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Jesus was Jewish

Words of Faith Final

Jesus was Jewish

Words of Faith 1-13-2021

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020

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. We played after school every day.  We camped out in his backyard. I probably spent the night at his house more than any other.  His mom gave us cookies and milk, and we were inseparable 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.  

     Later I learned that his 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 was "Temple." I didn't really understand their church.  My real sense was that Temple must be a sort of denomination, like Presbyterians or Catholics, or Baptists. 

      I remember the 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 backward in a strange code and read right to left. A church that has code books!  That was pretty cool!  He told me that he was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.  I had heard of that.  My big brother had been to some of those.  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 a strange 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. Still, I found myself saying that, whether we went to the Presbyterian Church or the Methodist Church or Temple Church, we were all Christian, and that is what mattered.  And Alan said something that shocked me. 

       Alan said, "I am not Christian." 

       I said, "Of course you are Christian.  Everybody is Christian.  You are just a different kind of Christian."

       He replied clearly and emphatically, "No.  I am NOT Christian."

       I said, "Do you mean that you do not believe in Jesus?" 

      Alan explained, "We believe that Jesus was a good man and prophet, but we do not believe that he was the Son of God like you do." 

       I said, "Well that sounds pretty close to me.  Are you sure you are not Christian?" 

       Alan 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 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 was a nice good guy, but he was not Christian?  He was 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 led me to 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.  And Jewish believers in Jesus weren't called "Christians" until later.  But Jesus was Jewish... like Alan.  Jesus was raised in the Jewish faith, and He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).  And He also happened to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the One anointed to be the Savior of the world.

     It wasn't until years and years later, really after I had been to seminary and served in ministry for some time, that I began to realize how much my friend had shown me about Jesus. He had done more to introduce me to where Jesus came from than most of what I got at church or Sunday School. 

     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.  He went to the Temple in Jerusalem at least three times a year for special feasts.  Jesus grew up saying many of the exact prayers in Hebrew that my friend Alan learned to say.  Jesus grew up observing the Law and wearing a prayer shawl like the one Alan's brother had from bar mitzvah.  Jesus was Jewish.


      Lord God, I give thanks for Jesus, the Messiah of God, the Anointed One who came to save the world from their sin.  I give thanks for the gift of faith in Jesus and the gift of salvation in Him.  I give thanks today that all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  


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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2021

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)       

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.