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.

 

Jews are also concerned that they are being misled – that they are being told to worship another god.

Deuteronomy 12:1-6

“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let us follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us worship them,’ do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. You must follow the Lord your God and fear Him. You must keep His commands and listen to His voice; you must worship Him and remain faithful to Him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”

However, Jesus consistently said to worship God – the God of Abraham.  Not him.  Jesus never told anyone to worship him.

 

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ONE

One 013016
Text reads:
Imagine if (when) the Body of Christ joins together, works together, as ONE, serving God in unison, ONE, as God is ONE.

No divisions, no denominations, no doctrines. Our only leader is God, who we all hear clearly. (May it come speedily and in our time. Amen)

Ingredients:
8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal
Bought ephemera (magazine page depicting a school of fish swimming in unison)
Silver sharpie. White gel pen.

Created 1/30/16.

Who are the Samaritans? And why is this relevant today?

There are many stories in the Gospels about the Samaritans. Why are they referenced? Who are they? Why is the fact that they are Samaritan significant? I believe a little background is in order to help us understand the Gospel stories in question.

The following is taken from the Wikipedia article “Samaritans”. It is rather long. For our purposes the entire article can be reduced to these few paragraphs –
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“The Samaritans are adherents of Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism. Samaritans believe that their worship, which is based on the Samaritan Pentateuch, is the true religion of the ancient Israelites from before the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they see as a related but altered and amended religion, brought back by those returning from the Babylonian exile.

Ancestrally, Samaritans claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (two sons of Joseph) who survived the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, as well as from the priestly tribe of Levi.

Samaritan historiography places the basic schism from the remaining part of Israel after the tribes of Israel conquered and returned to the land of Canaan, led by Joshua. After Joshua’s death, Eli the priest left the tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim, and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shiloh.

The Samaritans claimed that they were the true Israel who were descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” taken into Assyrian captivity. They had their own temple on Mount Gerizim and claimed that it was the original sanctuary. Moreover, they claimed that their version of the Pentateuch was the original and that the Jews had a falsified text produced by Ezra during the Babylonian exile.

Both Jewish and Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the opposite group, and neither was to enter each other’s territories or even to speak to one another.”
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The stories that have Jesus directly interacting with Samaritans are:

Jesus and the Samaritan woman JN 4:1-42
The parable of the good Samaritan LK 10:29-37
The ten lepers LK 17:11-19

You can look the verses up in your Bible, online on BibleGateway.com, or by using the search feature on this blog on the far right column, towards the bottom.

I invite you to read these stories now, either again or for the first time, knowing the huge rift that was (and still is) between these two faith traditions. Notice how Jesus bridges these traditions to point them towards the One True God – with no more divisions. Jesus says that we are to love God where we are, that there isn’t a specific place to worship (not a mountain or a temple). Jesus says that are to love everyone equally, and this includes those people who historically have been our enemies.

What does this tell us about what the Church is – is it a place, or a way of living?

What does this tell us about how we are to interact with people of other faith traditions?

What does this tell us about how we are to show the love of God in the world, as followers of Jesus?

What does this tell us about including and excluding?

Specifically relevant to the issues of the day, what does it tell us about refugees who are of other faith traditions?

Blessing for everything

“To ‘bless’ does not mean the same thing as ‘to thank’. …it is too much to expect most people to actually thank God for the bad things that happen to them. Barukh, the Hebrew word for ‘bless’, comes from the same root as the word for knee, berekh. Many scholars see a connection: To bless God is to kneel or bow before the Divine (either literally or symbolically), acknowledging God as greater and more powerful, and the Source of all – both good and bad – that happens.”
– from “Swimming in the Sea of Talmud” by Michael Katz and Gershon Schwartz

To bless God for everything is to acknowledge that God is making everything happen. If we truly believe that God is One, that God made everything and everything is from and of God, then we have to believe that everything that is and everything that happens is from God.

Perhaps we never left the Garden. Perhaps when we ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, we saw with new eyes. Our eyes had seen only things as they are, not differentiating between Good and Evil. Things just were what they were, with no judgment.

When we divide events and people and things into Good and Evil, we have left Paradise, but only mentally. Physically, we are still there.

When we decide to withhold judgment and just see events and people and things as they are, not deciding that they are Good or Evil, then we reenter Paradise.

Nothing is absolute – events that seemed bad at the time turned out to redirect us towards a healthier path. People that seemed bad at the time turned out to have problems that we didn’t know about – we “cut them some slack” and our relationships improve. That food that we didn’t like as children? Years later it is our favorite snack. Things change. Our experiences expand us. We don’t have “the big picture.” Time gives us perspective.

Hold on. Trust. God is in charge. We don’t have to fix it all, and that is a great mercy.

The sages say that the things we perceive as “bad” come from the first two letters of God’s name, the “yud” and the “hey”, while the things we perceive as “good” come from the second two letters, the “vav” and the (second) “hey”. Both are from God. They are neither Good or Evil, deep down.

They just are. No judgment. No definition.

Start blessing God for everything, acknowledging that God is God, and God is good. Ask God for new eyes to see the beauty in everything, and for patience to trust that God is working out God’s plan.