26
Dec
10

Yeshua the uninvited guest

This has been a month of celebration for many people. Earlier this mornth we celebrated Chanukah and like many others we remembered the “great miracle that happened there.”  That is, the providential care for the Jewish people by God when he gave the Maccabeus victory over their Greco-roman oppressors. Also many people this month celebrated Christmas, a Gentile expression of thanksgiving for the birth of the Messiah.  While these celebrations are quite different in their orientations they both are celebrated more culturally then spiritually.  The sad thing about it all is that much is said about God and specifically much is said about Yeshua while the fact is that God and specifically Yeshua  is often the uninvited guest to many celebrations commemorating the marvelous things he has done.  Yeshua is our brother in exile.

In our weekly Torah readings,  we just completed the long narrative about Joseph. Joseph serves as a paradigm for many of the descriptions of godly prophets and kings in the Bible.   There are many similarities between Joseph and the Messiah. Let me name just a few and what it means to us at this time of year.

  1. Joseph and Yeshua were misunderstood.  From the very beginning of the narrative in Genesis 37 we read that the brothers were jealous and that they hated Joseph because of his relationship with Jacob and because of his dreams of overseeing his brothers.  (Gen. 37:4-8).  Likewise Yeshua was and still is greatly misunderstood.  When Yeshua spoke up on the 7th day of Sukkot his words of invitation and blessing were met with confusion. Some understood him as the Messiah but others wanted to attack him. There are a number of passages that tell us that there was confusion and division over the words and actions of Yeshua. (Jn. 7:43, 9:16, 10:19)
  2. Joseph and Yeshua were rejected.  The brothers of Joseph desired to kill him. But God spared him and rather than death, he spent the rest of his life in Egypt. Yeshua was rejected by his brothers as well. In John 18 and 19 we read the narrative of the arrest, humiliation and execution of Yeshua.  
  3. Joseph and Yeshua both desired to bless their brethren despite ill treatment. When the brothers of Joseph encounter him when they come to Egypt in search of food they do not recognize him. However Joseph recognizes them. We read a long section in which Joseph makes them go back home and return to Egypt several times. Joseph was very desirous of seeing his brother Benjamin and his father Jacob. We read that Joseph wept when he saw his father and when he saw Benjamin and when he reveals himself to his brothers. Weeping was an emotional expression of endearment. When the brothers realize that it is Joseph with whom they had been dealing they do not weep. In fact they never really show much remorse or contrition for what they had done. They show fear. They concoct a story to tell Joseph so that he would forgive them. Even though they never realy repent or show remorse, Joseph forgives them and treats them well.  When Yeshua approached Jerusalem for the last time he looked over the city and he wept. (Luke 19:41).  He lamented the people’s rejection of him (Matt. 23:37-40).  In Romans 5 we read that while we were helpless..while we were enemies…Yeshua provided salvation and reconciliation for us (Rom. 5:6, 10).  Both joseph and Yeshua took the initiative and treated their brethren much better than the way they were treated.
  4. Ultimately there is reconciliation. The brothers of Joseph are received by him and they are blessed in the land of Egypt – until a new Pharaoh came who knew not Joseph (Ex. :8).  Regarding the Messiah the day will come when all Israel will be saved – when all Israel will embrace Yeshua and be blessed.

Today Yeshua is in exile from his brothers. He is still misunderstood and rejected. He  desires  that we as Jewish people and the nations accept him so that we can participate in his promises. How sad must he be to see all of the celebrating going on while at the same time he remains the uninvited guest.  He still stands at the door and knocks.  God has called us to stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of our people. May we do so in a way that bridges the gap so that our people will know Messiah and experience his blessings of forgiveness and reconciliation.

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11 Responses to “Yeshua the uninvited guest”


  1. 1 Phil Tompkins
    December 26, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Howard,

    You lumped together a Jewish holiday and a Christian holiday as one big “month of celebration”, and I’m afraid that your confession that ” these celebrations are quite different in their orientations” doesn’t begin to do justice to the absolute mutually exclusive nature of the two holidays.

    Hanuka is the Jewish holiday that is not mentioned in the Jewish Bible; its source is rabbinic, and its observance is a statement by the Jews that their oral tradition is the key to understanding their scriptures.

    But Christmas marks the ahistoric birth date of a god that gentiles can only worship because their religion rejects the Jews’ oral tradition (the rabbis ruled out Christianity on many explicit and implicit levels throughout their writings).

    Thus, celebration of Hanuka (which requires accepting the oral tradition) and Christmas (which requires rejecting the oral tradition) are theologically, philosophically and intellectually inconsistent and incompatible.

    • December 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

      “Thus, celebration of Hanuka (which requires accepting the oral tradition) and Christmas (which requires rejecting the oral tradition) are theologically, philosophically and intellectually inconsistent and incompatible.”

      Phil, I think that you may be overstretching your case here. Would not the celebration of Christmas itself be part of the Gentile Christian “oral tradition”? Being that it is based a Christian oral tradition, Christmas, just like Hanuka, is also a celebration of a historical event, while the actual celebration of which “is not mentioned in the Jewish Bible” and not even in the Apostolic Writings (a.k.a. the “New Testament”). Where did it come from? It came from the Church Fathers (a.k.a. “sages of the Gentiles”). Catholic Church, for example, has a similar respect for the extra-biblical Church tradition and draws much from it (it’s called “Sacred Tradition” or “Holy Tradition”).

      So, at least in principal and in genesis (if not in content), the two celebrations are quite alike.

      • 3 Phil Tompkins
        December 28, 2010 at 12:37 am

        Gene,

        Thank you for your response. You’re correct in your observation that neither Hanuka nor Christmas comes from the Hebrew scriptures. But you overstretch your case when you extrapolate those data points into the patently incorrect conclusion that “the two celebrations are quite alike”. I suspect you would not bunch the LDS’ Pioneer Day together with Hanuka and Christmas, even though Pioneer Day isn’t mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. That is because, to evaluate the essential likeness of two holidays, it is primarily necessary to contemplate what the holidays commemorate and only of academic value to compare their types of sources.

        As I pointed out in my note to Howard, above, the subjects that the Jewish holiday of Hanuka (defeat of the Greek polytheists) and the Christian holiday of Christmas (birthday of the “son” character from the polytheistic “trinity godhood”) are not only topically totally unrelated and thematically opposite to one another, but they also constitute a zero-sum theological contest: accepting the Jewish oral tradition results in observing Hanuka and not observing Christmas, while rejecting the Jewish oral tradition results in not observing Hanuka and observing Christmas.

        But, where your comment grabbed my attention was in its profound observation that Jesus’ birthday celebrations now popularly observed by Christians on December 25 has no root in the Christian sacred text, but rather is what you’ve characterized as a Christian oral tradition. It’s important to note that the Jewish rabbinic tradition is and has always been claimed by Jews to derive from the revelation at Sinai. And while I do take issue with any argument that Christmas isn’t rooted in the event of Jesus’ birth as recounted in the text of the “new testament”, I will agree with you that December 25–indeed, the calendrical system that our modern understanding of December 25 is a part of–was not a concept the early Church founders had a clue about. The Christian oral tradition that Jesus was born on December 25 is not based on any divine revelation. Secular historians and Christian scholars alike universally testify that, while there are an array of proposed dates on which there may be reason to suspect Jesus was born, December 25 was definitely not one of them. In fact, Christian scholars openly admit that even the year of Jesus’ birth cannot be ascertained, despite the widespread lay Christian belief that it was in the year 1 of the common era (AD, as they call it). As oral traditions go, the Christian one that cannot even date Jesus is especially weak, particularly given the importance the religion ascribes to him, and this is no doubt a result of its advent long after the Christian bible was written (itself only committed to writing by Paul decades after the otherwise mysteriously unattested public miraculous events it purports to redact). So, while the Christian bible and oral tradition do not derive from a communally testified divine revelation as do the Jewish Bible and rabbinic tradition, we do have sources for Christmas. Saturnaleus was celebrated by pillaging, drunken Roman pagans who carrolled, exchanged gifts, perpetrated pogroms and attacked women on the streets (the source of the Christian mistletoe tradition) on…you guessed it, December 25! Actually, Saturn’s holiday season ran for 12 days, culminating on December 25 in the brutal public execution of the leader of the Jewish community. That’s right, the religious precursor to the Holy Roman Empire just so happened–funny that–to have gods B-day on the one day of the year Christian scholars today are sure could not have been Jesus’ birthday. And, as we see in the Christian oral tradition, Jesus’ birthday is celebrated on none other than December 25. Christmas trees, too, have their roots in paganism, and not a tradition of a divine revelation. While the Jews can clearly trace back their oral tradition through the Sages to Joshua, Moses and ultimately to G-d Himself, the “sages” of the Christian church themselves made no such claim; their interpretations of Paul’s “new testament” are, by their own admission, their own.

        On so many levels, Judaism and Christianity are completely different from one another, and mutually exclusive. Perhaps in no other pair of holidays is the incompatibility of the two faiths showcased more eloquently than in Hanuka and Christmas.

      • December 28, 2010 at 11:26 am

        “It’s important to note that the Jewish rabbinic tradition is and has always been claimed by Jews to derive from the revelation at Sinai.”

        Phil, it’s hard to argue that the Hanuka tradition, based as it is on the Maccabean revolt in 165 BCE, has been directly derived from the revelation at Sinai.

        “On so many levels, Judaism and Christianity are completely different from one another, and mutually exclusive.”

        I would agree with you that Judaism and Christianity appear very different today, but to say “completely” and “mutually exclusive” is a bit much. One clearly gave birth to another. The differences we see today are primarily because of the influx of Gentiles and their adaptations/gentilization of what was originally a wholly Jewish movement. All of the original followers of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah were Jews, who remained Jews, and who were very much part of the mainstream Judaism (a sect among many other Jewish sects at the time). It’s not as black and white as some would like to make it.

        I do agree with you that the origins of many Christmas traditions and perhaps the date as well, although not the origin of Christmas itself (which celebrates the birth of Yeshua), have their roots in the paganism of the pre-Christian Roman Empire. Simply put Gentiles have adopted their existing culture to their new faith to make it more palatable to their compatriots.

      • 5 Phil Tompkins
        December 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm

        Gene,

        Thanks again for replying. I am surprised at your argument that Hanuka could not have been a part of the rabbinic tradition prior to the Hellenic assault on monotheism. I have never before heard a Christian apologist argue that the Jewish tradition–the source for messianic prophecy–could not contain information about the future. I have a hunch that your thinking was rushed in your response, and that on reflection you’d acknowledge that many points of information, including Hanuka, could have been and indeed were included in the revelation at Sinai even though they had not yet occurred.

        An important measure of the possibility that Hanuka or Christmas is derived from the Jewish oral tradition is consistency of those holidays with the rest of the Jewish tradition from Sinai. All throughout the Jewish Bible and rabbinic tradition, we find fierce insistence that G-d is an incorporeal, singular, indivisible eternality, and Hanuka is a celebration of the Jews’ miraculous success in defending their worship of Him as such. On the other hand, Christians deify a physical, typical, fragmented temporality, and Christmas is thus a refutation of the Jewish tradition from Sinai.

        The other item in your last comment I found surprising was your conclusion, given their absolutely irreconcilable opposition that “One [Judaism] clearly gave birth to another [Christianity]”. And you used this flawed heritage narrative to postulate the absurdity of likening these two utterly incompatible creeds. My response to your logic and conclusion is twofold. On the count that Christianity has roots in Judaism, I must respond that the tumor on one’s liver has roots in that individual; that does not make the cancer one’s natural, healthy progeny or extension of one’s true character. Cancer is a deadly and bitter rejection of that from which it sickly rears its head, and to the extent primitive Christianity ever had any Jewish roots, the healthy body of Israel rejected the tumor. By the time of Nicea, Christianity had metastasized and begun to thrive exclusively in the gentile communities, and it had transmogrified into a classic pagan form of idolatry that gave rise to an enduring anti-Semitism. So on the count that Christianity and Judaism are in important theological aspects alike, I think you captured it best with your reference to the language of “black and white”.

      • December 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm

        “I am surprised at your argument that Hanuka could not have been a part of the rabbinic tradition prior to the Hellenic assault on monotheism.”

        Phil, perhaps you mean in general, spiritual terms, as in cosmic fight and triumph of good vs evil, ect. If that’s the case, then of course. However, if you can show me pre-Maccabean rabbinic traditions prescribing our celebration of Hanuka as we know it today (ever since it was instituted by Yehudah Hammakabi), I would gladly acknowledge the correctness of your interpretation.

        “By the time of Nicea, Christianity had metastasized and begun to thrive exclusively in the gentile communities, and it had transmogrified into a classic pagan form of idolatry that gave rise to an enduring anti-Semitism.”

        I am not defending what Gentile antisemites did in the name of the Jewish Messiah. It would be no different then if antisemites, hundreds of years from now, started murdering Jews in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

      • 7 Phil Tompkins
        December 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm

        Gene,

        You wrote that only “in general, spiritual terms, as in cosmic fight and triumph of good vs evil, ect. [sic]” does the Jewish tradition from Sinai contain anachronistic prophecy. Now, that position is demonstrably, woefully in error, but what I find remarkable about your uttering it is the fact that Christians argue Jesus’ messianic “coming” was foretold by millennia in the Jewish scripture.

        You also wrote that “I am not defending what Gentile antisemites did in the name of the Jewish Messiah. It would be no different then if antisemites, hundreds of years from now, started murdering Jews in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” But there is a difference–a very big one: Christendom has an actual history of real religiously-inspired anti-Semitic violence, but your wildly imaginatively corollary association of Lubavtich hasidism with violence lacks a basis in Earth’s history and is but a figment you’ve conjured. Another, less profound difference between historical Christian torment of innocent Jews and your theoretical projection of an unlikely anti-Jewish violence spurt conducted by a community known for its love of fellow Jews is the reality that the Christian bible paints the Jews as deicidal; Lubavitch hasidism includes no such theology.

        Having said all of that, I am pleased that we are able to agree on the inexcusable evil of the oppression perpetrated by religious Christians on generations of innocent Jewish victims.

      • December 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm

        “your wildly imaginatively corollary association of Lubavtich hasidism with violence lacks a basis in Earth’s history and is but a figment you’ve conjured.”

        Phil, in now way do I even begin to associate Chabad with violence. I love Chabad and Jews in it – my own family has been in Hasidism and specifically Chabad going back many generations.

        Instead, I was only making an analogy of what could happen if say Gentiles (and not Chabad) hundreds of years from now decided to deify the Rebbe and make wild claims that the rabbi of blessed memory somehow taught that Gentiles replaced Jews or even wanted those Jews who adamantly opposed the Rebbe’s Messianism (and there are many) dead.

        Also, if you read the NT, it shows that Yeshua had nothing but love for his fellow Jews and so did all of his disciples. Yes, some of the Jews were involved in the injustice that resulted in his murder. However, many a Jewish prophet had died at Jewish hands in the past – there’s nothing antisemitic about that and it’s really an internal Jewish matter that Gentiles should butt out. Yeshua did criticize SOME of the contemporary Jewish authorities, but only for their hypocrisy and oppression of the common Jews – you’d find plenty of Jewish prophets, not to mention countless Talmudic sages as well as the modern Jewish ones doing exactly that (sticking up for the common Jew).

      • 9 Phil Tompkins
        December 31, 2010 at 12:12 am

        Gene,

        You’re right that there were Jewish prophets, and that the gentiles have never persecuted the Jews in those prophets’ memories. But in the case of Jesus, who certainly was not a Jewish prophet, the gentiles have gone haywire, and have been in a continual state of berserk anti-Semitism informed by their Christian faith ever since the religion of the “new testament” took hold of them.

        If you read the Christian bible, one inescapable subtext is the endemic evil that pervades the Jewish people, whom the screed paints as literally murdering immortal G-d and thereby justifying retribution at the righteous hands of vengeful Christians in perpetuity (“ALL [not some of] the people answered, ‘his [Jesus’] blood is on us and on our children!'”, Matt. 27:25). And, as you understated, Jesus’ career according to the “new testament” was devoted to challenging the authority, tradition and character of the Jews’ actual leaders, whom the Jews beloved and revered. Jesus’ disrespect of and revolt against the leaders of the Jewish community coupled with his insistence that its members abrogate their covenant with their G-d by worshiping him highlights Jesus’ hatred for his fellow Jews and the high ethical standards that they personified and he eschewed. Your assertion that Jesus’ revolt against the Jewish community’s holy leadership was equaled by the rabbis of the Talmud is preposterous not only because it is an error of fact, but because in their times those Sages were in fact the Jewish community’s leaders. The rabbis did not rebel against themselves!

        PS: The notion that Jesus or any other rebellious “hero” was needed by the Jews to rescue them from the “oppression” of their own beloved and holy leadership is strictly a non-Jewish machination.

  2. 10 Phil Tompkins
    December 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Another error I found in your first paragraph is your report that Hanuka and Christmas “are celebrated more culturally then spiritually”.

    Hanuka is definitely not a cultural Jewish celebration. Israel’s independence day is certainly cultural, and many Jews (primarily those in Israel) celebrate it as such. But as a rabbinically ordained calendar observation, Hanuka is as religious a Jewish celebration as any. We Jews have special prayers in our liturgy that we say every day during Hanuka. This is the case even though it’s true that Christian scholars today agree Christmas has little to do with Jesus’ birthday and certainly doesn’t fall on it. Try not to fall into the trap of presuming that just because Christmas has long served as a baseless excuse for hedonistic revelry and good old fashioned pogrom that the Jewish holiday of the same season too must be irreligious. There is an actual religious and historic basis for Hanuka.

  3. 11 Janice Stewart
    January 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    ” These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me, Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.” Matthew 15: 8:
    Isaiah 29:13.

    May we as Messianic Believers and Gentile God-fearers who are followers of Yeshua our Messiah, not fall into the same mold of hypocricy as our fore-fathers did during Isaiah’s day. As Rabbi Silverman has admonished us, may we heed the call of G-d to stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of our people. May we do so in a way that bridges the gap so that our people will know Messiah and experience his blessings of forgiveness and reconciliation.

    ” Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and and eat with you and you with me.” Rev. 3: 20


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