Messianic Jews?....It's a term that is being heard more and more these days. Succinctly defined, we are Jews who believe that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures. Because we believe Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, we also believe in maintaining a Jewish expression to our faith. Hence, we celebrate all of the Biblical holidays (i.e. Passover, Succot, etc.) as well as many of the customs which are consistent with the Scriptures.
For much of history it has been assumed that Jewishness and Yeshua are mutually exclusive. Of course,
it's fine for any non-Jew to believe in Him – but a Jew? However, when one stops to study the actual
history of this movement, it becomes clear that this assumption was not always the case.
After all, this Messianic Movement did not originate in Rome or Athens, but started in the land of Israel in the midst of the Jewish people. Most scholars agree that its Leader lived a lifestyle consistent with much of first century Judaism. He worshipped on the Shabbat (Luke 4:16 ff), celebrated all the Jewish Holidays such as Passover and Chanukah (Matthew 26:17 ff.; John 10:22 ff.) and even wore the traditional "tzitzit" (Matthew 9:20). Likewise, His Name "Yeshua" testifies to His Jewish identity, since it is Hebrew for "Salvation."
Some people today can accept the total Jewishness of Yeshua but they feel that His early followers somehow changed this into a non-Jewish religion. However, the "Brit Chadashah" (New Covenant) itself paints a different picture. It describes this movement as containing tens of thousands of Jews who believed and yet remained "zealous for the Torah", that is, not converts to a Gentile religion but Jews who believed in Yeshua as our Messiah (Acts 21:20). For them the times of the Messianic age had started, as it is written:
"See, a time is coming -- declares the L.rd-when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, so that I rejected them -- declares the L.rd. But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days - declares the L.rd: I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their G.d, and they shall be My people. No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, "Heed the L.rd," for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me -- declares the L.rd. For I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jewish Publication Society.)
The early Jewish followers of Yeshua saw the perfect fulfillment of what Jeremiah and the Prophets had foretold. The New Covenant had been promised, the Messiah would be the mediator of this Covenant...and Yeshua of Nazareth fit the description. It never occurred to them that they were not Jews anymore; indeed, they had come into the fullness of the Promised Covenant. They were "Messianic Jews" in the true sense of the word!
A rather strange thing happened in the proceeding centuries however. The Scriptures speak of this Messianic faith being taken to the non-Jewish nations as well. It was wonderful that all peoples were invited by G.d to follow this Messiah. And many responded. Unfortunately, many either forgot the Jewishness of the faith or consciously turned from it. Hence, today it sounds so shocking to many people that Jews can believe in Yeshua. But many of these misunderstandings have been changing in recent years...
Starting in the late 1960's and continuing into today, there has been a dramatic move of G.d's Spirit. As G.d was moving to restore His people physically back to the Land of Israel, so too He was moving spiritually in the hearts of many Jewish people. Thousands have been coming to believe in Yeshua and even forming their own Congregations where both Jewish and non-Jewish can worship the Messiah in the fulfillment of their Jewish roots. These "Messianic Congregations" are characterized by a number of distinctive elements: worship in the Shabbat and other Jewish Biblical holidays, joyful Davidic worship with dance and many other customs that are consistent with the Scriptures. What a wonderful way this has been for both Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Yeshua to express their faith and heritage. Many non-Jews have found special fulfillment in the Messianic Congregation, since they too are grafted into "the rich root of the olive tree" of this Jewish Biblical heritage (Romans 11:17 ff). Together we are returning to our roots through Yeshua the Messiah.
Many people today continue to ask the questions, "Can you still be Jewish and believe in Yeshua?" But based
upon a better understanding of the Scriptures, there should be little debate whether Jews can believe in
Yeshua. Many tens of thousands believed in First Century Israel and there are estimated of up to 100,000
who believe today. There’s actually a more fundamental question that many people need to ask themselves:
"Is there a Messiah promised to Israel and how will we recognize Him?"
Many of our people have simple given up any belief in a Messiah. Some have accepted man-made tradition as a modern substitute. But Messianic Jews say that there is indeed a Messiah promised to Israel and that we can recognize Him. It is through the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures) that we have read the description of Messiah. It’s simply a matter of studying the Scriptures to see what they actually say. If Yeshua of Nazareth does not fit the description. Then we should not follow Him. But if He does? Read for yourself and decide!
Messiah to be born in Bethlehem
Micah 5:1 (5:2) But you, Beit-Lechem near Efrat, so small among the clans of Y'hudah, out of you will come forth to me the future ruler of Isra'el, whose origins are far in the past, back in ancient times. Matthew 2:5-6 "In BeitLechem of Y'hudah," they replied, "because the prophet wrote,`And you, Beit-Lechem in the land of Y'hudah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Y'hudah; for from you will come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Isra'el.'"
Messiah to perform testifying miracles
Isaiah 53:3-4 People despised and avoided him, a man of pains, well acquainted with illness. Like someone from whom people turn their faces, he was despised; we did not value him. In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God. Matthew 8:16-17 When evening came, many people held in the power of demons were brought to him. He expelled the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill. This was done to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Yesha`yahu, "He himself took our weaknesses and bore our diseases"
Messiah to be rejected by many and die a violent death
Isaiah 53:7-9 Though mistreated, he was submissive - he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to be slaughtered, like a sheep silent before its shearers, he did not open his mouth. After forcible arrest and sentencing, he was taken away; and none of his generation protested his being cut off from the land of the living for the crimes of my people, who deserved the punishment themselves. He was given a grave among the wicked; in his death he was with a rich man. Although he had done no violence and had said nothing deceptive, Matthew 27 Early in the morning, all the head cohanim and elders met to plan how to bring about Yeshua's death. Then they put him in chains, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Y'hudah, who had betrayed him, saw that Yeshua had been condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the head cohanim and elders, saying, "I sinned in betraying an innocent man to death." "What is that to us?" they answered. "That's your problem." Hurling the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, he left; then he went off and hanged himself. The head cohanim took the silver coins and said, "It is prohibited to put this into the Temple treasury, because it is blood money." So they decided to use it to buy the potter's field as a cemetery for foreigners. This is how it came to be called the Field of Blood, a name it still bears. Then what Yirmeyahu the prophet spoke was fulfilled, "And they took the thirty silver coins, which was the price the people of Isra'el had agreed to pay for him, and used them to buy the potter's field, just as the Lord directed me." Meanwhile, Yeshua was brought before the governor, and the governor put this question to him: "Are you the King of the Jews?" Yeshua answered, "The words are yours." But when he was accused by the head cohanim and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Don't you hear all these charges they are making against you?" But to the governor's great amazement, he did not say a single word in reply to the accusations. It was the governor's custom during a festival to set free one prisoner, whom ever the crowd asked for. There was at that time a notorious prisoner being held, named Yeshua Bar-Abba. So when a crowd had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to set free for you? Bar-Abba? or Yeshua, called `the Messiah'?" For he understood that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting in court, his wife sent him a message, "Leave that innocent man alone. Today in a dream I suffered terribly because of him." But the head cohanim persuaded the crowd to ask for Bar-Abba's release and to have Yeshua executed on the stake. "Which of the two do you want me to set free for you?" asked the governor. "Bar-Abba!" they answered. Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Yeshua, called `the Messiah'?" They all said, "Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!" When he asked, "Why? What crime has he committed?" they shouted all the louder, "Put him to death on the stake!" When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, "My hands are clean of this man's blood; it's your responsibility." All the people answered, "His blood is on us and on our children!" Then he released to them Bar-Abba; but Yeshua, after having him whipped, he handed over to be executed on a stake. The governor's soldiers took Yeshua into the headquarters building, and the whole battalion gathered around him. They stripped off his clothes and put on him a scarlet robe, wove thorn-branches into a crown and put it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand. Then they kneeled down in front of him and made fun of him: "Hail to the King of the Jews!" They spit on him and used the stick to beat him about the head. 31 When they had finished ridiculing him, they took off the robe, put his own clothes back on him and led him away to be nailed to the execution-stake. 32 As they were leaving, they met a man from Cyrene named Shim`on; and they forced him to carry Yeshua's execution-stake. 33 When they arrived at a place called Gulgolta (which means "place of a skull"), 34 they gave him wine mixed with bitter gall to drink; but after tasting it, he would not drink it. 35 After they had nailed him to the stake, they divided his clothes among them by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat down to keep watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written notice stating the charge against him, THIS IS YESHUA THE KING OF THE JEWS 38 Then two robbers were placed on execution-stakes with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 People passing by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "So you can destroy the Temple, can you, and rebuild it in three days? Save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the stake!" 41 Likewise, the head cohanim jeered at him, along with the Torah-teachers and elders, 42 "He saved others, but he can't save himself!" "So he's King of Isra'el, is he? Let him come down now from the stake! Then we'll believe him!" 43 "He trusted God? So, let him rescue him if he wants him!s After all, he did say, `I'm the Son of God'!" 44 Even the robbers nailed up with him insulted him in the same way. 45 From noon until three o'clock in the afternoon, all the Land was covered with darkness. 46 At about three, Yeshua uttered a loud cry, "Eli! Eli! L'mah sh'vaktani? (My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?)" 47 On hearing this, some of the bystanders said, "He's calling for Eliyahu." 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, soaked it in vinegar, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink. 49 The rest said, "Wait! Let's see if Eliyahu comes and rescues him." 50 But Yeshua, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. 51 At that moment the parokhet in the Temple was ripped in two from top to bottom; and there was an earthquake, with rocks splitting apart. 52 Also the graves were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life; 53 and after Yeshua rose, they came out of the graves and went into the holy city, where many people saw them. 54 When the Roman officer and those with him who were keeping watch over Yeshua saw the earthquake and what was happening, they were awestruck and said, "He really was a son of God." 55 There were many women there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Yeshua from the Galil, helping him. 56 Among them were Miryam from Magdala, Miryam the mother of Ya`akov and Yosef, and the mother of Zavdai's sons. 57 Towards evening, there came a wealthy man from Ramatayim named Yosef, who was himself a talmid of Yeshua. 58 He approached Pilate and asked for Yeshua's body, and Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 Yosef took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, 60 and laid it in his own tomb, which he had recently had cut out of the rock. After rolling a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb, he went away. 61 Miryam of Magdala and the other Miryam stayed there, sitting opposite the grave. 62 Next day, after the preparation, the head cohanim and the P'rushim went together to Pilate 63 and said, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was still alive, `After three days I will be raised.' 64 Therefore, order that the grave be made secure till the third day; otherwise the talmidim may come, steal him away and say to the people, `He was raised from the dead'; and the last deception will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You may have your guard. Go and make the grave as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the grave secure by sealing the stone and putting the guard on watch.
Messiah to die before the destruction of the second Temple in 20 C.E.
Daniel 9:24-27 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and for your holy city for putting an end to the transgression, for making an end of sin, for forgiving iniquity, for bringing in everlasting justice, for setting the seal on vision and prophet, and for anointing the Especially Holy Place. Know, therefore, and discern that seven weeks [of years] will elapse between the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Yerushalayim until an anointed prince comes. It will remain built for sixty-two weeks [of years], with open spaces and moats; but these will be troubled times. Then, after the sixty-two weeks, Mashiach will be cut off and have nothing. The people of a prince yet to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary, but his end will come with a flood, and desolations are decreed until the war is over. He will make a strong covenant with leaders for one week [of years]. For half of the week he will put a stop to the sacrifice and the grain offering. On the wing of detestable things the desolator will come and continue until the already decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator." Matthew 24:1-2 As Yeshua left the Temple and was going away, his talmidim came and called his attention to its buildings. But he answered them, "You see all these? Yes! I tell you, they will be totally destroyed -- not a single stone will be left standing!"
Messiah to be resurrected from the dead
Psalm 16:10 for you will not abandon me to Sh'ol, you will not let your faithful one see the Abyss. Matthew 28 After Shabbat, as the next day was dawning, Miryam of Magdala and the other Miryam went to see the grave. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of ADONAI came down from heaven, rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were so terrified at him that they trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Don't be afraid. I know you are looking for Yeshua, who was executed on the stake. He is not here, because he has been raised -- just as he said! Come and look at the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell the talmidim, `He has been raised from the dead, and now he is going to the Galil ahead of you. You will see him there.' Now I have told you." So they left the tomb quickly, frightened yet filled with joy; and they ran to give the news to his talmidim. Suddenly Yeshua met them and said, "Shalom!" They came up and took hold of his feet as they fell down in front of him. Then Yeshua said to them, "Don't be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to go to the Galil, and they will see me there." As they were going, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the head cohanim everything that had happened. Then they met with the elders; and after discussing the matter, they gave the soldiers a sizeable sum of money and said to them, "Tell people, `His talmidim came during the night and stole his body while we were sleeping.' If the governor hears of it, we will put things right with him and keep you from getting in trouble." The soldiers took the money and did as they were told, and this story has been spread about by Judeans till this very day. So the eleven talmidim went to the hill in the Galil where Yeshua had told them to go. When they saw him, they prostrated themselves before him; but some hesitated. Yeshua came and talked with them. He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age."
Messiah to set up His earthly Kingdom in the latter days
Isaiah 11 But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots. The Spirit of ADONAI will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fearing ADONAI he will be inspired by fearing ADONAI. He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear, but he will judge the impoverished justly; he will decide fairly for the humble of the land. He will strike the land with a rod from his mouth and slay the wicked with a breath from his lips. Justice will be the belt around his waist, faithfulness the sash around his hips. The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard lie down with the kid; calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them. Cow and bear will feed together, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. An infant will play on a cobra's hole, a toddler put his hand in a viper's nest. They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of ADONAI as water covering the sea. On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious. On that day Adonai will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people who remain from Ashur, Egypt, Patros, Ethiopia, 'Eilam, Shin'ar, Hamat and the islands in the sea. He will hoist a banner for the Goyim, assemble the dispersed of Isra'el, and gather the scattered of Y'hudah from the four corners of the earth. Efrayim's jealousy will cease - those who harass Y'hudah will be cut off, Efrayim will stop envying Y'hudah, and Y'hudah will stop provoking Efrayim. They will swoop down on the flank of the P'lishtim to the west. Together they will pillage the people to the east - they will put out their hand over Edom and Mo'av, and the people of 'Amon will obey them. ADONAI will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian Sea. He will shake his hand over the [Euphrates] River to bring a scorching wind, dividing it into seven streams and enabling people to cross dryshod. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who are still left from Ashur, just as there was for Isra'el when he came out from the land of Egypt. Acts 1:6-8 When they were together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra'el?" He answered, "You don't need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under his own authority. But you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; you will be my witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all Y'hudah and Shomron, indeed to the ends of the earth!"