“Uh, that, um…are you…uh..how does that work?” This was the very awkward inquiry I received a few Sundays ago from a fellow children’s ministry worker at my church. He was motioning to necklace I was wearing. I almost never remove this particular piece of jewelry because it is sacred to me. It is most decidedly very Jewish. It is comprised of three symbols of the Jewish faith molded together. The center piece is a mezuzah, symbolic for the precious word of God. On the surface of the mezuzah are the Hebrew letters for “chai” which some (including me) translate to mean “The Living God”. Surrounding it all is the Star of David, The Messianic Seal.
“I wear this,” I explained, “because without Judaism, there is no Christianity. It is the root of our faith and is precious to me.”
That is the short answer, the only one that can be given while a couple of people are helping wrangle 40 first graders.
But it is so much deeper than that for me. I was introduced to Christ as an infant, but I discovered Him as a Jewish Rabbi as an adult on a trip to Israel and under the teaching of Dr. James Martin, of Bible World Seminars. Dr. Martin put my faith in the blender, challenging so much of what I had been taught (tradition). He opened a world for me that I should have known mattered simply from common sense, but I didn’t. I just never thought about it.
Jesus was a first century Jew, living among first century Jews. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and also a Middle Eastern work of literature. How could I have not realized that the culture of the time mattered?
I have said that being introduced to this theology was like going from black and white to color television (and yes, sadly, I am old enough to remember that happening in my home. But I digress…)
But, that is not why I love it. I love it because it freed me. That is how truth works. It frees. I found that when I looked at Jesus through a Jewish lens, He was kinder and more compassionate than I had ever imagined. I found beauty in Judaism that was breathtaking to behold. I am afraid that at times, the western church has missed out on a lot of blessing because we were too proud to learn from our Jewish heritage.
I leave you with this quote from Alfred Edersheim, on the significance of the temple rites for not only the Jewish people but for all posterity.
“For when God bound up the future of all nations in the history of Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:3), He made that history prophetic; and each event and every rite became, as it were, a bud, destined to open in blossom and ripen into fruit on that tree under the shadow of which all nations were gathered.” Alfred Edersheim, The Temple- Its Ministry and Services (1825-1889)