Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jews are not usually on everyone’s popularity list, especially in the twenty-first century.   Hitler attempted to rid his world of them in the twentieth century and succeeded in annihilating six million.  He wasn’t the first to hate them.  Being stationed in Palestine in the first century merited a sympathy card rather than a “congratulations.”  Jews were narrowminded, believing only in one God.  Forcing Rome’s beliefs on them met with resistance and revolt.  Roman occupation would have collapse without the presence of their legions.  Even then, one did not turn his back on a Jewish zealot.   Romans were barbarians and uncircumcised and a good Jew would not get too friendly with one.  Roman and Jewish life were incompatible.  Jewish life was tied up with their scriptures, their God, their Temple, priesthood, sacrifices, and culture.  If you weren’t a Jew, you were lower than a dog.  The feeling was also mutual from the Gentile side.

Sometimes Christians mistakenly believe Jesus was a Christian.  But that was not one of his titles.  Jesus was a Jew.  He believed in and followed the Law of Moses.  He did Jewish things in Jewish ways and called Jewish things by Jewish names.  Growing up he went with his parents every year to Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-42).  When Jesus began his ministry, he went to Jerusalem for those same religious festivals (John 5:1; 7:2, 10, 14; 8:1-2; 10:22).  Jesus in celebration and worship would rejoice in the way that Israel worshiped (Deuteronomy 16:11-17). There would be rejoicing, feasting, and giving.  The Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah would follow the prophet Ezra’s admonition to “go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks . . . do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).   Jesus would follow the prophet’s admonition to “make much joy” rather than be sad or weep.  When scripture was read, he would have joined in with shouting “Amen” and bowing with others in worship before the Lord (Nehemiah 8:6).  Gloom, frowning, and such would not have been part of his worship habit.

During Jesus’ ministry, Psalm 47 would be read seven times at the Temple during Rosh Hashanah.  There would be loud songs of praise and the blowing of the shofar.  Jesus would hear the following as they worshiped on that day, “Clap your hands, all you peoples, Shout to God with loud songs of joy . . . God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the Trumpet.  Sing praises to God, sing praises . . . sing praises with a psalm.”  Jesus would not only be familiar with this worship, but as an obedient follower of the Law, take part in the activities.

Jesus’ problem was not that he refused to follow the Law and its practices, but he questioned the traditions of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 23).  When the priests and teachers of the Law came to Jesus, they didn’t come to be taught, but to find something they could criticize.  Mark tells us,

Again, Jesus went into a synagogue.  A man with a crippled hand was there.  Some Jewish leaders were waiting to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath day.  They wanted to see Jesus do something wrong, so that they could accuse him” (Mark 3:1-2).

Those religious leaders were not interested in people being healed.  They wanted to stop Jesus, but to do so they had to find something wrong with him.  They did not criticize him for his religious practices because all that he did was in harmony with the Law of Moses.  Their hate drove them blindly to disregard his teaching in their effort to protect their traditions.  That kind of protection did not cease in the first century.

People haven’t changed.  Hate continues to blind individuals so that good looks evil and evil looks good.  Lies prevail.  Misrepresentation continues.  False accusation did not die in Jesus’ day.  They continue to be used by those who feast upon such.

Jesus was a Jew.  He made it possible for Jew and Gentile to be one (Ephesians 2:1-22).  That oneness is based upon love (1 Corinthians 13).  That place is referred to as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Jesus is its head (Ephesians 1:22-23).   God adds the saved to that body of believers (Acts 2:41, 47).  It was a movement which began in the first century on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-47).  It is where one is forgiven and continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  That fellowship continues today (Matthew 16:18)!