This post is part of the l’Chaim! series on topics related to the Jewishness of the Messiah Jesus and how this can further our understanding and the living under the power of Holy Spirit in this generation.
My Jewish father used to bring us kids to Brooklyn to visit his mother. Grandma Wolfe-Cole stood at 4’11. Having escaped Hitler’s armies by emigrating to NYC, she kept a kosher household. As soon as we crossed the threshold of her modest Flatbush apartment, she would place her hands on we children’s heads and mutter in Hebrew and Yiddish, a mixture of Hebrew and German often spoke by immigrant Jews in New York. My father stopped to allow this, just as anyone else in the house fell silent, honoring, observing and agreeing. “What did she say, Daddy?” I asked and in response to my query, he would translate the beautiful prayers my grandmother had declared, ordaining blessings and peace. The effect on me was a profound sense of Adonai’s Presence.
Interestingly, speaking blessings over the children is very much alive in today’s Jewish households. A Jew may or may not choose to extend their faith in other ways, but blessing the children is one tradition seen everywhere, from orthodox to non-practicing.
Another cultural attribute is to encourage PDAs. Jews hug, men hug men and they also hug women, everybody hugs everybody. They express their feelings. Jewish men are not afraid to cry. There is good evidence that this makes people stronger and healthier, as long as it is kept positive.
Another thing which is often practiced among Jews, including my Dad, is to catch someone being good. When there may be a need to correct, it is done in a way that is not shaming.
Jesus often displays these hallmarks of Jewish culture. He was kind yet no wimp, He could express affection. He understood the ramifications of His authority, not for oppression but for service. He was a teacher par excellence, a counselor to all. His Jewishness clothed Him like a coat of many colors and sometimes we can catch a glimpse of it in the nuances of the written gospels. Here’s one example from Matthew, also a Jew:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He questioned His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
As many will know, “bar” is Aramaic for son. “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jonah,” there is such warmth and brotherly, even fatherly, affection conveyed in this phrase. Imagine a tutor or an elder calling you by your full name and calling you blessed at the same time. This is Jesus gushing, it goes way beyond approval, it’s love and pride mixed together, it’s joy because here, Jesus is “catching” Simon Peter being good. He’s ecstatic to see the fruition of what He knew was in Peter. The Savior then prophesies over him, bestowing upon him almost inconceivable honor and one of the most powerful calls anyone has ever received.
One does not need to be Jewish to see these qualities in Jesus, or to imitate them.