How Jewish was Jesus?
Who killed Jesus?
Of course most of you were already fully aware of the Jewishness of Jesus, Yeshua ben Yosef, but it’s still worth reminding ourselves, particularly in demonstrating the continuity between the “Old” and the “New” Testament and showing the points of similarity between Jesus and Moses. Also it helps to emphasise his humanity, the fact that he walked this earth as a flesh-and-blood human being, despite his divine nature. It was incredible to see how heresies could arise and we wonder if it would have been easily less complicated for the early Church if it had retained its Jewish roots and not taken on the pagan unbiblical views from the Greek world of that day.
Now the usual epithet we use for Jesus, is Christ, not as some suppose, his surname, but his messianic title. By exploring the precise meaning of the “anointed one” that it refers to, we examined exactly how Jesus fulfilled this role. He set out to demonstrate without a measure of doubt, through miraculous signs, that he was the Christ, the Messiah and, until the religious authorities hatched their nefarious plan to kill him, how the people acknowledged his messiahship as we see from the reception they gave him on Palm Sunday.
But Jesus the Rabbi also came to teach us, to show us how to live. Most of his teachings are apparent to all and speak to us across the centuries and over the cultural gap between his 1st Century agricultural setting and our 21st Century technological age. Key messages from the heart of God still speak to us and will continue to do so until he returns. They undergird our laws and moral framework and the fact that these are currently crumbling in our society is totally the fault of the ineffectiveness of our current Church, rather than the one who taught us in the first place. Yet there are subtleties to much of his teachings that have been lost in translation and there is still more we can learn from him and about him by picking up the tools to unlock these nuances. Hopefully you have now learnt enough to want to go deeper.
Then there was the title that Jesus preferred above all, Bar Anash, Son of Man. This identified his supernatural mission, his redemptive purposes and foretaste of his Second Coming that he frequently referred to. He also identified himself as the Son of God, a title quite familiar to Satan and his demons and it was this appellation that was to bring his downfall, execution on grounds of blasphemy. Yet it was the key to our salvation and this was explained.
The Jewish religious leadership had a problem. Jesus had come and not only fulfilled the scriptures but, after his ascension, other signs were provided to remind them of what they had missed. Rather than accept their mistake they devised a cunning plan to explain away those scriptures that Jesus seemed to have fulfilled. They invented the Messiah, Son of Joseph, Mashiach ben Yosef, as a stop-gap Saviour and created a mysterious set of scenarios to explain his coming appearance. Yet, by identifying this figure with the Biblical figure of Joseph, all they have managed to do is remind us on the similarities this son of Jacob had with Jesus himself.
But it went further and, in order to ensure that their people would not be enticed into following Jesus, the early Rabbis filled the pages of the Talmud, their key religious manual, with negative images of Jesus, known disrespectfully as Yeshu HaNotzri, with some of the most appalling falsehoods. It led to further persecutions at the hands of the Church and the Talmud managed to get itself banned, burned and doctored. It was a war for the hearts and the minds of the Jews and the biggest casualty of the whole sorry episode was the truth itself.
Yet there were also flesh-and-blood casualties, but their fate was sealed a long time before. Many sneer at the Jewish people for their “chosen-ness”, perhaps jealous of their accomplishments in a whole swathe of fields and disciplines, or perhaps jealous of their centrality in the World’s stage, whether through the Holocaust, the State of Israel or through the numerous contrived conspiracies speaking of global Jewish domination! What most people fail to realise that the Jewish people have indeed been chosen, but it’s not a choice that they welcome. It’s hard to find much joy in being reviled and persecuted. In fact, if the true nature of their divine selection was ever revealed, most Jews would be struck dumb with shock.
Consider this. Without the crucifixion (at the hands of the Romans), there would be no substitutionary death and subsequent victory over death. For your salvation, someone had to sentence Jesus to death, in accordance with the divine legal system developed over a period of time. It was the Jews who were the instruments of God not just for the development of this religious legal system but for the death of the Messiah. Blame God for the death of Jesus, not His representatives. Thanks to the key early disciples, Peter and Paul, both acting again as God’s instruments, the Gentiles were allowed into the Church, bringing the prospect of salvation to the whole World. Both were executed by Gentiles for their efforts. The early Church then developed a vengeful theology that earmarked the Jews a rejected and cursed people, responsible for the death of Jesus and forever abandoned by God. This immediately blocked the path of those Jews for eternal salvation, even as their bodies were battered at the hands of those who expected salvation. How on earth could they put their faith in a Messiah whose followers hated them to death? What an unbelievable irony. But it gets worse …