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Celebrating the Jewish Jesus

There has been an increasing interest in recent years about the Jewish roots of Jesus, which has been incredibly helpful for our understanding of him and what he was trying to share. Too often in the past we have tried to create a Jesus that is either made into our image (think of some of the actors playing him with blond hair and blue eyes!) or westernised or taken out of his cultural setting.

This is obviously dangerous on a whole series of levels. Firstly, it doesn’t take the words and deeds of Jesus seriously. If our point of reference is ourselves and our society then we miss so many important things of what Jesus was doing and how they would have been heard. We interpret his words and deeds through our own societies preferences. We then all too easily we find Jesus blessing what we want blessed and cursing what we want to curse. Secondly, it doesn’t value his culture and the culture that he interacted with and people can all too easily buy into anti-semitism. Jesus was a Jew. He would have  looked Jewish (middle-eastern and dark hair for example). His disciples were Jews and none of them would have considered themselves other than Jewish. Thirdly, we miss so much of how Jesus and the first disciples saw him what that meant. For example, much of modern protestantism is based around the Reformation and figures such as Luther and Calvin. However, some of their doctrines were more based around opposing late medieval Catholicism than taking seriously the first century Jewish thought categories of Jesus and the disciples. Jesus saw himself as fulfilling the promises of God to the Jewish people. But too often we miss so much of the symbolism of his words and deeds in a Jewish context.

Which leads us to last night when we celebrated a Passover Supper together to help us experience and celebrate the Jewish Messiah. We read from the book of Exodus and the story of the first Passover. We shared  the significance of the different foods that we ate and why. We explored the amazing links between over the Passover and how Jesus was our own Passover Lamb. We sang and some of us even danced. It was a joyous and profound evening and helps us to glimpse, even if only a little, at the Jewish Jesus and what he set about to be and to do.

The pictures below are from our Passover Supper last night (click a picture to see them in a larger format):

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One comment on “Celebrating the Jewish Jesus

  1. The Old Fart
    May 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Shalom!

    In case any body has missed it, Yeshua was a Jew. His mode of thought wasn’t Western or Greek. The ideas He expressed were and can only be understood by the people He literally spoke to, and even then, they struggled to understand Him. The unspoken and unwritten sub-text that flows through out what we call The New Testament were written in the hearts and minds of the people of His day. No amount of contemporary record translated (from Aramaic to Greek (Koine) then into Latin) is ever going to be the equal of the Word those First Hearers heard. We Westerners strain at gnats when we try to interpret Yeshua through The Text. We do not understand, as He would and as a contemporary Jew would, the symbols of Pesach because we are not Jews. Can we get very close? Yes. Will we ever full know what it is and means? Not till Yeshua comes again! What goes for Passover also goes for the rest of what we call scripture. Please understand, I’m not knocking Christians trying to understand or celebrate Passover in a more authentic fashion but it will never be the “real deal” how ever hard we try. Even what we understand as “Jewishness” is coloured by 1980 years or so of there being this thing called Christianity around ~ and to most Jews, that’s never going to be good. (Pogroms, Kristallnacht, Shoa anybody? Not to mention converting out …)

    We can but try but we have to understand our “knowing” is at best partial. This goes for just about everything we do, from discipleship through evangelism and fellowship and on out. WHat then do we have? Some very good translations of what we understand to be the best of the texts (autographa) available. We have Someone who was there with Jesus and can interpret that to our hearts: The Holy Spirit Of God. Awfully there is a “but”. The but our case is that we live in a world far removed from Yeshua and 33 A.D. Rome or Yerushalayim. We were not raised there, understanding the spoken and unspoken communication and culture of the day. We therefore grasp at straws when we try and recreate or re enact such things and since The Seder meal is very sacred to the Jew we should treat it with great respect and indeed, mindfulness. This said, it should not stop us trying it and enjoying it as best we can!

    All this said, would we appreciate this Jesus better if we understood more of what it is and was to be a Jew, both in His day and now? If this translated in to the rest of our church life, think what it could do! Ok, we’re not Jews but … . Perhaps… maybe it would make us just a little more humble and a little more forgiving and a little more loving if we could … perhaps even a little more like Yeshua?
    Would that be a bad thing?

    Shalom!

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