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The Jewishness of Jesus

October 10, 2011
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Artists attempt to depict Yeshua, but I fear most of them are off base. He was a Jewish man who was perfectly at home in the first-century society in which He was born, grew up, and ministered. Most of the pictures I have seen depict Him as rather European-looking and frail. Our Savior worked in the building trade in a time when there were no power tools and walked the length and breadth of the nation of Israel. He was a scholar and a worker. Let’s take a quick glimpse into His Jewishness.

His parents followed all the commandments from the Torah (Gen.–Deut.) following His birth. He was circumcised and blessed by a devout man (tsadik); and they brought the proper sacrifice to the Temple. In Luke 2:21–39 we see that Mary and Joseph were scrupulous in their observance of the Torah (see Lev. 12:1–8). These indicate the kind of home environment in which Yeshua was raised. Jewish scholar Dr. Safrai says, “A Torah-observant home environment was normal for a Galilean Jewish family of that period.”

The family came to Jerusalem for Passover pilgrimages just as they were instructed to do in Exodus 23:14–15 and Deuteronomy 16:16. It was during one of these pilgrimages that 12-year-old Yeshua was found meeting with the sages in the Temple, which would have been highly unusual if He had not been Torah-observant.

Yeshua reads from a Torah scroll in a synagogue In our modern times, family history is often of interest, and in Jewish circles, it is of prime interest. The Gospel accounts go into great detail to show that Yeshua’s family was Jewish—even descendants of David, Israel’s great king.

As a first-century Jewish family, they were undoubtedly observers of the Sabbath, as this was considered a prime duty and crucial mitzvah (good deed). In fact, whatever particular wing of Judaism a person may have adhered to in this period, all Jewry looked upon the keeping of the Sabbath as extremely important. Many passages show that it was normal for Yeshua to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath; often He taught in the synagogue (Luke 4:16–22, 31; Matt. 12:9; Mark 1:21, 6:2). Yeshua definitely kept the Shabbat, and He also entered into many discussions on how to observe the Sabbath. This was a common type of discussion amongst Jewish sects of the time.

Biblical evidence shows that Yeshua respected and kept the Law (Matt. 5:17–20). He was respected by the common people who most likely would not have respected a rabbi who was not keeping the Torah (Luke 4:15, 31–32, 42, 7:16). Yeshua kept the feasts of the Lord, including Passover (Matt. 26:18), the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah, John 10:22). There is also evidence that Yeshua wore a prayer shawl (Matt. 9:20), which was prescribed for all Jewish men in Numbers 15:37–39.

Yeshua was Israel-centered. Amongst His teachings, we find that He “came to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), agreed to heal a Gentile only with reluctance, and said in John 4:22 that “salvation is from the Jews.”

For those Christians like me who really want to know Yeshua, I suggest that we learn about the world He knew so well, and as we do so, I believe we will find treasures we never noticed previously.

Source: By Rebecca J. Brimmer, International President and CEO

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