On Jews and Jesus

There are several reasons that Jews do not claim Jesus as the Messiah.

One reason is that Jews say it is sacrilegious for a person to claim to be God.  It is a violation of the first three Commandments for God to be depicted, so a person could not be God.

Exodus 20:1-6

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.

However, Jesus never said he was God.  He said he was the Son of God – and also said that we all are if we do God’s will.  More often, he referred to himself as the Son of Man.

Now, Christianity says that Jesus is God, but Jesus himself never said this.  Jesus prayed to God all the time. This would be pointless if he was God.  However, he is united with God. The next point will illustrate this.

Another issue is that Jews deny the Trinity of God.

Let’s look at some points in Genesis that prove that God is more than we think.

Genesis 1:26

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

Who is God talking to when God says “in Our image”?

And here, God appears as three men in Genesis 18:1-2

“Then the Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. 2 He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed to the ground.”

Even the name “Elohim”, a word commonly used in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to God, is a plural word.

Essential to the belief of every Jew is the idea that God is one – and this is true.  At least twice a day observant Jews say the Shema, which proclaims that God is one.  However – the word “one” that is used in the Shema is “echad” – which is a composite unity.  An indivisible unity is “achid”.   “Echad” would be used to describe a bunch of grapes.  It is one thing, made up of different parts.  “Echad” would be used to describe how all of Israel was united around Mount Sinai when they received the Torah.

Yes, God is One, but that One is composed of many parts.  Essentially, God is everything, as everything came from God.

Another example of this is in Genesis 2:24

24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

“Echad” is used in the original in this verse, to mean “one”.  They are two people, but they are united.

Jews say that Jesus violated the commandments by working on the Sabbath and saying that people could eat food that wasn’t kosher. The Messiah would never break the commandments, so Jesus can’t be the Messiah. But God said through the prophet Jeremiah that a new covenant was to come.  The old ways weren’t going to stay that way forever.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

More importantly, the original message of the commandments had gotten watered down.  There is nothing in the Ten Commandments about keeping kosher, or any of the other 600-plus “commandments” that Orthodox Jews honor.  These extra “commandments” came from interpretations of the Torah by rabbis – and not from God.

Jesus wanted people to focus on what was important – loving God, and treating everyone with kindness.  Everything else was extra – and it was following people, not God.  That way leads to trouble.  Jesus wants to redirect our attention to what matters.

Jews say that one of the hallmarks of the Messiah is that he would be king. 

Look at John 6:14-15 which took place after Jesus fed 5,000 people:

14 When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

Why did he refuse to be King?  Because only the immortal God is their King – not a fallible human.

Jesus knew what was in their hearts, and wanted them to search for the right things.  He wanted them to put their faith in God. He wanted them to redirect their love to God, instead of putting their trust in a person.

John 6:26-27

26 Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”

Note that God never wanted Israel to have a human king over them.  Here is the prophet Samuel speaking to the nation:

1 Samuel 12:8-15

“When Jacob went to Egypt, your ancestors cried out to the Lord, and He sent them Moses and Aaron, who led your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God, so He handed them over to Sisera commander of the army of Hazor, to the Philistines, and to the king of Moab. These enemies fought against them. 10 Then they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned the Lord and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now deliver us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11 So the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. He rescued you from the power of the enemies around you, and you lived securely. 12 But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we must have a king rule over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king.13 “Now here is the king you’ve chosen, the one you requested. Look, this is the king the Lord has placed over you. 14 If you fear the Lord, worship and obey Him, and if you don’t rebel against the Lord’s command, then both you and the king who rules over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 However, if you disobey the Lord and rebel against His command, the Lord’s hand will be against you and against your ancestors.

When the people called to God for help, he sent them leaders and prophets, but not a king.  But then they saw that other nations had kings, and wanted one – even though God was their king.  The Jews were special, unlike other nations, but wanted to be the same.  Then they chose a king to rule over them.  God did not choose the king.  God told them that if both they and the king follow God, then all will go well.  God didn’t tell them to follow the king. God wanted his people to follow God.

Jesus also told them to follow God.  He drew attention away from himself –

Luke 18:18-19

18 A ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 20 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Jesus was king, but not of this world. Read what happened in his trial before Pilate:

John 18:33-37

33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?” 35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?” 36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.” 37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

Jews say that it is not acceptable for a human to be sacrificed, yet they do not include the prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah in their readings in synagogue.

Isaiah 53:1-6 is talking about Jesus.

Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

However, it is important to note that Jesus himself never said that he died for other people’s sins.  That is something that the Christian church says.  What we can learn from what Jesus did was to show complete unwavering loyalty to God.  God asked him to be crucified, and he obeyed.  His resurrection then proves the grace of God, and that even death has no power.  God is powerful over everything.  Jesus proves that if we trust in God and do his will, we have nothing to be afraid of.  A life without trusting in God isn’t a life, after all.

 Jews also say that another reason that Jesus cannot be the Messiah is that he didn’t rebuild the Temple.  It is essential to realize that God never wanted a permanent physical building.  God had them build a travelling tabernacle when the Jews were in the desert.  All of Israel was there, together.

Exodus 25:8

“They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.”

Exodus 29:45

“I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”

God wants to dwell among us – to be where we are.  How can God dwell among us if we are scattered all over the world?  One building won’t do.

Later, in Leviticus 26:11

“I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you.”

Jesus speaks about the need to NOT have one place to worship God –

Matthew 6:19-20

19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It is dangerous to give so much attention to any physical thing.  It becomes an idol.  Instead, Jesus knew that people need to focus on God, and to make a dwelling place for God in our hearts.  That is the true tabernacle – our own selves.

 

The question about the Messiah

Jesus asked this question while he taught in the Temple complex, “Why do the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David says in the Psalms ‘God said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’ Since David called him his Lord, how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd was delighted with this teaching.

MT 22:41-46, MK 12:35-37, LK 20:41-44

Moses and the Messiah

Moses (Mosheh) משה Messiah (Mashiach) מָשִׁ֫יחַ

What is the same – the Mem מ and the Shin ש

What is different? The Yud י is added, and the Hey ה is a Chet חַ

What do the same letters mean? These are the qualities that Moses and the Messiah share.

Mem means water – a large amount, overflowing – waves, flood. Water with no boundaries. Chaos, overpowering. The letter Mem also turns a verb into a noun. It is actuality. Reality is made through chaos.

Shin means tooth, a sharp rock, cliff, crag. Consume, destroy. Shin turns a verb into the person doing it. (Who has done this thing..)

Both are active, both involve chaos and change of an overwhelming kind. Both involve a change from the normal to a totally different way of life. Both involve transformation from action to actuality.

What do the different ones mean?

Yod represents a closed hand, the right hand, to strike or pierce, a blow. Deed, work, to make, responsibility.

Hey – as a prefix this letter serves as the definite particle, the. It also means Lo, see, behold, (therefore) a lattice or window for that purpose. It is a frame that reveals.

Chet means to fence in, destroy. Private, to separate. Create anew, an enclosure, fenced in, ark, refuge.

They Hey in Moses’ name was pointing the way, saying look at what is coming. They Hey is a marker, a sign, saying look for something like this to come, but more and bigger.

Through the hand of power, of strong action, a new creation is made.

Both Moses and the Messiah are to lead people out of slavery and bondage – one from physical slavery, the other from mental slavery.

Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah

When Jesus and his disciples came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, a town north of the region of Galilee, he asked his disciples privately, “Who are people in the crowds saying I am?” They replied “Some say you are John the Baptist. Others think you are Elijah, and yet others think you are Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

Jesus faced them and said “But as for you, who do you say I am?” Simon answered him saying “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

MT 16:13-16, MK 8:27-29, LK 9:18-20

Jesus responded “Simon, son of Jonah, God has blessed you with this knowledge because you didn’t learn this from a person but directly from God!” Jesus continued, saying “Your name is now Peter, because you are a rock, and upon you I will build my living church, and the gates of death will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you join together on earth will be joined together in heaven, and whatever you separate on earth will be separated in heaven.”

MT 16:17-19

Then he gave them very strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

MT 16:20, MK 8:30, LK 9:21a

Waiting for a hero

Maybe people are waiting for the Messiah for the same reason they are sick all the time. They think somebody else is going to rescue them. They think they don’t have to do anything about their lives. They stay children, stay passive, stay asleep.

They refuse to take care of their health, and then they are surprised when they have a chronic disease. They pray for a miracle. They expect the doctors or God to save them. How is this any different than how we live, waiting for the Messiah to make the world better? In both cases, the power is in our hands. It requires daily work made up of thousands of tiny bits of effort, not a sudden one-time push from an outside source.

Jesus didn’t want us to live like this, dependent, expecting others to rescue us. Jesus tells his disciples (that is us, by the way) that they (we) have the same powers he does. We are able to heal through our faith. We don’t have to wait for the second coming. We don’t have to wait for a Messiah.

God didn’t want the Jewish people to have a king in the first place. He didn’t want them to have a person over them. He didn’t want them to give away their power. They insisted, and God gave them what they asked for. Their history with bad rulers is well documented in the Bible.

The idea of the Messiah is that he is to be the best king. The interesting part is that Jesus came to do away with the idea of kings. He said to not have anyone over you but God. Jesus came to restore the true Ruler, who is God. Jesus came to erase the mistake of letting a person rule. Jesus came to erase all hierarchy.

Even Jesus doesn’t want to be in charge. Jesus isn’t going to come again to save you. Jesus came to tell you that you have all the tools you need, already, to do what needs to be done. Don’t think you are up to the task? He says you are. Just thinking of the possibility of making the world better is the tiny spark that is needed. It is the mustard seed.

Jesus says you don’t need to be saved. Jesus says you aren’t lost.

On Gentiles and Messianic Jews

I want to learn more about Judaism, but I don’t want to become Jewish. Well, in the way that Jesus meant, yes, I do want to be Jewish. In the way that Judaism is now, no, I don’t. I can’t give up Jesus.

It isn’t out of fear that I say that. Years ago it would have been easy to walk away from Christianity, and with it, Jesus. Years ago I thought I was Christian because I believed that Jesus was the son of God, was God in human form. I still believe that but there is so much more to it now. Now it seems like every month I get closer to understanding who Jesus is, not who he was.’

Because I see Jesus as alive and present in my life, I can’t cut him out of it. This wasn’t so ten years ago.

Part of how I’m coming to know Jesus is through his culture. If I made a friend from say, Uzbekistan, I’d try to learn more about her by learning more about where she came from. What are the foods, the dances, the songs that she grew up with? What are the values she was raised with? This will help me to understand her better. Her idioms will make more sense. Her habits won’t seem out of place to me. Sometimes, to understand “where someone is coming from” you actually have to understand where they are coming from.

Now, Jesus is Jewish. There is no way around that. He was born and lived as a Jew. So I want to learn more about Jewish culture.

I’ve been reading about Judaism but I want to experience it. It is the difference between reading a recipe versus actually cooking it. So I need to interact with people who are Jewish and participate in their customs, rituals, and holidays.

But the last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable. It is super important that they understood that I’m not there to convert them, nor am I there to convert to becoming Jewish.

So I thought, how about a Messianic Jewish congregation? This seems ideal. Since I live in a major city there has to be one. I’ve found one listed online and it seems exactly what I want. These are Jews who see Jesus as the Messiah, yet retain the Jewish customs that are in harmony with Jesus’ teachings.

Now I have to admit that I’m a little amused by the term “Messianic Jew”. If you are from any background and you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, then you are Christian, by default, right? There are some people these days who are Christian and add extra adjectives to that term to separate themselves from mainstream Christians, but they are still Christian first. But I digress.

So this congregation looks ideal. And then I read the fine print. They say essentially they believe that Jews and Gentiles are equal, but Jews are more equal. Gentiles are welcome to worship with them, and have a role to play, but the role is to help convert more Jews to their side. But still, the Jews, by virtue of being Jews, are better.

I cannot handle that attitude. It isn’t in line with the teachings of Jesus at all.

Jesus erased all distinctions. In Jesus women and men are equal. All races are equal. There are no leaders or subordinates.

If they truly believe that there is a distinction between Jews who believe in Jesus and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, then they have missed the whole message of Jesus. It isn’t about blood, or genetics. It isn’t about history or ancestry. It isn’t about the past. It is all about the present. It is about who you are, right now, and how you have chosen to live your life. If you have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, then you are equal with every other person who has done the same.