18 August 2012

Jews, still Jews, in Messiah

A dear Christian friend wrote me today, "How much time can a messianic Jew stay on the other side of the cross, when so much is shadow and all fulfilled in Jesus? a sincere question, Bob"

What is striking about this, is the 'other side' comment. I wrote some years ago about a diorama I saw in Tel Aviv, entitled "Bearing the Cross" which in visual actually asked the same question. (Here it is:  Bearing )

It's a worthy question. The obvious retort by a Messianic Jew is ...what makes you think that fulfillment means dismissal? That is, why is Passover to be relegated to 'back then' when Y'shua practiced it? When Paul said, "Christ our Passover" ... and not "Christ our Easter" or "Christ our Anzac..." In other words, the conversation in the 1st century would have been "Gentiles for Jesus? Crazy!" and now we are knocking around the idea of Jews not being Jews any more. Strange, eh?
 
He replied, "I am all for contextualing the Gospel to fit the situation eg. Christian muslims, as long as the reality is not lost in the shadow"
 
And I think the writer of Hebrews would agree with that.  Shadow is not a worthy reality. "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near." (Hebrews 10.1) That's why so many Jewish believers in the First Century withdrew from Temple worship. The issue for the writer of Hebrews was some of their colleagues who were withdrawing into Messiah-less Judaism. The warnings are clear and continual that the withdrawing will not help anyone.  
 
That said, Jewish life and practice is not shadow. Not in and of itself. Jewish life and practice which follows Torah and the words of the Older Testament are not wrong. Are they? Consider these: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"Ex. 20.4   (wrong? I think not!)  More covenant teaching: "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. "(Ex. 20.14-15)  (Wrong? Not on your life!)
 
OK! So you say, those are merely decalogue and thus sacrosanct. I get it. How about these then:
"Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me." (Exodus 22.29)  or "Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." (Ex 23.1) or "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." Lev. 18.22   Do you still have a problem with Torah? Or do you think homosexuality is inconsistent with God's plans?
 
More commands are here: "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.  Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.  Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. " (Lev. 19.9-19)
 
Get it! Torah is not shadow. Torah is the constitution of the Lord for the slaves who were recently freed from Egypt who didn't know how to get along in life. We STILL don't know how to get along in life, and thus this was God's wisdom for mankind. It's good news!
 
What is shadow is the missing of the Son of Man who came to fulfill the whole lot and bring man back to relationship with God. And (here's the essence of shadow) thinking that if we fulfill biblical commands that somehow we are accepted and acceptable to the Almighty. Shadow is so much less. Reality is that Y'shua is all God ever wanted us to be and to do. He is our joy and our righteousness and our wisdom from above. Faith in Jesus gives us eternal welcome by the Lord to us all.  Anything less than that is ...less than that.
 
So Jewish life and practice when informed by Torah is enriching. Passover makes sense in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Shavuot (Pentecost) makes sense in fulfillment in the readings of the Newer Testament spirit pouring, and the abundance of power to fulfill the Law God gave us so much earlier. Wait until Tabernacles (SUkkot) is fulfilled in Zechariah 14's anticipation in the future...what a day of rejoicing that will be.  Being Jewish is not a sin from which a Jew has to repent. Being a sinner who doesn't accept the Messiah of Israel ...that's a shame and a waste. That will leave us only in shadow, longing for something better. And that's found in faith in Jesus. 
 
 

5 comments:

Annelise said...

Hi Bob, I hope you're well... just came across this blog, and I found this post really interesting. If I agreed that there's a reason for Jews to accept Jesus as both Messiah and as God incarnate, and to accept the New Testament, then I would definitely agree with you that the things God had already given in the Torah, the rest of the Tanach, and the Israelite testimony about Himself were clearly not designed to become shadows. As long as you live on this earth, they were called a blessing of life and the path to return to with God. Even the writers of the New Testament (most of it, at the least) seem to assume by default that "Jewish life and practice is not shadow," like you wrote. So I think you have a fairly sound understanding of the NT perspective on this point.

I'm just wondering... how does that work out in practice, now? Do you personally believe that all of the Torah laws are still binding on Jews within wider Christianity, even though both Jews and gentiles have always had forgiveness and a relationship with God through faith? Is it up to the individual to interpret and decide how to keep those laws through the holy spirit, or does the authority of the apostles to interpret still exist somewhere?

How about the instructions that have a covenant purpose more than a 'generally moral' one, like the food and clothing laws, doing work (including lighting fire) on Shabbos, keeping the festivals in the right way and passing them through your generations, wearing the tzitzit, circumcision, not charging interest from Jews... all of which are Torah laws rather than rabbinic ones? And what is the cost if a Messianic Jew chooses not to continue in that heritage or pass it on to their children, but still keeps the commandment (as you see it) to believe in Jesus, live according to their conscience, and seek God?

They are difficult and sensitive questions. I've heard them discussed in Messianic circles, where some people fear that faith will be lost in the little details and other people try to guard the details carefully for faith and the treasure of what God has given the Jews to safeguard. So in light of your post here, I became curious about your practical perspective.

Luciana Young said...

It strikes me that the religious leaders of Jesus' day had already led the Jews into the 'Messiah-less' Judaism. When they knew by their Scriptures the tribe from which Messiah would come, and even the city. Being a small city, the truly faithful should have been CAMPING OUT there waiting for Messiah. But they weren't!

In Matthew 16:3 as well as Mark 7 Jesus admonishes them for not recognizing Him, for being more into their traditions than God's Word.
Mark 7:
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘ This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘ But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

As a gentile I see many parallels in today's empty Churchianity.....traditions and emphasis on man's interpretation of God's Holy word....experience over Truth....Most are making the same mistake and going through the motions with their traditions, and not looking for His return.

2 Timothy 4:8
in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Stuart Dauermann said...

Hi Bob,

I commend you for this much needed word. I must run out now but will return to add more of my two cents. But here is a nice quotation from Charles P. Anderson who for years was the only scholar who seemed to get what many miss, that the Letter to the Hebrews does not assume the expiration of Torah. (Richard B. Hays and other world class scholars now agree with him).

"The arguments in Hebrews regarding Law and covenant are misunderstood if confused with Paul's argument concerning the incorporation of the gentiles into faithful Israel. The religious world of Hebrews is narrower and more traditional than Paul's. With the one fundamental exception relating to the cult, the Torah is still valid for those to whom it was given by Moses. No break with Jewish tradition apart from priesthood, sacrifice, and temple is assumed in Hebrews. Discontinuity centers upon cult (the Temple sacrificial system), not Torah. Of course, cult implicates Torah. But Torah is a larger category, and apart from priesthood and other cultic aspects, is left untouched by the critique of Hebrews. The new covenant does not imply a new Torah, but a 'changed' Torah in which earlier cultic legislation is replaced. What distinguishes the two covenants is their relative efficacy to purify the conscience from sin. "

Daniel Nessim said...

Hi, Bob,
I really enjoyed this piece, which a friend passed on to me. One of my thoughts is that at the root of it is that the Gentile world has so 'got' the Good News that 'you can believe in Jesus without becoming Jewish' that there is the unconscious assumption now, when speaking to Jews, that the same message applies to us. For us, however, we can't believe in Jesus without becoming more Jewish.

Brad Burge said...

A Jewish person that trusts Y'shua is the ultimate Jewish person. One cannot get more Jewish than to trust in the Messiah! May He return quickly in our days!