Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Seeing the world through the lens of his own experience

"Everyone sees the world through the lens of his own experience. We perceive our world from a particular time and cultural background. It is easy to assume that Jesus and his disciples were much like ourselves. In our movies about Jesus he is often portrayed as a "hippie" with blond hair and blue eyes. It is not as easy to see Jesus as a homely, middle eastern Jewish rabbi who spoke Hebrew and went by the name "Yashua Ben Yoseph".

If we want to understand Jesus and his message in its original context we have to try to understand the world from his point of view. The most natural assumption in the world is that we put ourselves in the mindset of a first century Jew. If we read the Gospel from this perspective, does the message change? An intellectualized Gospel of the 20th century North American or a Social Justice Gospel which resonates so well in Third World today may miss the message found in a 1st century story of a Jewish Messiah.

Long ago, God chose a special people for himself. He promised Abraham and his descendants that through them would come a redeemer who would bless all nations. So it was that Israel looked forward to the coming Messiah (anointed one). Jesus was very clear in regard to the spiritual authority God had bestowed upon the Jews. We see this in his remark to the Samaritan woman in John 3:22. The Samaritans worshipped the God of Abraham too, but they worshipped him according to their own standards.

Jesus said:

"You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." John 3:22

The Gospel has become many things in the name of "spirit and truth" (John 3:23) yet God chose to bring forth salvation from within a Jewish context. Jesus cannot be properly understood apart from Old Testament Judaism.

Despite this reality, the Christian world has generally abandoned the Jewish context in which the Gospel was born. Gentile believers, in a reaction against Jewish "traditionalism", commonly discard all things Jewish as obsolete. As a result, Christian traditions have replaced the old Jewish ones.

Over the centuries, the Church developed a version of faith which accommodated its own cultural expressions. This is most readily illustrated by noting the many pagan practices that have been "christianized" and assimilated into our faith experience. It is just as revealing to note how little Jewish tradition was adopted. These "new" traditions are now so embedded we can hardly imagine Christianity without them. Imagine trying to live without Christmas or Easter, both pagan in origin, now fundamental centerpieces of the Christian experience.

There has been a paradigm shift from a Middle Eastern Jewish Messiah to a Western Greco-Roman Christ. So much so, in fact, that Christianity today bears little resemblance to the religion Jesus participated in on the earth. In the minds of most Christians, Judaism may as well be a different religion altogether.

I will suggest that Judaism is not a "different" religion. Rather, Christianity and Judaism are two perspectives of One God. Christianity is no more complete without its Jewish heritage than Judaism is without the Messiah. We may not be comfortable with accepting that Jesus and his disciples were all proud Jews, but I firmly believe it is in our interest to do so.

It is good to remember that the foundation for "Jewish" culture was established directly by God himself. Judaism is the original backdrop of the Gospel story. The Jewish Torah is our own beloved Christian Old Testament. Our God is One, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christians should take pride in the fact that this Jewish heritage as it is ours as well. Even we Gentiles have a just spiritual claim to all things promised to the Jew through Jesus our Messiah (Christ)."
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GB - The Agora

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem (tzit zit) of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'"
Zechariah 8:23

+ About looking throught the lens > If we view the whole world through a lens that is bright