Connecting with the Jewish Roots of the Faith
These seem like bookends: Jews, for the most part, don’t recognize Jesus as messiah and many Christians fail to understand the Jewish roots of their spiritual heritage.
In-between stand messianic Jews and Christians with an appreciation for their Jewish roots for whom there is no emblematic term of certification. In other words, there are Jews still awaiting the initial appearance of their messiah but the Jews who believe Jesus has fulfilled that mission we designate as “messianic” or — smugly — “completed” Jews.
The hypothesis here is that are many Christians whose faith is incomplete for dismissing the Old Testament (aka: The Law). Some believe “God’s Chosen People” severed the relationship when “Jews hung Jesus on the cross.”
Growing up Catholic, I was enshrined in “the one true church,” the popular notion of the 1960s, justified, I suppose, by failing to recognize that our sins nailed Jesus to the cross.
I had a long journey to completion.
The Living Witness
Matthew. Mark. Luke. John. We recognize the names. Eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Wonder why four gospels? We’ve heard the theories. The meshing of multiple perspectives may indeed provide a more comprehensive view than would a solitary one.
That’s an attractive by-product, perhaps, but not the principal reason is more profound.
The word-picture presented by a quartet of firsthand testimonies illustrates Scripture’s deep treasures rooted of Judaic heritage.
One reason Jews failed to recognize Jesus as Messiah is that they were listening to the rabbis – who had listened to rabbis, who had listened to rabbis, who had listened to rabbis – instead of relying on the unfettered word of the law. Before computers, photocopying machines, and printing presses, Jews learned about God primarily through the “oral law.” In ancient Judaism, accepted and authorized rabbinical teaching took precedence over interpretations of the Pentateuch.
Besides the oral law, there were extra-biblical Jewish texts – the Talmud, the Mishnah, Babylonian Talmud and others.
In the time of Jesus, there was a system for sanctioning rabbinical teaching. In order to gain ratification of a new thought, a rabbi was required to bring four witnesses before the Jewish counsel (the Sanhedrin) to testify to the validity of his dogma.
Remember that Jesus was addressed as rabbi. He taught in the synagogues. His command of Scripture excited audiences.
Here is the part thrilling part for Bible-believing Christians.
If the rabbi died before presenting his case, which happened a lot due to hearing backlogs, the four witnesses would have to recruit a Levitical student (one studying for the Jewish priesthood) and teach him the rabbi’s theory. They would then present this student to the Sanhedrin (council) as a living witness.
A living witness!
In the first chapter that immediately follows the four gospels, the Bible says, “... you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8, NAS).
A living witness I am, as a student of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the four witnesses; men who walked with our Lord the dusty paths of ancient Galilee, Judea, Samaria. In the absence of the departed rabbi, now preparing a place for me in his father’s house, their writings convey his truth.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” This is recorded in the opening chapter of John, verses 1 and 14a. “But as many as received Him,” said John in verse 12, “to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
This debunks the myth that ALL are children of God; all are creations of God, but only those who believe in His name are children. To become children of God we have to believe in his name. Even demons know the name of Jesus and believe that he is God. Check the story on the Gadarene man who was possessed of demons.
What is the name his children believe in? Revelation 19:13 provides the answer:
“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called….”
Last chance, children. Hint: it was indirectly mentioned earlier.
“His name is called The Word of God.” Remember: in the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
To believe in Jesus, you must believe in The Word of God. You must. You must. But many don’t, or can’t tell you why they claim they do. They can’t refute criticisms and skepticisms of the Bible’s infallibility.
Confusion. Perhaps you are one of the many who consider yourself a Christian, but pay little attention to the bible. It confuses you. You lack confidence in expressing your beliefs to non-Christians. You can’t say why you believe you just do because you want to and you call it faith – period. Hooray for faith. It is impossible to please God without faith. But God wants to take you from the milk of his word to its meat. He’ll grow your faith into fact, to move you along to the next level. Faith always comes first. But it’s a shovel with which you can dig out the facts.
We call Jews who believe in Jesus “completed” or “fulfilled.” Conversely, those who have yet to accept Jesus as Messiah we could term “incomplete” or “unfulfilled.” This being the accepted terminology, I would contend that most who consider themselves Christian are incomplete or unfulfilled. Though they accept Jesus, they neglect the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the holy one of Israel. Jesus told the Pharisees that had the believed Moses they would have believed him, for Moses wrote about Jesus (John 5:46-47).
Non-believing Jews stop at the threshold of the New Testament. Conversely, most Christians take up their cross at the birth of Jesus and never look back.
In exciting and enriching ways, the New Testament is a fulfillment of the old – not a replacement.
‘Non-believing Jews stop at the threshold of the New Testament . . . most Christians take up their cross at the birth of Jesus and never look back.’
Seeing The Invisible
Romans 1:20 says that “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
The natural – this clearly indicates – reveals the spiritual. We gain an understanding of the invisible things of God by examining physical components.
“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this,” (Job 12:7-9).
David said “Thy heavens declare your glory, Oh God,” (Psalm 19:1). Solomon explained slothfulness in Proverbs 6:6 by pointing to an ant.
Jesus taught in parables, each one being a natural analogy of a spiritual revelation or truth. Scripture consistently demonstrates spiritual principles through physical objects or circumstances.
The natural always precedes the spiritual. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:44-46:
“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.”
What does this have to do with the Judaic origins of our faith?
Scripture is a treasure chest of physical patterns illustrating spiritual truths. Every one of the patterns is woven with Jewish thread. Even their priestly garments speak volumes, and the Tabernacle of Moses and subsequent Temple are word-picture foundations of our relationship with Jesus.