For the week of April 19, 2008 / 14 Nissan 5768
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24 (English: 3:4 - 4:6)
Strange, but True
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Vayikra / Leviticus 17:11; ESV)
On March 28, 2008, the World Evangelical Alliance released "The Gospel and the Jewish People - An Evangelical Statement" in which they clarified their interpretation of the evangelical understanding of the Bible and the Jewish People. According to the WEA, "…it is only through Jesus that all people can receive eternal life. If Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, He cannot be the Savior of the World (Acts 4:12)."
I was not surprised when almost immediately following the release of this statement I saw on the web two strong critiques by Jewish (non-Messianic) leaders. Both focus on how Judaism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. I have to admit that the way Judaism and Christianity have developed over the centuries makes this true. But that the biblical connections between what became known as Judaism and Christianity are so intimately entwined, makes that truth a great tragedy.
The whole foundation upon which Christianity stands is Jewish. Every theological concept in the New Testament is rooted in the Tenach (Old Testament). I can't say the same for every interpretation of New Testament concepts. Christians at times have made incorrect deductions due to a lack of respect for the Tenach as well as introducing certain cultural elements that have confused and eclipsed biblical truth, thus making Christianity foreign to the Jewish people.
At the same time the Jewish community's rejection of the messiahship of Yeshua (Jesus) and his followers, plus a reaction to unbiblical variations of Christianity and anti-Semitism, have contributed to the development of a Judaism that not only finds Yeshua and faith in him distasteful, but has also removed from the Jewish psyche elements in the Tenach that connect with true biblical Christianity.
One of those elements is the use of blood as a means of guilt removal. Blood in the Torah was the key element for the spiritual maintenance of Jewish society. I would expect that most people, including Jewish people, would find this concept irrelevant or repulsive. Killing an animal and sprinkling its blood on an alter is foreign to most of us. But to remove this concept from the Jewish Bible doesn't leave us with much - at least not much with regard to how we can live in right relationship with God.
I know for many Jewish people, Judaism, including the Scriptures, is all about staying true to the traditions, living a good life, raising a decent family, and supporting certain causes. In themselves, these are well and good, but are they really what makes up the core of the Jewish religion? It may be the core of Judaism as we know it, but is it the actual core of the religion God gave us?
The use of blood for the removal of guilt was central to the life of ancient Israel, but ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., it has been absent. Interestingly the Temple was destroyed soon after the Messiah came. Its destruction was not simply a step in the development of Judaism. Rather it had become obsolete, since the Messiah had fulfilled its purpose.
It is understandable that the idea that the Messiah would accomplish what the Temple foreshadowed is a strange one to most Jewish people. But why is it strange? Is it because it has no place in the Jewish religion as God intended it, or because both Judaism and Christianity have not properly understood it?
According to Moses God provided blood as his means to remove our guilt. The constant sacrificing of animals was designed to fix that concept in our hearts and minds in order to prepare us for the Messiah's perfect sacrifice. Strange as it may seem, it's true!
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