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Who Is Jesus Nazareth?

Jesus - Yeshua: Who is this man?

Although the world is full of religions, the controversy surrounding the Messiahship of Jesus is unique, because both those who accept Jesus and those who reject him base their beliefs on one and the same Book, the Hebrew Scriptures. One faith says: We’d rather die than confess the name of Jesus. The other faith says: We’d rather die than deny the name of Jesus.

”So how can I know the truth?” Simple. Only one of these two faiths is based on the power of God; the other has been built on the traditions of men. There really is quite a difference!
Tradition

Once I was speaking to an ultra-Orthodox rabbi about the Messiahship of Jesus. He didn’t want to hear my opinions (and I can’t blame him for that!). He didn’t care about what anybody else had to say. He just wanted to go back to the original sources. “Let’s go back to the Talmud,” he said. “That’s where we can find the truth.” I think my answer surprised him. “Why should I go back to the Talmud,” I said, “when I can go all the way back to the New Testament?” To my surprise, he didn’t argue.

You see, many Jewish people today are told that Judaism alone is the real religion of the Bible, and that “Christianity” is a much later, predominantly Gentile religion. And yet statements such as these, intimidating as they may sound, are simply not true. Traditional Judaism as we know it today is not so much the religion of Moses and the prophets as it is the religion of the rabbis who lived and taught over 1500 years later. Instead of being the religion of sacrifice and blood atonement as prescribed by the Torah, it is a religion without sacrifice and blood atonement, in spite of the Torah. Some of Judaism’s most sacred books did not even exist before the late Middle-Ages. Christopher Columbus had already discovered America before the Code of Jewish Law used by Orthodox Jews today reached its final form. And the traditions keep on growing to this very day.

As for the Messianic Jewish faith, the Jewish faith that believes in Yeshua the Messiah, the sole authority for faith and practice is the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Covenants. Rather than the New Covenant being a late Gentile book, all its authors, save one, were Jews, Jews who lived in the days before the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. Many other traditions and customs added in the following centuries by the church have had nothing to do with the Bible and therefore have absolutely no connection with the Messianic Jewish faith. The writers of the New Covenant were Jews who recognized that Messiah had come to atone for the sins of his people. They based their beliefs on the Hebrew Scriptures, and on the Hebrew Scriptures alone. And so, when Yeshua died and rose from the dead in accordance with key prophecies in those very Scriptures, they had all the confirmation they could ever want that he was indeed the promised Messiah.

Then why didn’t the other Jewish leaders of the day acknowledge that Yeshua was in fact the Messiah? The answer again is simple: They weren’t looking for him. They were looking for another. The Messiah of the rabbis only partly resembled the Messiah of the Bible. And yet the thing they longed for most was the very thing they missed, for Messiah had come to save them from their sins.

Substitution

There is no more important concept in the Hebrew Bible than this if we are to understand God’s holy love for us: substitution. It is the key that unlocks the door to our redemption. And it is the rock that makes men stumble. It alone can fully explain why Yeshua’s own people missed him, and it alone can open their eyes again.

Day after day, the Sadducees offered their sacrifices at the Temple. But it was not the blood of bulls that God wanted for himself; it was not the fat of rams that he desired. It was not a people of mere ritual purity that he sought; he did not require a new code that would keep men clean. No. He wanted a substitute, a righteous lamb who would bear his people’s sins. He wanted a spotless sacrifice who would purify the people within.

Some rabbis claimed that every sacrifice was accepted on the basis of Abraham’s offering up of Isaac. They further claimed that in the Passover rite, when God “saw the blood” (Exodus 12), he was looking at the sacrifice of Isaac and not at the blood of the lamb. Yet Isaac was not offered, and his blood was never shed. And it was God himself who provided the sacrifice that saved the life of Abraham’s son. It was Messiah who suffered and died, and it is by his wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). It was he who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and it was he who bore our sins (Isaiah 53:7, 12 and Leviticus 16:22). Oh yes, there were Jewish teachers who believed that the suffering of the righteous could bring atonement to the world. Yet when the truly Righteous One suffered and died, they said that it was for naught.

Our rabbis tell us that when Messiah comes, he will establish peace on earth. But a Saviour who changes the physical world without first changing us is really no saviour at all. And a Messiah who establishes peace on earth without first establishing peace in our hearts is really no Messiah at all. Messiah had to die. Messiah had to take our place. There was no other way. No other substitute was found. No one else could pay the price. Nothing else could heal our wounds, for sin required death. Yeshua paid the price. It was his death that brought us life. He alone was the substitute for a sinful human race, and he alone can offer us redemption.

Transformation

The traditional Judaism of our day has its roots in the religion of the Pharisees, a small group of dedicated Jews who banded together over two thousand years ago. These were the men who would not eat with ceremonially unwashed hands, who tithed even insignificant crops. But no matter how much we try to love and please him, our efforts are polluted with sin. We are members of a fallen race. Only a new heart will do. Yet this is the truth these zealous men missed, since in their passion for obedience to every letter of the Law they did not fully grasp the spirit of the One who gave it. And as the Pharisees went, so the Jewish people have gone.

Many of the Jews of Yeshua’s day were looking for a deliverer who would come miraculously, as with the clouds of heaven. Yet when Yeshua said, “I have come down from heaven, and I will come again in the clouds of heaven,” many said, “Not so! Our Messiah will be a teacher of the Law, a rabbi like ourselves!” But not all of our forefathers missed it. The writer of almost half of the New Covenant Scriptures was himself a Pharisee, born of the tribe of Benjamin. And the Book of Acts records “how many myriads of Jews” there were who believed and were zealous for the Torah (Acts 21:20). In fact, “a great many of the [Jewish] priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), and even today in our country and throughout the world, there are multiplied scores of thousands of Jews who believe and confess, “Yeshua is the Messiah! Yeshua is Lord!” This, then, is the biblical, Jewish faith – the Jewish faith that is truly Messianic.

The spiritual leaders of our people who tell us that we cannot know God are wrong. They are only saying, “I don’t know him personally, so how can you? I’ve studied for years and I’m still learning. How can you be so sure?”

Once again, our answer is simple and clear. Messiah Yeshua has made God known. He has revealed the Father to us. And through his blood we have been brought back to God.

Tradition will not save us.

Opinions will not set us free.

Messiah has ransomed our souls from the Pit.

Let all his Jewish people come!
Article written in 2008

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