For the most part, the fact that Jesus was a Jew, born in Israel and into a Jewish culture and whose language was Hebrew has escaped the 21st century church. Several questions immediately come to the Christian mind. What does it matter and is it relevant for me today? Just like any good Rabbi (Jewish teacher) will answer the question with o question. The relevance of Yeshiva’s (Jesus) jadishness depends on the individual Christian’s goal. Are you merely trying to get to heaven? Or are you like the prophet Jeremiah, who tells us the most important aspect of life here on earth, is that we are growing in our knowledge and understanding of God. The words Da’at Eloheem, in Hebrew mean ‘Knowledge of God’, however, it simply does not mean knowing about God rather it carries the idea of the intimate relationship between husband and wife. It is our Heavenly Father’s passionate desire for intimacy that produces His mercy. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins at Calvary, not to satisfy the wrath of an angry God, but to make a way for reconciling man back to the Father. Not that man would simply get into heaven one day, but that man could enjoy intimacy and all the good things in life right here, right now with God on earth. Certainly being born again and having heaven as and inheritance is an important part of our Christian life, I am not trying to diminish that at all. However, if you are wanting, desiring and hungry to know and experience you redeemer in a richer, more intimate relationship, then understanding Jesus’ jewishness is vital to that goal. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of our Heavenly Father, we will experience more of the love with which God loved Jesus, His Son, and that will much needed godly character in our lives, making us more productive witnesses for Him. ( ler. 9:23-24 / John 17:26)
Our first lesson in Jesus’ jewishness involves the Hebrew culture in which Jesus was born. While the priesthood of the 1st century had become very corrupt, society, especially the family unit was very theocentric (god centered). To the Hebrew, God was the beginning and ending of all things. Life was a gift from God as was every good thing that came with it. Life was to be embraced and enjoyed as a tribute to him. God was firmly at the center of all things and all else was peripheral. However, the Greek and western mind is ant hrotrophic, placing man at the center of all things. Individuality was applauded and each man saw himself as the center of the universe. It is not difficult to find that same perspective in the church today, where many not only see themselves as the center, but also view God as a servant on hand to do their bidding.
In order to become a God centered society, we must place value or esteem on the word of God, all 66 books! For centuries, many Christian leaders have devalued Bible study and even some today consider the Hebrew text or Old Testament obsolete and irrelevant for today. The truth is, our New Testament, the teachings of Rabbi Jesus and the apostles are rooted and grounded in the Old Testament. For instance, Jesus teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But can we really understand what it means to love God and neighbor without knowing what it meant to our Jewish Savior in the 1st century? Nol Many Christians understand this is the Greek word agape, meaning the God kind of love, but the Hebrew for love, ahavah explains what the God kind of love is. In Hebrew, ahavah or love is not simply an emotional attachment to someone or something, but love is action, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”. (luke10:25-27, Romans 13:9, Psalm 119:92, John 3:16)
In the movie, fiddler on the roof, about a Jewish family in the 19th century Russia, the husband asks the wife, “do you love me” and she answers him by asking him, “What is this question, do hove you?! clean your house, I cook, I raise your daughters, I wash your clothes!” She is a little annoyed by the question because for all their married life, her actions have spoken of her love for her husband. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, “if you love Me, obey My commands”. The primary purpose of education in bible times was to train the whole person for lifelong, obedient service in the knowledge of God.
When Jesus commands His followers to love God and neighbor, he is using a rabbinic method of teaching called a “remez”. it means an allusion or to allude to something else. Because His listeners had vast amounts of scripture committed to memory, the Rabbi’s would just allude to a passage of the text and the listener would automatically understand the context. when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is alluding to the Leviticus 19:11-18 passage that tells us what it means to love our neighbor. This passage tells us not to lie, steal, cheat or deal falsely with a neighbor, not to gossip or be a talebearer. We are not to walk in unforgiveness or hold a grudge, nor are we to hate our brother in our heart. You are to love your neighbor as yourself. The old saying is true, “actions speak louder than words”. There may be significant issues that prevent unity in the Christian community today and most can be traced back to the belief that God’s commandments are irrelevant for our lives today. So consequently many Christians make choices and develop beliefs void of the wisdom of God’s word and most of us have learned through experience that making choices without the wisdom of His Word can bring major heartache to our lives.
Obedience indicates our level of commitment to Him and our intimacy will never exceed our level of commitment. God’s commands were not given to produce salvation. Only the blood of Jesus can do that. God’s commands were given by a merciful God to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, not to put us in bondage, but to be guidelines for our lives in order that vie might continue to grow in our intimacy with Him! That’s why David said, “I delight in your commands, 0 Lord“.