Category Archives: Temple

The primacy of Y’shua for Hebrews

ExodusI was studying Hebrews the other day as I prepared for  “Thy Strong Word” on KFUO (a daily on-air bible study that I am a frequent guest on. . .  Sometimes referred to as “The Letter to the Hebrews,” Hebrews is more of a sermon with a short letter appended to the end.  I remember reading Hebrews for the first time shortly after coming to faith in Y’shua, thinking that this “letter” was particularly written for someone like me, a Jewish Christian.  When I read it then, though I knew that it was “anonymous,” I really  believed that it was written by Paul.  After all, in the English, it certainly sounds like Paul.

But, as I got “educated,” I studied Greek, I studied Eusebius, and I along with all the scholars, came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t Paul, and while authorship was uncertain, I figured it was Barnabus (Paul’s scribe), though Luther posited Apollos.  Luther concluded though, “Who wrote it is unknown, and will probably not be known for a while, it makes no difference.”  He then goes on to speak highly of the theology of Hebrews, though including it among those books which are “antilegomena,” disputed texts that have limited doctrinal value.  Sadly, it does make a difference then, as the primary argument for Hebrews as being a disputed text is that it is anonymous.

I don’t think it was intended to be anonymous, and those for whom this sermon was intended would have known the preacher.  The short letter assumes that the recipients of the letter know who wrote it, and mentions Timothy, as Paul often does.  The main argument against Pauline authorship is the style of Greek used, but do we really believe that someone like Paul couldn’t have managed a more formal Greek?  Do you think that Paul may have preached this primarily for Jewish Christians, but also to those who have yet to believe?  I know that when I preach, and it is to my congregation, my style is much more colloquial than if we have visitors who do not yet know Jesus.  So, maybe I’m back to Pauline authorship.  Regardless, there is much to learn about evangelism to Jewish people from this wonderful sermon, namely the primacy of Jesus over the angels, over Moses, over the Sabbath, over the sacrifices, and over the culture that calls us back to unbelief, all realities still today.  Whoever wrote Hebrews, I am grateful for the encouragement to “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus!”


How can these things be?

The first two centuries following the birth of Jesus were devastating for the Jewish people in Judea. The Jewish people witnessed the crucifixion of Messiah and growing tensions between those who believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, and those who were disillusioned and still looked to the Temple sacrificial system for their forgiveness.  Then followed the destruction of that Temple.  The disillusioned refused to look to Messiah, and instead looked to themselves and created a new religion, that of modern day Judaism.  The tensions grew into persecution for the Jewish believers at the hands of both the Romans and the Jewish establishment, and then following the Bar Kokhba revolt, the tensions exploded into Emperor Hadrian’s order of banishment for all Jews, both believers and disillusioned from the land of Israel.  His attempt to thwart God and expunge the memory of Israel from history led to his renaming of the area Syria-Palestina, from which comes the modern name often used of the area, Palestine.  Yet, despite all this, the rabbis of the time would write in the Babylonian Talmud, dated to the 4th century, in a commentary on Numbers 21, “Did the serpent kill, or did the serpent heal?  Rather, when the Jewish people turned their eyes upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were healed, but if not they rotted from their snakebites” (Rosh Hashana 29a).

I had the opportunity recently to preach this text, accompanied by Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus that culminated in probably the most familiar verse in the New Testament, John 3:16.  In that gospel lesson, Jesus likens himself to the bronze snake on a pole.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14).  Just as God used a symbol of wrath to draw the Israelites eyes upward in the wilderness, so he did also with Y’shua on the cross.  To paraphrase Rosh Hashana 29a then, if the Jewish people would simply turn their eyes upward and subject their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they would have eternal life.

So often I find myself talking to Jewish people who are asking the same question that Nicodemus asks.  “How can these things be.”  There is really no evidence in the texts that Nicodemus ever confessed his faith in Y’shua as Messiah.  Yet, his provision of embalming spices led Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish believer and author of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, to conclude that that was a public testimony of his faith.  Pray with me that the Jewish people would simply look up and subject their hearts to their Father in Heaven, in Y’shua’s name.


Jerusalem & The Temple Mount

shapeimage_3I grew up in a Jewish home, so the State of Israel has always been an important part of my life. However, I have tried to balance my understanding of Israel’s importance to me personally, with a scriptural view of the State of Israel’s place in God’s economy.

In the Jewish community, at least early on, there was dispute about whether or not the State of Israel was truly the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.  Many in the Orthodox community believed that the reestablishment of the State of Israel was not of prophetic importance because Messiah has yet to come.  More recently though, the dispute in the Jewish community is less about Messiah, and more about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and the liberal agenda of Israel as “occupier” and the Palestinians as an “oppressed” people.

In the Church, there is also dispute, though all would agree that Messiah has  come.  But it is “end-times” prophecy that gets us all in a stew, seasoned with just a pinch of continuing (and perhaps undiscerned?) anti-Semitism.

Last month we observed the 50th anniversary of the 6 Day War and the return of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.  This month though, we observe the anniversary of the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple with an annual fast day known as Tzom Tammuz.  This year, on July 11, it is 2604 years since that event.  This is the beginning of a three-week period of mourning leading up to Tish B’Av, at sundown on July 31, which is the same day that the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed, 655 years apart from each other.  Needless to say, Tish B’Av is a day considered by many to be a day of calamity.  What calamity should we expect this year?

For those of us who care enough to want to share our faith with Jewish people, we often find ourselves stuck in this intersection of opinions, looking around wondering who has the right of way! And no matter what, while everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus, everyone also has an opinion about Israel.  It is becoming harder and harder to talk about Jesus without talking about Israel.  The question posed above is often asked during this time.  And while no answer seems sufficient, pain and suffering is best accompanied by a promise of hope and healing that comes with Messiah Y’shua.

(For more on Tish B’Av, see my post from August 16, 2016)

“Well, we had a good run.”  

Pesach tractI often joke that our Passover Seders are a bit like dinner theater, and if it were truly theater, that is what we might have said.  After more than 20 years “on Broadway” to sold out Seders, our Passover Seder this year was not well attended, 50 adults and 13 children, but we still had a good time.  The upside was that while we’ve never had less than 100 before, we had several new people who got a chance to celebrate Passover with us.  And of course, I led the Seder in three other churches this year, with about 200 people in those other three churches together, sort of “off Broadway,” and I got to go home from one with matzo brie.  So this morning, I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of leftover matzo brie and salmon.  Yum!

But it does leave me to wonder why we had less interest this year.  While I don’t believe that social media has that much impact on peoples’ opinions, the election not withstanding, it is interesting that this year there was so much on social media objecting to churches celebrating Passover.  Two prominent Lutheran theologians weighed in, agreeing with an article that was published in Christianity Today, written by two Jewish rabbis who contend that “Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal.”

The rabbis’ contention centers on the fact that the traditions associated with the Seder meal were not instituted until after the destruction of the Temple, long after Jesus was crucified.  Yet in the same article they claim that Jews “have been celebrating the Passover Seder for millenia.”  That is plural, meaning thousands of years.  You see, the rabbis want to have it both ways.  What they are not telling you is that the Hagaddah and other rituals of Passover may not have been written down until after the destruction of the Temple,  but are part of the oral tradition that, according to them, goes back to Moses.  But it is convenient to disconnect anything Jewish with Jesus by playing the “destruction of the Temple” card, effectively removing Jesus and the early Christian Church from any Jewish ritual.

Apart from their faulty logic, the most disturbing thing from them is their charge of insensitivity by Christians who are appropriating their customs.  This is part of a larger arc on their part that seeks to deny Christians any continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  The unstated claim is that the Old Testament belongs to the Jews, and the New Testament is Christian, and “n’er the twain shall meet.”  For this reason, ministries such as ours are deceptive by using Jewish symbols in worship, etc.

There are Jewish cultural symbols that are not biblical.  But there are many biblical symbols that Christians are allowed to use and explore, and truly, even in “traditional worship settings” (whatever that is), much of what goes on is Jewish.  Look around your sanctuary and you will see many things that come from biblical, Jewish, roots.  Seven-branched candelabra, eternal flames, albs and stoles, and Hebrew words like Hosanna, Hallelujah, etc.  You see, if you define adopting anything that is “Jewish” as being insensitive, you then are restricted from using any of the prophetic utterances of God that promise the Messiah and so clearly point to Jesus as Him.  And that is the honest agenda of these rabbis.

Sadly, even prominent Lutheran theologians fall into that trap.  One argues that the Passover Seder is akin to our practice of communion, and that those who celebrate the Seder “should be unified in their ecclesiastical community and in their confession of faith.  Call this ‘closed Passover.'”  I don’t hold that remark against him, but I also don’t expect him to understand the Jewish ethos.  In Judaism though, there is no such thing as a unified ecclesiastical community nor any corporate confession of faith.  Judaism is not that dogmatic.  The only true confession that Jews hold to be common is that “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”  (Yes, there is Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith, but very few of those who celebrate the Seder even know these much less believe them.)

The worst thing that comes from this whole online discussion is the disregarding of the value of celebrating the Passover Seder.  Most objections by Christians about celebrating Passover lead from St. Paul’s counsel to Peter in Galatians 2:14, “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?'”  The operative word here for Paul is “force,” and leads to a fear of anything Jewish as being Judaizing the Church.  

But compelling and exercising freedom are two different things.  We become so afraid of being Peter to Paul that we forget how to be Paul:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

The Passover Seder encourages faith, teaches theology, helps some understand culture, and most importantly, points to Jesus.  And an honest reading of the texts make it very clear that Jesus did celebrate the Passover, along with many if not most of the traditions associated with it.  The rabbis argue for respect of their cherished traditions, but these are ours too.

A Temple That Can Never Be Destroyed!

western-wallHere we are in 2017!  Wow. . . our ministry has survived 35 years, largely thanks to you!  Thank you so much for helping us through what was a tough year, yet a year blessed with opportunity.

This month brings new opportunities for us to share our faith, not only with our Jewish friends, but with all the nations too!

Asara B’Tevet (the tenth of Tevet) is January 8 and is a minor fast day in Judaism.  It commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.  On 10 Tevet 3336 (425 BC), Nebuchadnezzar’s armies laid seige to Jerusalem and the siege lasted 30 months, until 9 Tammuz 3338, when the city walls were breached.  Then on 9 Av 3338, the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.  You can read about these events in 2 Kings 24-25.

During this season, some of our Jewish friends and relatives may be thinking about the destruction of the Temple.  Certainly, because of actions by the U.N., we are thinking about the Western Wall of the Temple, which the United Nations recently declared as “occupied Palestinian territory.”  While I lament such a designation, and remember well my visit to the Western Wall, it is a good time to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 when he prophesied the destruction of the Second Temple (of which the Western Wall is all that is left), and upon which lies the Dome of the Rock.

But Jesus did more than prophesy the destruction of the Temple, but his own death and the resurrection (John 2:19) that would make us the living stones of a temple that cannot be destroyed! (1 Peter 2:4-5).  No work of man can overcome the will of our God.  It is comforting to us, and critical for those who have not yet received Messiah.

This month also has our ministry hosting a table at the 6th Annual International Women’s Tea in Detroit.  I’ve written a new broadside for that event, which you can see below. Please pray for the ladies that they would be encouraged to share their faith among the nations!