The reality of that statement has been resonating in me for the past several weeks. A very wise man asked me, “How does that inform your faith?”
Well…I didn’t understand his use of the word inform. Not wanting to display my ignorance, I didn’t answer right away. (I believe God would call that pride, but that’s a story for another day.) Instead, I went home and looked it up. He was asking, “How does the reality of Jesus’ Jewishness give material form to your faith? How does it give character or essence to your faith?”
Good question. I’ve given it considerable thought.
If Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, that means He experienced life as a Jew. He studied what Jews studied. He worshiped as Jews worshiped. His teachings were Jewish teachings.
What? Now just a minute! Jesus is Jesus. You know, THE Jesus. His teachings were all brand new, right?
In a class I’ve been taking on the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith, I’ve learned that Jesus taught the same things rabbis had been teaching for centuries—only he taught them with authority. He not only taught his disciples how to obey the Torah (yes, THAT Torah), but he taught them to “build a fence around the Torah.” That means setting the standard higher than Torah does in order to avoid violating the Law. E.g. The Law says not to commit adultery. Jesus said not to even look at a woman with lust. If a man never looks at a woman with lust, it’d be kinda hard for him to commit adultery, wouldn’t it?
Frankly, although I’ve always been fascinated with the Jewish faith, I’ve never thought it vital that I understand that faith, along with the history and traditions of the Jews. Coming to the understanding of just how Jewish Jesus was, has made me realize just how vital it is.
Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21 NIV) He also said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40 NASB)
So, if Jesus was Jewish and he taught like a Jew and thought like a Jew, how can I understand his commands if I don’t understand Judaism. And if I don’t understand his commands, I can’t obey them. Likewise, if I’m to become like the Master, I need to understand his teachings and thoughts.
I’ve also come to a better understanding about how his Jewishness effects me, as a Gentile.
As a Jew, Jesus came first to the Jews. His twelve disciples were all Jews. Although he had Gentile disciples too, it’s safe to say most of his followers were Jewish.
As a Gentiles, I have NO standing with God. I can’t claim to be one of his chosen people. I can’t fall back on my heritage to say that there’s something special about me. No. I’ve got nothing.
It makes it that much more incredible that Jesus would throw open the door and say, “You…you who are not a people. You who are without God in this world. You come in. There’s a place for you at my table.”
A place for ME! Around the family table of God!
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!