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Jesus was Jewish

Jesus was Jewish

Words of Faith 3-7-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018


Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 2

   [51] Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. [52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.


      When I was in Elementary School through about the seventh grade, one of my very best friends was a fellow named Alan. Alan was a great guy. I probably spent the night at his house more than any other-- and he at my house. We were inseparable after school for those years.

       At some point I became aware that Alan didn't go to a church quite like mine. He told me he went to worship on Saturdays. A little strange, but no problem as long as he got to play on Sunday afternoons.   Their Christmas was called something else, Hanukkah. They lit candles for more than a week and opened presents every night. It actually seemed like a better deal because they got more presents.

     There was also a time of year when Alan and some of the other kids at school brought some funny crackers for lunch with peanut butter and jelly. The crackers were called matzo. No problem. I tried the matzo, a sort of dry unsalted cracker. I was very polite about it of course, but it was not something I would ever go out and buy and it wasn't very good for trading at lunchtime.  

     As we talked more, I learned the name for this church. They called it “Temple” or sometimes synagogue. I didn't really understand their Church. My real sense was that Synagogue was a sort of denomination, like Presbyterians or Catholics, or Baptists.

     One year, Alan began to attend some special classes several afternoons a week related to his church.   I asked what he was doing and he showed me his Hebrew books. These were very strange looking books. They were written backwards in a strange code, and read right to left. A church that has code books! That is pretty cool! He told me that he was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. I had heard of that. My brother had been to one of those for a friend. As I understood it, a Bar Mitzvah was a big fun party usually at a fancy hotel.   No, he said it was actually a very special day after he turned 13 when he would read the Torah in his church. He showed me a portrait on the wall of his big brother's Bar Mitzvah and he was wearing an unusual piece of cloth draped over his shoulder.

     But what I remember most clearly about Alan is a conversation we had one day. I don't even remember how it came up, but I found myself saying that of course whether we went to the Presbyterian Church or the Methodist Church or Synagogue Church, we were all Christian, and that is what mattered. And Alan said something that shocked me.

       He said: “I am not Christian.”

       I said: “Of course you are Christian. Everybody is Christian. You are just a different kind of Christian.”

       He said clearly and emphatically: “No. I am NOT Christian.”

       I said: “Do you mean that you do not believe in Jesus?”

     He said: “We believe that Jesus was a good man but we do not believe that he was the Son of God like you do.”

       I said: “Well that sounds pretty close. Are you sure you are not Christian?”

       He said: “I am sure that I am not a Christian. I am a Jew and you cannot be both. I am a Jew-- like Jesus.”

       Oh boy. Now I was really confused. Was Alan suggesting that Jesus was not a Christian? I suppose Buddha was not a Buddhist?

         Alan saw my puzzlement and said, “I really don't know if Jesus was Christian or not, but I know that he was a Jew like me. That is what my Rabbi said.”  

         This was just too much for my brain. My friend is a nice good guy, but he is not Christian? He is a Jew which is not Christian, and Jesus is a Jew like him?! I wish that I could tell you that this conversation started a quest that had led me so some great revelation. But in truth I just sort of resolved that it was better not to ask too many questions of people that I like.

         It was not until later that I learned that most of what Alan had said was exactly true. Alan was not a Christian. Jesus was not a Christian either. In fact I was not a Christian, until I personally received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior a few years later. But Jesus was Jewish... like Alan.

     It wasn't until years and years later, really after I had been to seminary and served for some time, that I began to realize that my friend had shown me some things, and in a way, had done more to introduce me to Jesus than anything in my church or Sunday School.

     I learned that Jesus did not grow up celebrating Christmas. But he did grow up eating unleavened bread at certain times of the year. He went to synagogue on Saturdays like my friend Alan. Jesus grew up saying many of the exact prayers in Hebrew that my friend Alan learned to say. He grew up observing laws and wearing a prayer shawl like the one Alan's brother had from bar mitzvah.


     Lord God, help me to connect with the Jewishness of Jesus and so better understand who You are. Help me to walk in ways that are rooted in Hebrew experiences and faith. In Jesus’ Name.