For the week of March 27, 2010 / 12 Nisan 5770
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24 (English: 3:4 - 4:6)
Only Judaism Explains Christianity
This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai. (Vayikra / Leviticus 7:37,38; ESV)
If you know anything about Christianity, you are aware that it makes much about the death of its central character. His was no typical martyr's death. He didn't die for a cause. The leaders of his day did him in to prevent an uprising of the common people. The Jewish people in the Land of Israel had a delicate relationship with the world power at that time. They enjoyed basic religious freedom as long as they didn't upset the political situation. While there were some among them who believed in armed rebellion, the majority looked to God alone to deliver them from foreign oppression, much like in the days of Moses. So for the leadership it was disconcerting to see how the young rabbi from Galilee was getting the masses stirred up with talk of the Kingdom of God and performing miracles. To seriously consider whether or not he truly was the Messiah was too much for their leaders to handle. Out of fear of what the Romans might do, they decided he had to be stopped. Upon his arrest and unjust execution, his followers were scattered and completely discouraged. It would not be until after Yeshua's resurrection and the outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh (English: Holy Spirit) that his followers would have the courage to fulfill the mission to which God had called them.
So it wasn't Yeshua's death that spurred his followers on. Yet they would come to understand that it was his death that made all the difference. Remember, it was not as if his death inspired them to action. Far from it. It actually profoundly discouraged them. His death also brought about no change of heart from his detractors. It would only be later that his followers came to understand that it was through his death that those who believe in him have forgiveness of sins.
Today, two thousand years later, the forgiveness of sins through the death of Yeshua continues to be the central message of Christianity. But what is the basis of such a concept? From where does such an idea come from? How could it be that the shedding of blood would make such a difference? To be able to answer that question, we need to see that this didn't happen out of nowhere. It is not as if God just did this unexpected thing, and then somehow expect people to understand that through Yeshua's death they could be forgiven.
Yeshua's death was a Jewish sacrifice. While sacrifice was common in the ancient world, Jewish sacrifice had been particularly prescribed by God to teach his people the reality of sin and forgiveness. Through the Jewish sacrificial system, God's people learned what was holy and what was not. They learned about the seriousness of righteousness and morality. They were taught about the sacredness of blood, the value of purity, and the importance of restitution. By the time Yeshua came, the people of Israel knew that God provided sacrifice as the means to cover sin and maintain their relationship with him. At the same time the many sacrifices reminded the people of their sin and their need for forgiveness.
When Yeshua rose from the dead, his followers began to understand the implications of his death. All that they had learned and anticipated due to the Jewish sacrificial system prepared them to proclaim forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations.
So today believers in Yeshua can return to Torah portions like this week's and plumb the depths of the significance of the Messiah's death on our behalf. Everything that has kept people from intimately knowing God: our sin, our guilt, our impurity, our immorality, our ignorance, our self-centeredness, our unfaithfulness - has all been resolved through the death of Yeshua.
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