Summary: In a predominantly Gentile church, it’s easy to forget how important Jesus’ jewishness is to his mission as savior and Lord. This message explores his Jewish roots and shows how God’s purposes are fulfilled by our very Jewish messiah. Special emphasis on
The Jesus I Never Knew: A Very Jewish Messiah
November 5, 2006
Jeffrey Hayes Wildrick
Today, we’re beginning a new series of messages inspired by the book, The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancy.
Christians usually think they know a lot about Jesus. We are called “Christians” after all. Christian means “Follower of Christ,” – Jesus Christ. Some of us have been hearing stories about Jesus all our lives. Some are just beginning to get to know about him. But how well do you know him, really?
Even in preaching, it seems as though Jesus is often the silent guest at the table. I looked over my own sermon notes from the last couple of years. I consider myself a biblical preacher. I try to be sure that the Bible is at the heart of every sermon, and that Jesus is in every message. But even so, most of my sermon texts in the past few years have been from the epistles, sometimes from the Old Testament. But how many messages focused specifically on the person of Jesus?
So, for the next eight weeks, ending on Christmas Eve, we’re going to be walking with Jesus, studying his miracles, his teaching, his politics, his relationships with those who loved him, and those who barely knew him. We’re going to learn what was important to him, and from that I hope we’ll all get a better picture of what should be important to us today. Most of all, I hope that as we get to know the real Jesus, the flesh and blood and yet God Jesus, who walked and cried and ate and even got angry – that we’ll fall in love with him all over again.
So, today we’re going to begin at the beginning. Not with his birth. After all, we have to save that for Christmas. But even before Jesus was born, God had planned something about him that would be at the very core of his identity. Jesus was Jewish. And even his last act on earth before his crucifixion was an acting out of that reality.
Listen to the Word of God…
When I was growing up, well over half the kids in my school were Jewish. Like children everywhere, we tried hard to stake out our territories and establish our identities. In our school the first question we asked of any newcomer was simple. “Are you Christian or Jewish?” And, to tell the truth, when we “Christian” kids grouped up, we could be pretty prejudiced against our Jewish neighbors. Somewhere along the way we learned all the stereotypes. The Jews were our neighbors, but they were somehow not “like us.” After all, they didn’t believe in Jesus.
Now, here’s the odd thing. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that Jesus was born a Jew. But I couldn’t figure out any way that he could be both a Christian and a Jew. I remember talking about this with my friends once, and we came up with what seemed like a logical solution. We figured Jesus must have converted!
In fact, nothing could have been farther from the truth.
CENTURIES BEFORE JESUS WAS BORN, God chose a small, nomadic tribe of people for a special purpose, and he placed them on a particular piece of land. They were not a particularly noble or wealthy tribe. It wasn’t a large land – about the size and shape of the state of New Jersey. It was certainly not an especially fertile land. In fact, thousands of years later one Israeli moaned, “For forty years our people wandered in the wilderness until finally God gave them the only piece of land in the entire mid-East that doesn’t have any oil.”
Yet God chose the land for a reason. It was the land between. Although it was poor in natural resources, it was located right at the crossroads between the world’s ancient superpowers. The negative side of this was that whenever one superpower went to war against another superpower, Israel usually ended up being the battlefield. The positive side was that at some time in it’s time of dominance, just about every major civilization went through Israel – allowing Israel to be an influence on every culture around them.
God chose a people, but not for their own sakes. He made his purpose for the Jews known in many places, but he made it especially clear when he commissioned the prophet Isaiah:
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6 (NLT)
The word “Gentiles” means simply “Anyone who isn’t a Jew.”