One of His Own
Jesus walked into a bar and found one of his own – a Jew.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Jesus – the Son of God, Savior of all – Jews and Gentiles alike - was fully Jewish. His was part of his Father’s chosen people – the Jewish (Hebrew) nation. He had been raised to know the Torah and the many laws of his people. He learned that being part of this people, he was born righteous. He was taught that his people did sin, but when they did, they could get back up, repent and try again. He celebrated the rituals, the holidays of remembrance, the lifestyle of seeking atonement, and understood His Father’s promise of a Messiah. And He knew that HE WAS THE ONE.
What is it that Jesus would say to a Jew – especially one in today’s world? Would He say, “I am the way and the truth and the life…..?” John 14:6 That is a very radical statement in Jewish ears.
- How would you imagine it would be received?
- Imagine other things He might say?
- What would you say?
Jews would appreciate Jesus choice of way, truth, and life in John 14:6 “Jewish tradition is filled with reflections on the way (derekh), the truth (emet), and the life (chayem) of the devout Jew. Each of these special words represents a universe of meaning to one who studies and reveres the Torah” Hebrew for Christians (J. Parsons) The Jewish mindset sees the law (Torah) as the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except by adhering to the Torah which is ingrained into their thinking and lifestyle. By following this lifestyle, they become righteous. They know they fall short – sin - but they can repent and be forgiven and still have the righteousness God gives his chosen people. They must work at this over and over again. When Jesus offers to be the way, truth and life He gives a blessed relief from the burden of laws.
As Christians, we also count ourselves as righteous people, but there is a difference……. We know we are righteous, not because of what we have done, but rather what Jesus himself has done for us. We know that there is no way we can please God on our own; that is impossible. We, however, rejoice in knowing that through Christ’s sacrifice, death and resurrection, we no longer are on a quest for righteousness. Instead, we thankfully can rest in God’s grace. In response, we want to live a righteous life.
Read these passages to see what God is saying to you about your righteousness?
- Psalm 51:1-11
- Isaiah 43:1-3a
- Gal 5:1
In his introduction to Exodus in the Message, Eugene Peterson states, “Salvation is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” As Christians, we believe that our righteousness - our spiritual permit to life eternal - is not gained by our own actions, our striving for perfection, our wailing pleas for forgiveness, our righteous indignation, and self-comparisons to others or even our feeble following of the laws of God. Rather, it is a gift of God, given out of His pure love for us.
Paul declares in I Cor.15:56-57, “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks, be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
What a wonderful gift Christ gives to us. Our thankfulness prompts us to want to share the truth with the Jewish friends God puts in our lives. We have so much to tell them which can free them from the chains of the law.
Martin Luther helps to synthesize all this as he writes his explanation to the second article of the Apostles Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Berneis notes: “I believe that Jewish people have not rejected Jesus. They simply have not heard a Gospel message they can identify with or a biblically authentic representation of their Messiah. Most have many misconceptions obscuring the identity of Jesus – many of them derived from a 2000 year legacy of misunderstanding of the Jewishness of Jesus” The Jewish Voice Ministries International
We have a challenge! We are privileged to be able to share the Jesus we know in a humble simple manner with the Jews we encounter. We can share the truth about righteousness and the gift Jesus has attained for us. We can assure them that their struggle with the laws of the Torah can be replaced by the peace given through the righteousness of Jesus.
We do not do this alone. We rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and direct us – to give us the words He would have us use. We can show them the love of Jesus through the love we give them.
Finally, we can pray for them that their faith would be enlightened by the Light of the World. If you have a personal connection with someone of the Jewish faith, make this a constant part of your prayer conversation with Jesus. If you do not, pray regularly for Apple of His Eye Mission Society, our LCMS Registered Service Organization For Jewish mission. You can find out more at www.appleofhiseye.org
In considering what Jesus might say to a Jew, we should not ignore our own Jewish heritage in the Old Testament which brings light to the New. The ancient hope for a Messiah is our joy. And the God of the Jews is the same God who never changes – the Great I Am.
Our small group has the tradition of celebrating a Jewish/Christian Seder each year on Palm Sunday evening. During the Seder, there are many beautiful prayers of thanks and remembrances. Here are two:
Blessed are you, O Lord, our God king of the universe, who has redeemed us and our fathers from Egypt and has permitted us to live until this night to eat of the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs. So, may the Lord our God and the God of our fathers permit us to live until other festive seasons and holy days. May your will be done through Jacob, your chosen servant, so that your name will be sanctified during all the earth and that all people be moved to worship you with one accord. And we shall sing new songs of praise unto you for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls.
Blessed are you, O Lord who has redeemed Israel. Blessed are you, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have had mercy on us children of men and given your only-begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. We give you thanks for the redemption you have prepared for us through Jesus Christ. Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts that He may establish in us a living faith and prepare us joyfully to remember our Redeemer.
Write a prayer of your own using the examples above as your guide.
Blessed are you, Lord Our God…
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