Sunday, June 25, 2017

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Can't we just let Jesus be Jewish?

In today’s Wall Street Journal (15 April 2011), a recent article entitled “Is Passover the New Christmas?” caught my attention.  The opinion piece described how many Americans of all religions are finding themselves embracing the Israelites journey from slavery to freedom.  This, I think, is a good thing as God’s call for freedom should be proclaimed to all.

But what caught my attention was that a lot of this “new view” in the eyes of the author had to do with Christians “turning a Jewish ritual into a Christian one.”  She continues with the assertion that “Some Christians eager to connect with their religion’s roots in the Hebrew bible also fashion a Christianized Seder to reflect the common assumption that the Laser Supper was a Passover Seder.”  In effect, she asserts that Christians have embraced the holiday falsely.  After all, she quotes Rabbi Neil Gillman: “when you start talking about Jesus, that is no longer a Seder.”

I could not disagree more with these ideas.  With all due respect to the good Rabbi and the WSJ author (Diane Cole), the earliest Christians were almost entirely all Jewish.  Peter, James, John … all Jews who undoubtedly celebrated Passover.  After all, we find them in Jerusalem at the Temple during one of the Shalosh Regalim (Deuteronomy 16:16), which is far more observant than any believers I know of today.  The Book of Acts, in fact, describes in detail not how to “make Christianity more Jewish,” but rather how in the world the Jewish believers at the time were going to accept non-Jews into the faith.  Talk about a sense of irony …

Diane Cole goes on to point out that “scholars” agree that the Last supper was not a Seder.  Once again I cannot let this claim be unchallenged.  There are many key things in common between the Last Supper and a Seder (here is a pitch: come to our Seder if you would like to know more details …).  The traditions embraced in a so-called “Christian Seder” are in fact taken from Jewish Seders– the Afikomen, the 4 questions, the 4 cups – you name it.  I can’t help it if God in His wisdom built into the Jewish Seder elements that point to a Jewish Messiah –argue with Him if you like.  What makes me chuckle a bit is also that many of these same “scholars” don’t even recognize the Exodus as a historical event.  So to many “scholars” both the Last Supper and the entire Torah are fantasy.  Thus, one has to be careful when blindly invoking the magical incantation known as “scholars.”

But she does have a point: the Gospels do not give us 100% of the details about the Last Supper and the life of Jesus.  There is wiggle room because there is only so much real estate on the scrolls and the authors wrote for theological reasons not scientific ones.  However, the Torah itself (i.e., Genesis-Deuteronomy) doesn't give us a complete set of details about the Exodus event and the Passover/Unleavened Bread festival either.  We are dealing with ancient literature, theological literature, and it just simply is not going to conform to the demands of bloggers in the year 2011.  But if we read these documents we see that they aer thoroughly Jewish, and thus it is not surprising to see that they would have naturally seen the Messianic implications of a Seder.  they didn't have to manufacture one - it was already there.

But one in the Gospels thing is certain – certainly not pointed out by the author – that the Gospels clearly demonstrate the Jewish heritage of Jesus (known to Messianic believers as Yeshua).  While each Gospel emphasizes different aspects of the life of Jesus, it is quite hard to see Jesus as anything other than Jewish in the Gospels.  At Ben David, our multi-year series on the Jewish life of the Messiah, which tied together all of the Gospel stories into a single thread, demonstrate this very clearly.

And this brings me to my final point.  It seems that Jews are (rightly) upset when they are told they cannot express their Jewish heritage or if their heritage is stolen from them.  If we look at the history of the church and secular governments, they would be right – their Heritage has been suppressed.  The Church has historically done a horrible job of preserving the Jewish roots of Christianity, and she has done an even poorer job making the Gospel and Jesus relevant to Jews (hence the rationale for Messianic Congregations).  But to argue that the “minute Jesus enters the Seder it is no longer Jewish” is not only nonfactual, it is also a slap in the face to every Jew and every American.

Jews today have every right to defend their Heritage.  Is it too much to ask that they extend the same courtesy to Jesus?

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