Mi-Kez & Hanukkah 8
For the week of December 23, 2006 / 2 Tevet 5767
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:54 - 8:4
Haftarah: 1 Kings / 1 Melachim 7:40-50
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. (Bereshit / Genesis 42:8).
As a Jewish believer in Yeshua, this time of year is one of mixed emotions. The way the calendar has turned this year, we are in the midst of Hanukkah, which will end just a couple of days before Christmas. To me the most meaningful Hanukkah theme is that of no compromise. This is when we remember how the Maccabees stood against the pressure to conform to the ungodly ways of their Greco-Syrian oppressors. Even though many of their fellow Jewish countrymen were being swept away by Greek culture, they were the ones who led Israel back to faithfulness to the one true God.
For Jewish people, the Christmas season can seem reminiscent of the days of the Maccabees. All around us are the trappings of a foreign culture - more concerned with crass materialism than with the ways of God.
For the Jewish Believer Christmas time can be confusing. While the true meaning of Christmas has deep Jewish roots in that it is really about the coming of the Messiah, the way his birth is commemorated seems to be anything but Jewish. It is difficult for Jewish Believers to engage in Christmas while claiming to be true to our Jewish heritage. This is due to the abundance of non-Jewish cultural trappings that have become associated with this holiday.
Christmas is one of many examples of how faith in Yeshua as Messiah has been associated with not being Jewish. For many Jewish people resisting Yeshua and the various customs that have emerged among his followers is similar to the Maccabees' refusal to submit to the Greco-Syrian oppressors of their day.
That Yeshua has become so associated with things not Jewish is tragic. It is tragic for two reasons. First, the un-Jewishness of Yeshua has distracted many from understanding that he is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. When we fail to understand the Old Testament roots of the New Testament, we miss out on so much of what God has for us. Second, Yeshua's overly Gentile association gives the impression that he is irrelevant to Jewish people. It is for these two reasons that many of us have worked very hard at trying to restore Yeshua's fundamental Jewishness.
Still, for many Jewish people Yeshua is far more like a Gentile god than a Jewish Messiah. The current situation is similar to the experience of Joseph's brothers that we read about in this week's Torah portion. When they arrived in Egypt hoping to buy food during the famine, they would not have expected to see him, since they sold him into slavery so many years earlier. As he stood before them looking and sounding like an Egyptian, there was no way that they would have realized that he was their own flesh and blood.
That they didn't recognize him was understandable, but that didn't change the fact that he was the one that held their salvation in his hands. The day would come when he would reveal himself to them as their brother, but at first they had to relate to him as if he really was a foreigner.
This is similar to our current situation with Yeshua. We look forward to the day when the confusion regarding Yeshua's true Jewish identity will be removed - and what a day that will be! But until then, even though he doesn't look very Jewish, he is still our salvation. To be offended by the abundance of his non-Jewish cultural associations will only prevent us from benefiting from God's blessings through him - blessings that we and our people so desperately need.
No matter how much we try to present a very Jewish Yeshua to our people, for the time being he will continue to appear somewhat Gentile. Let that not stop us from introducing our people to him. For whatever he might look like, he still is the Jewish Messiah.
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