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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Decamp

Let us consider the death euphemism “the dearly departed”.

“Departed” is a very useful term when speaking about death. The Greek word analyseos, which is rendered in English as “depart” really means “to break camp”. It means to take down your tent and move on to another place.

Consider the Jewish festival of Sukkot. (Sukkah, singular, means “booth” or “tabernacle”. Sukkot is plural). It is celebrated on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is around September or October). You’ll find it observed by Jesus in John 7:1-52.

Booths or tabernacles are temporary structures that Jews live in for a week as a remembrance of what they lived in when they traveled for forty years in the desert to reach the Holy Land. The structures are built every year, and intentionally have flimsy walls and a roof you can see the stars through. All meals are eaten inside this structure, and ideally you are to sleep in it at least one night.

This is a very beautiful symbol of our bodies. They are temporary structures that we dwell within. They are fragile, and while able to endure stronger gusts of wind than the sukkah can, they are not permanent and subject to decay. It is a sign of our utter dependence upon God.

Remember that Jesus is said to have “tabernacled” among us”, to have become enfleshed.

When we die, it is really that we have departed. We have left our temporary dwelling behind. We have left for a better place, just like how nomadic people will break camp to follow the herds or to move to where the crops are ripe. Just like how the Jews gave up their tents when they entered the Holy Land.

Death isn’t the end. It is just the end of life as we know it.

Dwell

brace
I made this bracelet to illustrate God dwelling among us. This is the picture of the whole thing, which has three units of the same “story”.

Here I’ve blocked off just the story itself. It reads going up.
brace2

This is how you read it –
(light green beads) God created the world. God sustained it for thousands of years.

(Deep green small bead)
Then, God said to the Jewish people
“I want to dwell among you”
and the Mishkon,
the traveling tabernacle, was built.
The tangible reminder that a non-tangible presence was among them.
It wasn’t a house for God
so much as a reminder
that God was already present with them.

(Large deep green bead)
Thousands of years passed with Jews following the One God.

Then the Holy Spirit (red bead)
spoke to Mary (blue bead).
God wanted to dwell among us even more intimately.
God took up residence inside Mary.
It wasn’t something forced.
She was asked.
She said “Here I am. I’m your servant.
Do unto me according to your will.”

God took up residence within her and created a pure, holy, being, a blend of past, present and future, fully human, fully Spirit, and the culmination of the Jewish hope. (Bead with green, red, blue, and white)

Never before in human history has God spoken to someone and asked them to make a place for God within themselves. He’d asked plenty to trust and to follow, but never to actually have God dwell within.

When Jesus came into the world, he asks us to do the same – to make a place for God in our hearts, to let God work through us. God is not in a building – God never was. God is here, within us, now.

“All Are Welcome” – on Communion, and limits.

I was at a retreat and heard the sound of Mass. The songs were familiar. The words were familiar. I have spent many years as an Episcopalian. The Catholic service is close. It is like the difference between England and America – everything is almost the same. I could have joined in and faked it. I could have taken Communion. It has been four months since I’ve had the sacrament of Communion. I miss it.

I wanted to join in, but knew I shouldn’t. Catholic rules say only Catholics can get Communion. Jesus didn’t make any such rules, but when in Rome…or dealing with Roman Catholicism…it is best to play by their rules, even if I think the rules are wrong. Even if I know the rules are wrong.

I’ve spent the past day at a convent for retired Catholic nuns. There are two chapels – one big and one small. They both have a box called an aumbry or tabernacle for the reserved sacrament. It is where you put consecrated Communion wafers. Before they are consecrated they are just wafers. After a priest has blessed them, they are different. They are so different that they are separated from the others in a special box. The Catholics believe that the wafers become the actual flesh of Jesus when they are blessed by the priest.

Here is a picture of the altar in the little chapel.

box 5

Here’s slightly closer.

box 1

I know that consecrated wafers were in them because the candle beside the altar was lit.

box 2

The candle means Jesus is in.

I can’t even tell you how tempted I was to see if the box was locked. Yes, these boxes have locks on them, but often they are open. If I tried the door and it opened, would I have taken a wafer?

Here’s a picture closer up of the box, showing the lock.

box 4

Taking one out would be stealing. That would have been the same as attending Mass and going up to take Communion, knowing full well that their rules say I can’t. No – actually, it would have been worse. It would have been sneaky and sly. It would have been taking something like a thief.

When I was wandering around the room, I came across a little statue with some candles around it. I saw the key behind the statue.

box 3

I felt like I was part of some adventure game, where you find the key to the locked door with the treasure. Remember those? You’d use simple instructions with a verb and a noun to get across what you wanted to do.

Take Key. Go East. Go to Box. Use Key. Open Box. Take Wafer. Eat Wafer.

And then I’d win a bonus life in the game.

But I didn’t. I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t even touch the key.

The Methodist church that sponsored the retreat has Communion every Sunday. They say on their website that their Communion is open to all. “All are welcome” is their motto. They even go so far as to explain that this means everybody – members of that church, members of other churches, and people who have never been to church. This is a welcome surprise. This means that people who aren’t baptized can take Communion there.

This is a radical departure from the Episcopal Church. This is right up my alley.

I’m all for opening up Communion to everyone. While I was part of a church that allowed people from other denominations to take Communion there, it still didn’t allow unbaptized people to. Sure, there is nobody checking baptismal records at the altar rail, but still, the rule is there, printed in the church bulletin you got when you came in the front door. When you read it, you know you’re out. You know you are breaking a rule if you put out your hands for a wafer.

It isn’t the role of Christians to stand in the way of Christ. Who are we to set rules and parameters as to who is worthy? If someone is called to the table, who are we to stand in their way?

Jesus is all about welcoming and including. Jesus is all about breaking down barriers. Jesus is all about leveling the playing field. Jesus is all about opening doors wide open and inviting everybody in.

Bonus life, indeed. This is a game where all can play. It isn’t a game of musical chairs, where there are limits on who is in. We all win. We all are invited, and blessed, and loved. We all are. No exceptions.