Was Jesus a Christian?

The word “Christian” simply means “Christ-like.” “Christ” is the Greek word that translates the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Taking these two statements together, we can immediately arrive at a basic, yet revolutionary truth: Jesus was not a Christian.

 Jesus could not have been “like a Christ” anymore than Buddha could have been “like a Buddhist.” Jesus WAS the Christ (Messiah), which is itself a totally Jewish concept.  Divorced from Judaism, the idea of a Messiah is meaningless.

So Jesus was not a Christian.  Jesus was Jewish…both culturally and religiously. He was a practicing, orthodox, synagogue educated Jewish Rabbi. He did not sing from a hymnal. He never read the New Testament. And he never took a class at Southeastern Seminary.

The first “Christians” were also Jewish. These Jewish men and women believed Jesus was their promised Messiah and they started a whole new Jewish movement. As this new branch of the Jewish faith spread to non-Jews (Gentiles), both Jew and Gentile worshiped together under the banner of first-century Judaism. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., however, both the Roman government and the newly enshrined Pharisees declared this Jewish off-shoot to be a new religion distinct from Judaism.  Jewish Believers in Jesus were driven out of their local synagogues and an increasing number of Gentiles became believers in Jesus.

In the early fourth century, Christianity became the state religion of Rome.  The Christian church was now an institution and a great number of unsaved Gentiles entered its ranks…so many that its members grew to be far larger than the entire Jewish population of the world.  Christians had little to no tolerance of Jewish believers who wanted to retain their Jewishness. It was not sufficient for a Jew to accept Jesus as his Messiah and Savior; now he had to “convert to Christianity” and abandon his Jewish heritage. Thus, an ever-widening gap was rapidly emerging between this new, institutional church and the Judaism from which it came. The net result for us is a twenty-first century Christian faith that is largely ignorant of its Jewish roots.

This is amazingly unfortunate, because for over three thousand years the Jewish people have been engaged in a rich, dynamic dialogue with God. Much of this dialogue has been captured for us in what we refer to as the Old and New Testaments. It’s a dialogue replete with Hebraisms, rabbinical speech and Jewish traditions…none of which yields itself well to a word for word translation from the Hebrew (or Greek) text to English, and all of which is nonsensical to the average Christian. The neglect of this rich heritage combined with our westernized worldview has left us ignorant of the depth and beauty of our scriptures at best, and heretical at worst.

If we are to fully embrace our faith in Jesus then we must understand that we are a Christian branch grafted into a Jewish tree; a three thousand year old Jewish tree that is nourished from Jewish roots and planted in Jewish soil. We are not an independent entity that began with a Pope named Peter or a reformer named Luther. We are much more than this, and the purpose of the Messiah Lab is to help Christians rediscover their true identity.

Properly understood, we are the bride of the Jewish Messiah, the disciples of a Jewish Rabbi and the friends of the Jewish Son of Man from the tribe of Judah. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; David, Elisha and Naomi; Solomon, Sampson and Esther – He is OUR Father, too! Our faith in Jesus the MESSIAH necessarily and unavoidably unites us to the Jewish people. WE were led out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, WE were given a promised land, WE rebelled and the prophets spoke to us, WE waited for our Messiah to come AND HE DID!  We know Him as Jesus our Savior and Lord.  Now I invite you to come and rediscover Him as your Messiah and Rabbi, Yeshua MiNatzeret…Jesus of Nazareth.

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