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?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
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.
I’m not saying that Jesus was only a warm and fuzzy Jewish guy. He did a lot of rebuking and correcting, name calling and even whipped a few people at least a couple of times. He hated sickness and spiritual blindness, but lowest on His list were those who took advantage of others through religious belief. Highest were those who showed the qualities of recognizing God’s righteousness and love, faith in Him, and living out their radical faith. Actually, this is one of a few times I know of that Jesus ever gushed. The others were when He praised the woman who had given her last two mites in the offering, when the woman touched Him and was healed, and when the centurion (a non-Jew mind you) told Him not to take the time to come to his house but rather that if He simply said the word, his servant would be healed. Much as here with Peter, Jesus “marveled” at this man’s faith. (Mt 8:13). The recorded memoirs of the apostles tell us that He took greatest delight in people believing God was God. It wasn’t just that Peter’s answer was correct but that his heart was open to hearing from God, as radical as what he heard might be, which made Jesus so so happy.
Jesus was not a humanist. Every action of His short time on earth was pinned upon the axis of delivering and teaching supernatural faith which pulls us out of our self-absorption. Unlike Maslow, He didn’t put self actualization at the epitome of human achievement. He honored laying one’s life down for the revealed will of God.
That’s a very very different emphasis. He said only by Me can you find access to heaven, to God, to eternal life. And while the by product would often be many earthly joys, those should not be, and in fact cannot be, the focus for us to fully live as salt and light.
What if the Son of God had put His own “happiness” first. Would anything have stopped Him from achieving earthly fame and fortune? If He had decided to use His immense talents, gifts and power to become a general and take over the known world, He could have. His riches and His harem could have far exceeded those of Solomon. Jesus told us clearly, My kingdom is not of this world. The King of love and peace also knew what it would cost to achieve it, that His very own purpose was to come as a sacrifice, an atonement, a substitionary vessel for wrath, and as victor. Every generation of believers since Him have the overarching purpose of living out this victory, and showing the way to others. It is a cardboard facade to reduce the purpose of life to nothing more than self actualization or achievement for it’s own sake.
We are here to serve God according to how we are called. In Christ our lives are hid. This is only possible when we connect with God through the Holy Spirit after our full surrender to His salvation offered by grace and mercy. It’s only possible when we seek Him about one’s individual purpose and to hear from Him about every action, every decision, and oh thank you Jesus that it is possible! That He answers all such prayers. Wait, and though you wait, you will receive an answer in due time. Jesus honored this level of faith above all others.
This post would not be complete without an overview which the Judaic perspective would offer. Observe carefully the Body of Christ today. They are all in different stages of progress. Some are mature, these are the ones with generations of blessings that have fallen upon their descendants. They have given much, and they are reaping a hundred -fold. Spiritually blind critics may see only how much they have, not understanding how much they have given and are still giving.
Others among the fellowship are just beginning, others are at 30- and 60-fold. Jews understood this well. We too must realize that in surrendering to Jesus, there will be a return in this life, and glory in the next. There absolutely will be. I should really insert a few scriptures here. 3 John 2- “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” Mark 19: 29-31 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Here we see Jesus talking about the subject of prosperity. He gives two caveats: one is that there will be persecution for living out the gospel. The other is that there will be those who seem to be prominent on this earth (even among believers) who are not so in heaven. This is making the same point that I am making, that even in having wealth as part of the blessing of God, the person’s heart stance toward their wealth, how they continue to serve God while having it, is what is weighed by God.
What we do with the 30 to 100-fold return will be dependent on our ministry and calling. Some may be led to stay on the mission field until they die, and possibly reinvest every cent into it, so they may even appear to be poor. Yet they are not. They are the ones who know how to call in the funds and resources, who have developed a deep and abiding relationship with the Father who gives beyond measure. George Mueller comes to mind here. Others who have families and wish to enjoy nice houses, and lands and cars, jewelry and gorgeous dresses, and TV ministries with only the best makeup and hair, and whatever, they are free to do so. But for many many of these people, that was not what what they were after in the first place. This is what just happens when we really live for and hear from God! (Now of course, some have gotten side tracked, but let us pray for them, God is able to get them back on track.)
Those stuck in poverty may actually have a hindrance in their souls to receiving what God is trying to get to them. This is a subject for another time and there is much in the Bible about it. Only the truly spiritual can discern the motives of the heart. Alternatively, there are people who have been poor all their lives who are coming out of this cycle by God’s grace and by faith, who are so focused on their material success that they have lost the ability to see how others who are also being blessed, maybe much more than they, are serving God with their blessings in a different way. They are bragging on their blessings because they are bragging on God! And yet, the spiritual sensitivity just is not there. These are like the nouveau riche of Christendom. They are harmless. Let them enjoy their newfound blessings. But stay the course yourself! Seek to fellowship with those who remain humble, and who share. Be one of them. Don’t be afraid to wear your expensive jacket or dress, but neither shirk from taking someone out to the grocery store or the mall and buying them a few outfits either. Give a car away if you are at that level. Yet keep it on the down low, or people will seek you out simply because of this. If necessary, give anonymously. Above all, let them see Jesus.