Christmas Devotional

The Jewishness of Jesus

The Jewishness of Jesus

Tuesday Dec. 31

Scripture: Luke 2:39-40

Mary and Joseph have brought baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The temple is the center of all Jewish life.  After having done what the law required, Luke says, they returned to their hometown of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. They take Jesus home to raise him as a faithful Jew. This is part of the Christmas story that most of us have long overlooked.

We tend to make Jesus in our own image. For Protestant Christians in the south, for example, Jesus looks and sounds like one of us. Or so we have assumed. We customize Jesus, and we neglect the parts we don’t like or don’t understand. This means that we under-emphasize (or ignore) the Jewishness of Jesus.

It’s nothing new. Even though we probably don’t do this on purpose, it has consequences.

In chapter 4 of From Heaven to Earth we discuss Jesus’ Jewishness and the repercussions of our ignorance of this essential part of his identity. Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, rose, and ascended a Galilean Jew. He never shed or disavowed his Jewishness.

While it didn’t take long for the Christian movement to begin to evangelize gentiles (non-Jews), the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews. They understood their confession of faith in Jesus as a way of being faithful Jews.

This discussion is relevant and overdue for a myriad of reasons. But it is particularly urgent as 2019 fades into 2020, because the past few years have seen a dramatic rise in antisemitic speech and in violent acts aimed at Jews. Two of these attacks have made national news during this final month of the calendar year.

It is also important to study the Judaism of Jesus’ day because it enlarges our picture of Jesus. When we look at Jesus we see the Word of God made flesh in the rabbi from Nazareth, not simply a reflection of ourselves.

Prayer: Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for attempting to make you in our image. Guide us as we seek to learn more about you. And may studying about you be for us a lifelong journey in which we never rest content, as if we have arrived. Instead, help us continually to hunger and thirst for you. Amen.

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