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Jonathan Bernis - Was Jesus Really Jewish?


Jonathan Bernis - Was Jesus Really Jewish?
TOPICS: Jesus

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice, and thank you for joining me today. I'm Jonathan Bernis. Today, we're going to look at a topic that, well, I think is fascinating, and many of you know this topic, but we're gonna dive a little bit deeper than we have in the past, and that's the Jewishness of Jesus. Why does it matter that Jesus was Jewish? Why is it important to Christians? Well, in fact, it really is important. Ezra Benjamin is joining me again today as my co-host. He's also a Jewish believer in Jesus. Ezra, this is a topic that I think many of the people watching are compelled to learn more about.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure, to want to understand in more depth. And Jonathan, interestingly, if you bring up the Jewishness of Jesus to a Jewish friend, to a Jewish family member, often you're gonna get one of two reactions. You're gonna get kind of laughter and then a quick change of the subject, or you're gonna get a very hostile reaction, and part of that is it's too close for comfort, right? Because the idea of Jesus, as you say, the son of mr. And mrs. Christ - you know, tongue-in-cheek, the God of the Christians, just sort of emerges from nowhere on the scene around 0 a.D. And invents a new religion is very comfortable if you're Jewish. But the idea of Jesus, a Jew, the Jewish Messiah, the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel - way too close for comfort, and yet, it's essential not only to a Jewish understanding of the scriptures, but to our understanding of our own faith as Christians.

Jonathan Bernis: Sure, and I think that for Christians, Christians know that Jesus was Jewish, but it's sort of an afterthought. It's a historical fact. Jesus was Jewish. Sure, we know that's the context.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But the question really is deeper because it also tells us that Jesus brings a sense of identity with him that affects the future as well.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: I'll say it this way. Not only was Jesus Jewish, historically, he lived as Jew, he died as a Jew, but he still has a Jewish identity through history, and in fact, he's identified as the lion of the tribe of Judah in heaven. So, we have to get used to this because it's part of our future reality as well.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. You just mentioned a proof text right there, right? Why does the Jewishness of Jesus matter for me now and why does it matter in the days to come? Revelation is very clear, right? John has this vision of the things to come and he sees a lamb, looking as though he had been slain. And then it says, in the same verse, "The lion of the tribe of Judah".

Jonathan Bernis: Yes.

Ezra Benjamin: Well, the tribe of Judah is a part of the house of Israel.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, and the challenge for this is both with Jewish Jews and Christians choose, again, the identity of Jesus as the God of Christianity is comfortable, but one of us who requires our attention, our allegiance, right?

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: A reaction from us to actually ask the question, is he in fact the Messiah that was promised in our own scriptures?

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But then, for the Christian, the idea is there's neither Jew nor gentile, which is true for salvation, but Christian theology has moved away from the Jewish roots of the faith, and one of the purposes of this program is to help restore that to the church.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: God wants fullness to come back to his people, and part of that is understanding the rich heritage that - I want to avoid Christianity, but Christianity, not as an institution, but as a relationship it's connected to.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: The Messiah is Jewish.

Ezra Benjamin: The "Ecclesia," we can say, a fancy Greek word for the body of believers, Jew and gentile. The idea of the Jewishness of Jesus, as you said, isn't just important for Jews, it's essential for Christians to understand the context.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, it's an important theme throughout, and if you really want to understand who Jesus is and what he says, you have to go back to this Jewish connection.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: This Hebraic connection.

Ezra Benjamin: And you know, maybe our audience is going, "Okay, that's an issue. I don't know if it's an important issue". Well, it's so important that Matthew begins his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus to prove to the reader, to the listener at that time because it wasn't written anywhere yet - to prove to the hearer that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish, and not just any Jew, from the tribe of Judah.

Jonathan Bernis: Yes, he's from the tribe. He has to be. His lineage on both sides, even though Joseph - he was born from a virgin.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: The lineage of the father does matter also. So, you have both Matthew and Luke giving us genealogy, separate genealogies that establish his biblical identity as the Messiah. That's required because the foundation for the new is the old.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, exactly. And the hearer of Matthew's Gospel, his account of the good news of the Messiah, is gonna say, "If you don't convince me that this is the Jewish Messiah, I have no reason to listen any further". And yet, here it is, and Jonathan, I know this was so central in your own testimony of coming to faith in Jesus, in Yeshua, Matthew 1.

Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely.

Ezra Benjamin: It begins the book of the genealogy of Yeshua, the Messiah, ben-David, or the son of David, Ben-Avraham, the son of Abraham.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, there's five names in here that are essential, were essential for me. And I talk about this in my testimony, Ezra, the shock of seeing these five names because I was expecting to read a book or a series of books, the New Testament, and find it - I was prepared for something that was completely unrelated to my heritage. I was taught that the New Testament was a Christian book for Christians. It was enemy territory, had nothing to do with me as a Jew.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And yet, on the very first page I see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now, Abraham's the father of our people. He's also the father for Christians and for Muslims, but the promise is through his son, Isaac, not Ishmael, and then, Jacob, who becomes Israel, and the 12 tribes of Israel. So, this is my territory.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: As a Jew, when I see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I was shocked.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And then, further down I see two other names, David and Solomon. David was the greatest king in our history. Solomon built the temple. I knew these things. And when I saw these names, my immediate response is what are they doing in the Christian Bible? And then, as I read on, I discovered how Jewish this was, but that this was gripping, Ezra, to see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon. I knew that there was something about the New Testament that was very different than I had been taught, which was that it's not for me, as a Jew. It is the most Jewish book I've ever read.

Ezra Benjamin: The most Jewish book indeed, you know, and I'm seeing the names you mentioned, Jonathan, these great forefathers of the faith, right? The forefathers of the Jewish people - kings, David, Solomon, and yet, there are some names in here that are also part of Jewish history that maybe we're less proud of. You have Rahab. You have some of the sons of Solomon, you know, who were really responsible, because of their disobedience and their own personal ambition and selfishness, of the division of the kingdom of Israel into Israel and Judah, the northern and the southern kingdoms. And then, you know, these names - Jehoshaphat, right? And Uzziah, and Yotam, and Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and these kings whose lives were not exemplary in many ways.

Jonathan Bernis: They weren't, but they're part of the history.

Ezra Benjamin: They're part of the story.

Jonathan Bernis: What's so noteworthy is the detail that Matthew takes, and Luke, of course, takes to chronicle by name, all the way through the generations.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Judah, of course, and Jesus had to be of the kingly line, right? Because David is a type of the Messiah.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And in detail, this is a lot of work, and it's detail to prove to the audience that this is the Messiah promised from the Jewish prophets.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: And that's a lot of work and it's very meaningful, and it was very meaningful to me, Ezra.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. You know, I'm thinking of, even in the first three, five books of the Old Testament, the book of numbers, right? How many of you, right, you do a Bible in the year and read through the Bible in a year, and by the time you get to February, March, you're in numbers and it's - oh, my God. Lord, really? But why does it matter? Because the writers of the Old Testament, and here, Matthew, the writer of the first of the Gospel in the New Testament, was concerned with establishing an unbroken story, right? From God's promise to bring a Savior through the line, through eve, right? Her descendants would crush the head of the serpent, the enemy. An unbroken story, all the way to the arrival of Jesus.

Jonathan Bernis: It's essential. Now, this is something that most Christians don't give thought to.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: But I'll tell you, for a Jewish person reading this, this establishes that this is in fact the promised Messiah, not another. And some teach that there's two Messiahs, a Jewish Messiah and a Christian Messiah. "There is one name given under heaven by which we must be saved." Ezra, I think the other thing that jumped out at me after this is verse 21, which I think we need to look at and give some attention to this. Verse 21, it says, "She will give birth to a son," Miriam, of course, or Mary, "Will give birth to a son. You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." now, that didn't mean anything to me until I followed the footnote and it said, "Hebrew: Yeshua." and as I studied it more, I came to understand that his name wasn't Jesus. His name was Yeshua, which means salvation, and in effect what it's saying is, "You will call his name salvation, for he will save his people from their sins."

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Then it makes sense. Again, Hebraic, Jewish, you have to understand how important the Jewish identity of Jesus is, and there's so many more examples. We're not gonna be able to cover them all. There's so much to discuss. We're gonna come back right after this message from our announcer. I want to ask you to consider what you can do today to help us share the good news of the Gospel as we seek to meet the specific needs of the scattered and remote Jewish people, wherever we find them. And if you would, please consider joining us as a monthly shalom partner. Watch this short message to learn how you can get involved, and we'll be right back.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back. Hey, before we get into our discussion of the Jewishness of Jesus and why it's so important, I want to take a moment to say thank you - thank you to all of you who are supporting this ministry. Honestly, we could not do this work without you. You're making a real difference in the lives of so many - you have no idea - Jewish people in the remotest parts of the world. So, thank you again for your generous giving, and especially for joining Jewish Voice as a monthly shalom partner. Your ongoing support of this ministry is so valued.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. Jonathan, you know, you and I have both put boots on the ground, so to speak, in Africa, in Ethiopia, in Zimbabwe - in past years, in India with the bnei menashe. And you know, it's one of the greatest honors of being in Jewish ministry is to look these people in the eye, Jewish people and their neighbors who have so little and yet are content, but they're suffering. They're in physical need, and to be able to meet that need in the name of Yeshua... So, I wish we could take all of you with us, but while we can't, thank you for sending us out to do that work.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, some of you can come. Ezra, I think this ties into the theme that we're talking about today, the Jewishness of Jesus. When we understand that Jesus was a Jew...

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: That he came as a Jew, lived as a Jew, his disciples were all Jews. He told his disciples, "Go to the lost sheep of Israel". He loved the whole world, but his earthy mission was to his own people. That inspires Christians to understand the importance to the heart of God to see the Jewish people saved, and Paul introduces this again in Romans, where he says, "I would give up my very salvation for my own people, the people of Israel. My heart's desire and prayer for them is that they might be saved".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right. I'm thinking of Romans 1:16, Jonathan, piggybacking on that, right? The Gospel. Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel," he says to the Romans, "Because it's the power of God unto salvation, unto Yeshua," in Hebrew, "For all who believe, first for the Jew and also for the nations". And the word there in Greek, and we talk about this a lot, is "Proton," not like nuclear energy - necessarily first, that the Gospel, the good news of the Messiah, is necessarily first for the Jew, not to the exclusion of anyone else, but there's a divine order in the providence and priorities of God of what he's doing in the earth.

Jonathan Bernis: We have to camp on this for a moment because it goes against almost 2.000 years of history.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: Which sadly has been very negative. There has been such division between Judaism and Christianity as distinct religions, and you have a 2.000-year history of anti-semitism, persecution, atrocities in the name of Christ and Christianity against Jewish people. That's demonic. That is a demonic effort to stop God's plan from being fulfilled, which is that those who receive the Gospel, now almost entirely gentiles, are called back to the Jewish people to provoke them to jealousy and to put back in order, to reestablish, Romans 1:16, that the priority of the Gospel is first to the Jew and then to the nations. This is not just historical.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: This is not just sequential. This is not just saying, yes, the Gospel first went to the Jewish people and then outward. This is a divine priority, a divine principle. Listen to me now and don't check out, that as the Gospel goes to the Jewish people throughout the nations of the world, it releases something in the spirit.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And I'm not making this up. Read Romans 11. It very clearly states in Romans 11:15 - I want to put it up so you can see it, that their return, their restoration, will bring life from the dead. When they rejected the Messiah, it brought the Gospel to the world, but it says, "Their salvation will bring life from the dead". So, this goes back to this priority, Romans 1:16, that, "The Gospel is the power of God to the Jew first, and also for the nations". It's God's love for the world.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: That brings the Gospel to the Jewish people.

Ezra Benjamin: That's exactly right. Some have said, Jonathan, that God so loved the world that he created Israel. It's not about us. It's not only about the Jewish people. It's not to the exclusion of anybody. It's not saying God has, you know, something for the Jews and others don't get anything. It's that he said, "This is the order in which I've chosen to work in the world, and if you participate with me in it, you'll see life from the dead for everything".

Jonathan Bernis: I know this is new to some of you and you may be ready to change the channel. Don't. My friend, Raleigh Washington, calls this the top button. It's top button Gospel truth, soteriology, another theological word that the top button has to be in place to get the rest of the buttons to align. This is about alignment.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: This is about God's heart for the world. As we bring the Gospel to the Jewish people, it releases life from the dead.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure. And you know, some people are maybe saying, "Okay, Paul was a Jewish believer. I see what he said in Romans. That's his interpretation". Let's go back to the Gospel of Matthew. We were there a few minutes ago. You know, this woman from the region of tyre and sidon, a Canaanite woman it says in Matthew 15:21. So, a non-Jewish woman has this issue. She says, "Have mercy on me, o master, son of David". So, interestingly, she recognizes the Messiahship of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, even though she's not Jewish". "Have mercy on me. My daughter is severely tormented by a demon". And Yeshua didn't answer her a word, and the disciples are confused. "What's going on and why doesn't he help this woman? We know he can". And in verse 24, Jonathan, it says, "But Yeshua responded, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". And maybe you've glazed over that or maybe you've sort of ignored that verse 'cause it's confusing. If you look at the Greek there, it actually says, "I was sent not, unless to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". It's a deeper understanding, right? Than the word, "Only". "Only" sounds like, "Oh, God's excluded non-Jewish people". No, he's saying, "If the Gospel wasn't first for Jewish people, if Jesus didn't come first to redeem Israel, then he couldn't have come at all".

Jonathan Bernis: And of course, he responds to her need, but a point is being made here.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That I think that we need to heed and return to as the ecclesia, as the called-out ones, as the body of Messiah, and that's the understanding that we can't neglect the Gospel going to the Jewish people. We have to reach them first to fulfill God's plan for the redemption of all mankind. What will happen when they come back? Life from the dead.

Ezra Benjamin: Life from the dead indeed, and we understand, you at home understand, we can't have life from the dead unless we have forgiveness for our sins, right? Being cleansed by the blood of the lamb, and even that, how do we know that, right? You, as a Christian, are saying, "Yeah, of course, cleansed by the blood of the lamb." where does that come from? It comes from the Jewish scriptures, from the Jewish context of the idea of the reality of sin and the need for a blood sacrifice, the need for a lamb to be sacrificed to cover our sins. Jonathan, I'm thinking of John 1, again, right at the beginning of another one of the Gospels.

Jonathan Bernis: Oh, good choice, good choice.

Ezra Benjamin: Thank you.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, great choice.

Ezra Benjamin: And in verse 29, right? "The next day," it talks about Yochanan, the immerser, or we can say in kind of Christianese, John the Baptist, right? This Jewish man saying, "Prepare the way of the Lord." and then it says in verse 29, "The next day, John sees Yeshua coming to him and says, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I told you, "He who comes after me is above me because he was before me." what's going on here?

Jonathan Bernis: "Well, this is another great example of why the Jewish identity of Jesus is so important, because it makes no sense when you take it outside the context of the Old Testament and the Hebraic roots. What does Jesus have to do with the lamb? Well, we understand, when we go back to Exodus 12 and we have a very, very specific command from God. When the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt, the final plague, the tenth plague, every household is to take a lamb without blemish, without spot - it's the Gospel, by the way. And on the 14th day of the month, you're to take this one-year-old lamb in the prime of life, sacrifice the lamb, and then use the blood - take the lamb, the blood of the lamb, and put it on the doorposts.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And then enter in through that door that's covered with the blood of the lamb, and then, eat the lamb that same night, that Passover lamb that's in the prime of life, without spot or blemish. And, "When I see the blood," it goes on to say in Exodus 12, "I will pass over you and your household will be spared." that imagery is a picture of the later work of the Messiah. So, Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Passover lamb. John, by the way, was the son of a priest, so he did this ritual year after year growing up, and understood when he saw Jesus, "This is the Passover lamb." and incidentally, the last supper was a Passover meal. You don't understand that until you understand the Jewishness of Jesus and the Jewishness of the New Testament.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: It doesn't make any sense.

Ezra Benjamin: It doesn't make any sense. And you know, it's really saying, "Behold! The sacrifice given to us by God," because the purpose of a lamb in the Levitical system, in the temple sacrifice system, was that it would be slain for sin.

Jonathan Bernis: Ah, we could go on and on! This is so important.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: But we need to take a short break so we can share some information about the special resources that we're making available to you this week. Also, I want to encourage you to become a monthly shalom partner. "Shalom" means peace, and we're bringing peace to the Jewish people and their neighbors, so your monthly support will make all the difference for those in need. After this short message, Ezra and I are gonna come back to join in prayer with you because God hears and answers prayer. So, don't go away.
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