I co-led a class this morning on the Biblical Feasts. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about because it’s usually not taught in depth in church and is a great way to help Christians connect deeper with the Jewish roots of their faith. After all, Jesus was Jewish, and he kept the feasts just like any good Jew would do.
Christianity was founded on Christ, but before Christianity was Christianity, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah come to fulfill God’s plan. Now I realize we tend to think that the Jews don’t recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and while that’s probably true generally, it’s also true that there’s a considerable number of believing Jews out there. It’s also true that the first followers of Jesus were Jewish. But then we can tend to forget that.
And that’s no surprise. For a long time now, the Church has made efforts to separate itself from the Jews. We learned this morning that early on as far back as 325 AD during the Council of Nicea, the church was already trying to break any connection with Judaism and by the time the Council concluded, we no longer had a Passover in relation to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but instead celebrated what we know as Easter (which interestingly enough sounds a lot the name of the Roman goddess of spring).
As time has gone on, more and more, the Jews who were believers in Christ were required to renounce their roots. We even saw this morning when at one point, Jews were required not only to renounce their heritage, but to eat pork in front of witnesses in order to prove they were Christian enough. Can you imagine?
You find anti-semitism staining the history of the Church to the point that even Hitler himself used Martin Luther’s sentiments again the Jews to justify the horrors of the Holocaust. And here we are in 2019 and we still see anti-Semitism around the world.
Don Finto says this in his book Your People Shall Be My People,
None of Jesus’ hearers could have imagined what would transpire over the next years: that Gentiles would take control of the books of Moses and the Prophets – so much so that the Bible, God’s inspired Word, would be appropriated by Gentiles for themselves to the extent that it is now known primarily as a Gentile book; that this Man in whom they now believed, this Messiah, this Christ, would become so “Gentilized” that even His own people would fail to recognize Him as one of their own; that millions of Jews in the twentieth century would be killed at the hands of those who gave lip service to their Messiah.”
A Gentilized Jesus.
No wonder we don’t hear too much taught in the Western church about the Jewishness of Jesus. Because going back centuries, there’s been an under current that says the Jews rejected and killed Jesus and God’s done with them. It’s usually referred to as replacement theology…where the Church has replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people.
But a word of caution…the Bible speaks about a time of the Jews being blinded so that the Gentiles could be brought into the family of God. Romans 11:25-26 says this:
For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion. He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
In other words, Christian, don’t go being haughty about your place in the family tree of God. Don’t forget, we – the Gentiles – were grafted into the vine and we have no business boasting against the branches (Romans 11:18).
Now I’m not saying all this to say that the Church is bad. Only that at this point, the Church is just ignorant and that’s a shame. When you see God’s plan of redemption being hinted at all the way back to even in the way he laid out these times of remembering for the Jews (Leviticus 23), it can only deepen your faith.
And rather than separating from God’s chosen people, we should be praying for them and for Israel and finding ways to connect. God’s not done with the Jewish people. Not by a long shot.
I’d also encourage you to spend some time looking into the Jewish roots of your faith. You’ll understand the Bible in ways you never have before and the teachings of Jesus will take on even deeper meaning.