I have a particular affection for my Jewish cousins. I owe my life to your people. You have faithfully preserved the truth of God in your ancient writings and through you was born my messiah, who restored me from separation from God. The Hebrew word Moshiach is the Greek word Christos. I love your scriptures and am delighted to hear that I provoke you to study them, particularly because St Paul, a jew from the tribe of Benjamin wrote in his letter to the Jews in Rome:
Romans 11:11 I say then, have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
It is vital to me that Jews trust their entire scriptures and study them as an integral part of their lives, because this is the Word of God, which brings life. I am delighted if I can help in any way, that Jews get to know their God as an intimate life partner just as I do.
There is a difficult history between Judaism and Christianity. We have much in common, but we divide particularly over the deity of Jesus Christ. From either side of the argument, the other is blasphemous. Jews have persecuted Christians unto death, such as St Paul in his former life as a Saul of Tarsis, a prodigy of Rabbi Gamaliel Hazaken who presided over the Sanhedrin shortly after Jesus’ death. And today particularly those who continue the practices of the Pharisees in Orthodox Judaism are similarly disposed towards those who embrace Jesus as the Messiah, particularly denying the rights of Jewish Christians (Messianic Jews) such as that of Aliyah – the return to Israel. In early Biblical Christian history, there was antagonism from Jewish believers towards non-Jewish believers. This later turned around as the minority became the majority. Later, trouble-makers fuelled by pagan Roman hatred for the Jews lead Christians to persecute the Jews – even as they were persecuted. As this happened, other Christians were similarly persecuted. The crusades are a particularly crazy example of our betrayal of the Biblical theme to care for strangers, particularly our enemies. This mandate is expressed by the patriarchs, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles. Today, there are many similar jerks who call themselves Christian, just as there are jerks who call themselves Jewish, but betray the essence of that title. These people causes trouble first for their own, then for others.
Christian persecution of Jews has been a politicized betrayal of scripture.
1 Corinthians 7:17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. 18Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. 21Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.
I encourage Jews who become Christians to continue living a kosher lifestyle, but keeping in mind that Moses’ law was a treaty between God and his chosen nation. The rules and traditions do not resolve sin, but demonstrate God’s truth and his wonderful plan to restore us to him. In a similar way, I honour my Salvation Army heritage by not drinking alcohol, particularly because I am no longer bound to my promise. We do these things in honour of God and out of love for him. Through our being different, we create opportunity to talk about our love for God. The abandonment of our heritage can be the greatest hurdle to reaching our loved ones. By preserving Biblical Jewish practice, you can also strengthen the Church by helping non-Jews understand God’s amazing message revealed through these. Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah have a unique understanding of what being a Jew means and can be more fervent protectors of the Jewish state and people. They appreciate what it means to be blessed to be a blessing to others, not to keep it for themselves or to lord their unique favour over others.
I love reading ancient Jewish writings, particularly those preserved in the dead sea scrolls by the Essene sect. Dr Ken Johnson of http://biblefacts.org/ has translated many of these into English, providing a wealth of additional insight into the Bible and ancient Jewish thinking. The recluse Essene sect divided from the Pharisees a few centuries before Christ. Where the Pharisees interpreted the Bible through oral tradition, the Essenes focussed on the ancient writings of the patriarchs. Soon after Jesus, the Essenes disappeared, leaving the Pharisees to dominate Judaism with their perspective. Now, Jewish history focuses on weird offshoots from the Essenes to dismiss the entire sect as contemptible.
Around 2000 years ago all Judaism was watching for the Messiah prophesied in Daniel 9 to appear 483 years after the command to rebuild the Temple around 450BC.
The Essenes, reading scriptures such as Daniel 9, expected the Messiah to be God in person, who came to fulfil the death penalty for everyone’s sin as became problematic a couple of pages after creation. There is no more vivid description of Jesus’ crucifixion than in Isaiah 53. As he died Jesus cried “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”, referencing King David’s prophecy of his anguish in Psalm 22 – “My God, My God, why have you turned away from me?”.
The Pharisees on the other hand, expected the Messiah who would restore the fortunes of Israel and kick Roman butt. Jesus was such a disappointment to them, rejecting political power and their craving for dominance. Throughout the Bible, authority does not come until we learn to submit to God in humility and follow his plans. Out of their disappointment and embarrassment, they tried to frame Jesus, but no fault could be found in him. They demanded Jesus be put to death solely for claiming to be God. This contradicts any claim that he was merely a good teacher. He’s either God or a lunatic who can’t be trusted! But this was all God’s plan to save the world – just as he’d been saying throughout the Jewish scriptures. Some think the Essenes all recognized Jesus as the messiah and became Christians.
Today Judaism and Christianity are dominated by people who crave authority over people. These teachers discourage reading certain parts of their Bible. For Jews, “just focus on the Torah”, for Christians, “just focus on the New Testament”. They focus on conformity to human philosophies, traditions and practices that are not described in scripture. They divide over what is common to our faiths. They disparage those who worship differently and ostracise those who teach a love for the primary truth of God’s Word, to which everything else must subject. Jesus warns repeatedly against such false teachers:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
King Solomon wrote:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
7Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
8It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.
To my Jewish cousins, you are precious to me. I pray that I can serve you, that you might become better Jews and come to know your God as intimately as I do.
With much affection