Our Jewish Jesus

Define Messianic Judaism: 

Messianic Judaism is a syncretic movement that combines Christianity—most importantly, the Christian belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah—with elements of Judaism and Jewish tradition. … Many refer to themselves in Hebrew as maaminim (believers), not converts, and yehudim (Jews), not notzrim (Christians).

Why Messianic Judaism?

A: In the Summer of 2011, my Abuela shared our newfound Sephardic Jewish lineage with me and it shook my world. I grew up Christian, I literally went to youth group 5 times a week as a child for fun. I started a youth group in my high school in 2009 that had anywhere from 4-20 students attend any given week. She told me about the Messianic Judaism movement, which helped calm my spirit because I wouldn’t have to give up everything I grew up believing. Honestly, when she was sharing this information with me, I felt more complete than scared. Everything kind of felt like it fell into place. I had a lot of questions and a very unsettled soul for a couple years, and this new information seemed to complete the puzzle. But the question was how to incorporate it into my life now. So I was mainly amused by the idea for a couple years, and then I started celebrating Hanukkah with my friends. I met the local Rabbi’s wife at the coffee shop I worked at, and she invited me to celebrate Passover with them. I had no idea how tedious Jewish tradition was until that night. And I admired the Rabbi’s family so much that I felt like I needed for this to become a bigger part of my life. I started studying Hebrew a little here and there. And then after I had met B, I remember we were drinking or something, and I was just in a different state of mind, and suddenly it clicked. It all made sense out of nowhere.

Christians are supposed to accept Christ as their Lord and savior and devote their life to Him. They’re supposed to live like He did, sinless, compassionate, loving and honest. But in my 24 years, I know very few Christians who live up to that standard. There seems to be a weird disconnect when Jesus gets brought into it. Who are you supposed to pray to? God or Jesus? Are you supposed to pray through Jesus to get to God, or did Jesus open the doors so we could pray directly to God? Could we not pray to God before Jesus came around? And Jesus died for our sins, so what does it matter if I sin this one time? What does it matter if I fall off the wagon for a few years? He’ll always be there to pick up my mess, so why bother? There’s very little motive as a Christian to live like Christ. But the benefits of being a Christian are phenomenal. You not only have someone to pick up your pieces when you inevitably break down from this insanely messed up world, but you also essentially get a free pass into eternal Heaven regardless of what you do here on earth. Honestly, my initial reaction when I reread the sentence I just wrote is to be opposed to it and say it’s wrong, but is that not what we’ve been taught? That no sin is bigger than another, and Jesus WILL undoubtedly forgive all sins equally?

But as a Jew, you get to Heaven by being a good person. There is no Jesus to pick up your pieces. There is no escape route to get to Heaven. It’s you and G-d.

“Christianity maintains that all men are doomed to sin, and everyone will go to everlasting hell unless they accept Jesus as their savior. Judaism has always held that we do not need that sort of salvation, for we are not doomed or damned at birth. We are not doomed or fated to sin. Quite the contrary. The Torah says: ‘If you do good, won’t there be special privilege? And if you do not do good, sin waits at the door. It lusts after you, but you can dominate it.’ (Genesis 4:7)

The thing that fascinated me the most about the Jewish lifestyle, was that it was truly a lifestyle! It isn’t a once a week thing! Even their holidays are multiple days long, and generally speaking, there’s on average, one holiday per calendar month. It’s easy for Christians to set aside one day a week, or one day for a holiday to celebrate their Lord and Savior. But when you dedicate 8 days in one run to tradition, celebration, and purity – that’s a challenge. It sounds like a blast – having an 8-day long holiday – but it’s exhausting. It sounds easy, taking one day a week to not work, cook, clean, or anything – but it’s increasingly challenging. Their lives REVOLVE around their relationship with G-d, following tradition, and being good people. The dedication these people show is beyond inspiring.

So I’d been trying to figure out what it meant to be a Messianic Jew for a few years, how to combine two opposing religions, how Judaism fit into my simple Christian life, and one night it just clicked. Combine them. Combine the G-dfearing dedication, passion, and tradition of Judaism, with the forgiveness of sins and the open loving relationship with Jesus Christ of Christianity. Transform my “life of dedication” to a “lifestyle of dedication.” From then on it just made sense.

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