“Yes it’s true on Christmas morn, the truest Jew that ever was was born…”
– Words from song written by Marty Goetz
“Jesus lived, taught, and died as a Jew. He defined himself and his Jewishness in much the same way as today’s Torah-observant Jews.”
–Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
If you’re like some people, you’re probably looking at the title of this blog and thinking to yourself, “This is heretical”. Well, not only is it not heretical, but it’s my contention that the Church has been so duped into picturing Jesus as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, halo-bearing Christian that there is little to no understanding that He is actually a Jew through and through!
Before we go any further, let me say this unequivocally: being a Christian, in its truest sense, equates to undivided devotion to Messiah Jesus. Christianity is not a dirty word and I wholeheartedly embrace that terminology as it refers to followers of Christ. However, it’s most unfortunate that its modern meaning seems to have been reduced to simply anyone who either regularly (or even irregularly!) attends a local church or prays over his food before he eats it.
I was recently speaking to our congregation in North Carolina on the topic of “God’s Heart For Israel” and was struck in my preparation with the concept that Jesus wasn’t a Christian. I knew it was something I wanted to articulate when I spoke, but I was actually hesitant to say it publicly as I’ve never heard anyone say that before. So, I called my dear friend and apologist Dr. Michael Brown, and asked him if there was anything wrong with me making that statement publicly. His response to me was, “Are you kidding me? Of course Jesus wasn’t a Christian – there were no such things as Christians back then.”
Yet, the statement, “Jesus wasn’t a Christian” could still sound a little harsh to our ears. Since my recent awakening to my own Jewishness, I’ve realized how much even I have “gentilized” our Jewish Messiah. Perhaps we need an entire paradigm shift in the Church in order to appreciate that for which Jesus originally came, namely, “for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24).
Think about this for just a minute. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1 states,
“the record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Although this may seem completely elementary, it’s important to remember that there was not one “Christian” in His entire lineage! In the days that Jesus walked the earth, there were no such things as Christians! You were either a Jew who had a covenant relationship with God, or you were a gentile (one outside of the covenant promises of God).
The reason why it’s important to understand His Jewishness is because we need to recover the foundation and roots of our faith so that we have a clear and proper understanding of God’s purposes where Israel and the Jewish people are concerned. An insufficient understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus will not only marginalize His mission while on earth, but will also marginalize our call as the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy! Jesus didn’t come to earth and shed His blood as the Lamb of God, in order for his followers to start a new religion called Christianity; He came to fulfill the Scriptures as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world!
Let’s unpack the thought of Jesus’ Jewishness a little bit to help bring a better understanding of what I’m suggesting. Jesus was born a Jew and His name was Yeshua! Yeshua’s earthly father, Joseph, was a Jew. And, although it’s common for many to refer to His mother as ‘the virgin Mary’, her name was actually Miriam and she was a Jew too!
Not only that, but also all twelve of his disciples were Jews too!
I love how The Jewish New Testament describes the choosing of the twelve disciples in Luke as follows:
“It was around that time that Yeshua went out to the hill country to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. When day came, he called his talmidim and chose from among them twelve to be known as emissaries: Shim’on, whom he named Kefa; Andrew, his brother; Ya’akov; Yochanan; Philip; Bar-Talmai; Mattityahu; T’oma; Ya’akov Ben Halfai; Shim’on, the one called the Zealot; Y’hudah Ben-Ya’akov; and Y’hudah from K’riot, who turned traitor.” (Luke 6:12-16)
Oh my goodness, that has an entirely different ring to it, doesn’t it?
Not only were Jesus and all of His disciples Jewish, but every one of the early believers in the Messiah were Jews too! The Gospel wasn’t released to the Gentile nations until the amazing story of Cornelius in Acts 10.
Jesus was born a Jew, He lived as a Torah-observant Jew, He died “King of the Jews”, and He’s returning to earth as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”!
This revelation is of utmost importance. The Church must realize that Jesus came to fulfill the prophetic messianic promises to the house of Israel and is waiting to be welcomed back by those very same people. Be on the alert when anyone tries to convince you that Yeshua was anything but a Jew because His Jewishness is of utmost importance to us today!