Jews!