Jesus the Jew, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Great I AM

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As we say goodbye to November and head into December, our thoughts turn toward the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), which starts Sunday night at sundown, and the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Let’s start with Jesus, as He is truly the center of all celebration.  But, beware Christians: Jesus doesn’t belong solely to us.  He is not a “Christian character,” but is the character who joins Jews and Gentiles together.  In fact, Jesus was Jewish! 

Our Christmas story bears that out.  For example: Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and wise men from the East asked King Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”  (Matthew 2:2)  We also know Jesus was circumcised as all Jewish boys were, His boyhood home was Nazareth, His family journeyed to Jerusalem for the feasts, and He observed Jewish traditions.

In fact, even Jewish philosopher-theologian-historian of religion, Rabbi Leo Buck, rejected Christianity, but had this to say about Jesus:

Most portrayers of the life of Jesus neglect to point out that Jesus is in every characteristic a genuinely Jewish character, that a man like him could have grown only in the soil of Judaism, only there and nowhere else. Jesus is a genuine Jewish personality, all his struggles and works, his bearing and feeling, his speech and silence, bear the stamp of a Jewish style, the mark of Jewish idealism, of the best that was and is in Judaism, but which then existed only in Judaism. He was a Jew among Jews; from no other people could a man like him have come forth, and in no other people could a man like him work; in no other people could he have found the apostles who believed in him.  (Jews for Jesus)

So, no doubt, Jesus was Jewish.  But was He Messiah?  Some believe Jesus was crucified because the Jews rejected Him as Messiah. But is that true?

Let’s see what Jesus said about Himself.  Here is a conversation, recorded in Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT):

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,”they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

Not only did Jesus accept the title “Messiah, the Son of the living God” He also attributed that revelation to His Father in heaven.  Later, when He encountered a Samaritan woman at Sychar, He also declared Himself to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26).  Most telling, though, is the genealogy of Jesus, detailed in Matthew 1, where verse 16 identifies Jesus as the Messiah. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was not crucified because He claimed to be Messiah.  That was not a problem for the Jewish people, as they were actually seeking a messiah.  He was crucified because He dared to utter a very simple phrase: “I AM.”  In a conversation with Jewish followers, Abraham was rightly venerated as the father of their faith.  What ensued was this:

“Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”… Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
~John 8:53, 56-58

“I AM”…Jesus proclaimed His deity, making Himself equal with God.  Throughout Jewish history they were warned to have no other gods before the God of the universe.  The idea of a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is blasphemous to Jewish ears, thus Jesus’ “I AM” proclamation was blasphemous.  So disturbed were they, that verse 59 tells us they picked up stones to throw at Him.

Claiming to be God set everything in motion for the crucifixion of the Great I AM.

Interestingly, in the last days, another will come on the scene, claiming to be messiah.  He will woo the Jewish people who are anxiously seeking their messiah, and they will embrace him.  He will allow the Jews to rebuild their temple on Temple Mount and will bring about a false peace.  But in the midst of it all, that one will be found to be the Antichrist when he also declares deity and demands to be worshiped in the Temple.  The Jewish people did not accept Jesus as equal to God, and will not accept any other as equal to God until their eyes are open and they acknowledge Jesus the Messiah, who comes in the Name of (and equal to) the Lord!  Then, they will acknowledge Jesus as One with God.

That is the One whose birth we celebrate each Christmas season!  Rejoice!  For the Great I AM is Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

PS: Stay tuned because Hanukkah starts tomorrow, and we’ll spend some time examining the Jewish festival of lights!

Do Evangelicals Play a Key Role in Middle East Peace?

I am amazed at the doors open for evangelical Christians in the Middle East, and I am especially grateful for men like Joel Rosenberg who God has placed for such a time as this.  As noted before, Rosenberg has led Christian delegations into the chambers of the most high ranking leaders in the Middle East, where their discussions have centered on many things including encouraging positive relationships with Israel.

Indeed, the Lord has placed faithful Christian leaders in positions of influence.  Check out Joel Rosenberg’s latest report on their visit with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).  It is fascinating, and a news video reporting the trip is also found in the link below.  Enjoy!

Israel’s Channel 10 News Broadcasts Story of Evangelical Meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince

We truly do live in incredible times, and God is using His people who commit to Him.  Let’s be available vessels for His use!

“Saturday People, Sunday People”: A Look at the Islamic Agenda

Image result for saturday people sunday peopleLela Gilbert went to Israel for a visit…and stayed for 6 years.  Her fascination with the land and with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic conflict led to her recently released book, Saturday People, Sunday People.

The premise is one I wrote about in 2015 (When Saturday is Gone, One will find Sunday), and it goes like this: the Islamic agenda is to wipe out Jews (“Saturday people”) first, then Christians (“Sunday people”).  Indeed, we are seeing that agenda push forward as radicals take aim at destroying both Judaism and Christianity in efforts to spread Islam.

Lela Gilbert sat down for an interview with CBN in Jerusalem, and you can find that interesting 6-minute interview at Islamist Assault: ‘Saturday Kill Jews, Sunday Kill Christians.’

Take a few minutes to watch, then pray for persecuted Jews and Christians throughout the Middle East.

Faith Brings Salvation!

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What glorious truths are found in Romans 9-11!  It’s like a treasure hunt, and the golden nuggets are invaluable!  I hope you are enjoying this week’s study as we examine the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.  We’re headed into Romans 10 today, but if you missed the previous two posts, I recommend you back up and catch them so that you get the fullness of today’s lesson.

Paul opens Chapter 10 driving home the idea that righteousness and salvation are attained by faith alone, not by works.  Then, he cuts straight to the chase in verses 9-10:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

That’s as plain and simple as it gets!  In fact, if you are following this study (or you simply stumbled upon this post) and you have tried to gain God’s acceptance through anything but simple faith, it is not a coincident that you are here!  He is speaking to you this very moment!  Our Lord longs for relationship with you and you can do nothing to earn it.  Salvation truly is simple: confess and believe!  (Click here for more guidance about how to be saved.)

Salvation is the same for everyone…Jews or Gentiles.  Paul goes on to explain that in verses 12-13 of Romans:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

However, verses 14-21 allude to the difficulty of the Jewish people in understanding and trusting in faith alone.  To call upon God, they must believe.  To believe, they must they must hear.  To hear, there must be a preacher. Preachers must be sent.

Well, throughout history, God sent “preachers.”  They were called prophets in the Old Testament!  Men such as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and others foretold of Christ the Messiah who would come to the Jews.  The preachers came…and the Jewish people heard.  Yet, they did not simply believe by faith.  Instead, they tried to keep the law of Moses.

Verse 15 talks about the beautiful feet of those who bring good news (the Gospel).  The Gospel is all about faith and nothing more.  I want beautiful feet, how about you?  I want to share the good news with others (including Jews).  May we all yearn for beautiful feet!

Allow me to divert for a moment.  Sadly, there are very large Christian organizations (such as Christians United for Israel [John Hagee, who denies Jesus as Messiah] and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews [Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein]) who wholeheartedly love Israel and care for the Jewish people, but WILL NOT “preach the Gospel” to them.  (I’m not suggesting obnoxious “in your face” evangelism that is unnecessarily offensive, but about intentionally taking the opportunities God gives to share the love of Christ both in word and deed.)  How sad that the very key thing Paul teaches about regarding Jewish-Christian relations is not innocently overlooked, but intentionally set aside.  (You can find out about Jewish-related ministries and their sometimes veiled objectives here.)

Romans 10:19 compels us to be a nation (people group) willing to show the love of Messiah, in order to make the Jewish people jealous.  Let’s practice what God’s Word commands!

We’re headed for Romans 11 tomorrow, and it gets REALLY good at that point!  So, here’s your homework: go read that chapter, then join us here again tomorrow as we launch into that chapter!

UPDATE: Friends, I just watched a video that corresponds so closely with our study this week about Christian-Jewish relations.  Tune into an interview with Eitan Shishkoff, an American-born “hippie Jew,” who now lives and ministers in Israel.  He has incredible insight into Jewish-Christian relations.  Catch the interview at the 1:19:50 mark here:

Christ Revealed – Episode 9

(Christ Revealed is a 9-part documentary, with a single episode released each day.  This was Day 9, and I believe the video is available only until 6:00pm Pacific time today.)