Is John 1 Talking About a Person or an Idea?

In the Gospel of John, we are told that the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1-2). We are also told that the Word became a human being and lived with us (John 1:14.) This same “Word” was with God from the beginning and all things were made through him; in fact, nothing had any being without him.

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Spoiler alert!! Today’s message may be hard to understand so please try to stay with me.

The traditional understanding of this is that it is all about the Messiah, whose name is Yeshua (please don’t argue over the “real” name of the Messiah- it is not relevant to this discussion) and who was sent by God to bring the path to salvation to the world.

I don’t disagree with this at all; in fact, the entire Gospel of John tells us about the Messiah God sent, his life and his teachings.

What I want to talk about is the confusion over whether or not Yeshua was with God since the beginning. Because the entire Gospel of John is one long, on-going use of metaphor, I wonder if he was really referring to Yeshua the person or to the plan of God regarding a Messiah to come.

Here is what I am thinking: God knew his plan of salvation would involve a Messiah from the very start. He told Abraham this, in not so many words, when he said his descendants would be a blessing to the world. He told David, absolutely, that one of his descendants would have an everlasting kingdom. There are some 135 or more Messianic passages in the Tanakh, and everything we read in the Tanakh points to the coming of a Messiah to bring the Jewish people back into communion with God, who promises (through the Prophets) to regather his people, change our hearts and forgive us our sins.

Everything in the Tanakh is about the Messiah and God’s promise to “save” us from our sins.  The New Covenant (B’rit Chadashah) is the narrative about the Messiah who God promised to send. We are given the narrative of his life in the 4 Gospels, and the rest is about the influence his Disciples had in the world. The main thing about the writings in the New Covenant is that the salvation provided for by the Messiah has been expanded to the rest of the world, i.e. the Gentiles.

I do not know if Yeshua was a spiritual being from the beginning, which would then (by definition) equate him with God, or if his future existence was just part of the original plan God had for saving the human race from our own sinfulness.  If we take what John wrote, literally, then the Messiah either is God, or God is not unique, which he couldn’t be if another spiritual being was with him all the time.

I believe God has no beginning and no end, as he is described to us in the Torah, and that the Messiah had to have come later. As a person, the Messiah did not come until when we are told, in the New Covenant. As an idea, though, I believe the Messiah existed- in God’s mind- since the very first time God decided he would create the world and humans.

Therefore, what I believe John meant when he said the Word was with God and all things were made through him, is that God’s plan for humanity has always included the need for a Messiah, and as such everything that was created was done so with the Messiah in mind. Not the person of a Messiah, but the need of a Messiah, and when God knew the time for this Messiah to stop being a promise and become a living, flesh-and-blood entity, he created him through a virgin, in accordance with the prophecy he gave us through Isaiah.

This may seem somewhat radical to many, and I guess it is. I don’t believe Messiah is God, and I don’t believe he pre-existed himself. However, I don’t believe I am absolutely certain about that, either. Frankly, I don’t think it matters one iota if Yeshua pre-existed his human form or not.

We are not saved by belief in whether or not the Messiah had some form of pre-existence, or whether or not he, God and the Holy Spirit are one and the same entity, but only through faith in him as the Messiah who was born in the flesh, who walked the earth, died on an execution stake and was resurrected. If you can keep your focus on that, the other things become less important.

I will end with this other radical thought: personally, I think when people have to know absolutely everything about God, the Messiah and every single thing in the Bible, it will not result in holiness or be useful to save others, but it will feed one’s pridefulness. Being full of knowledge that has no practical use in saving people is just a form of Gnosticism which doesn’t feed the soul, it only enlarges the ego.

Here’s what you can do: write a long list of everything you want to know the answer to, and when you are in the presence of God and the Messiah you can ask them for the answers. I guarantee you that when you are there, in their presence, you will fold up your list and throw it away because you will realize the answers are important at all anymore.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Messianics 101: Approaching Jews about Jesus

First rule: don’t use the name “Jesus”- use “Yeshua.” The name “Jesus” brings up too many unwelcome memories to Jews, such as “Christ killer”. I grew up being called that by all the Catholic school kids. In the past decade or so Catholicism has “lightened up” on us Jews, but there is too much history to make a Jew comfortable with the name Jesus. And there are still many modern-day Christians who push Replacement Theology, which is an insult to God as much as it is to Jews. Even after understanding the truth of who Jesus is, knowing the Jewish Messiah Yeshua for nearly 20 years now, I am still uncomfortable with “Jesus.” And don’t even start me on the word “Christ!”

Second Rule: don’t quote from the New Covenant writings. Jews don’t believe it is Scripture, they have been told that Jesus created a new religion (that hates Jews) and the New Covenant is what He wrote (not true, of course, but that doesn’t really even matter.) You need to be totally familiar with the Messianic passages in the Tanakh. You also need to know more about the Tanakh than the Jewish person you are talking to, or at least enough to impress them that you have some knowledge of, and respect for, Judaism. The fact is, if you don’t know the Old Covenant and the Messianic scriptures that define who Yeshua is and what He will do, then you shouldn’t minister to anyone because you aren’t fully prepared. Counting on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is fine and useful and biblically sound, but you still need to know enough to talk to a Jew like a Jew if you want to get through to a Jew. Nu?

Third Rule: Don’t tell, ask. Believe me, when you start to talk to a Jew about Yeshua, and you talk about Isaiah 53, and Jeremiah 31:31 and Joel, and Zachariah, and all the other 144 or so Messianic passages in the Tanakh (and you should know what “Tanakh” means) you can tell a Jewish person all there is and when you think you’ve sold them, they’ll simply say they don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah, “Because He isn’t, that’s all!”  That’s what they have been taught for centuries; in fact, for more than two 2 millenniums. The best way (take it from an old “sales” pro) to make someone accept what you say against what they have been told is not to tell them why something is so. You start out by making them doubt what they think is the truth as maybe not really being all that true. “And how”, you may ask, “do I do that?” The answer is: you don’t tell, you ask.  Instead of telling them all the reasons you know why Yeshua (remember: we don’t use the “j-word”) is the Messiah, ask them why they think Yeshua is not the Messiah. I can almost guarantee that 99.9% of the time, the answer will be, “Because He’s not, that’s why.” And they answer that way because that is what they have been told is the truth by parents, by their Zayda and Bubbe, by their Rabbi, by everyone they know who is Jewish. He just isn’t, that’s all there is to it. Once you get to that point, you can then ask these questions, in this order:

  1. Do you think that recognizing the Messiah when He comes, no matter who he is, is important? (if they say no, don’t waste any more time on this one)

  2. When you have to make an important decision, do you feel better doing it with good information or by just blindly guessing? (again, if they say guessing is fine, move on)

  3. (If you make it to this question, here’s what you say next) Well, then I’m confused: You say you want good information yet you have nothing but, “Just because.” You are choosing your eternal future on no information instead of listening to good information. (Don’t pause to let them speak but go right into the kicker)…If I told you there are hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and are still 100% Jewish, practicing Judaism exactly as you do, holy days, Shabbat, Torah, everything exactly as you have been brought up doing, would you be interested in hearing  just a little more about Messianic Judaism?

These are the essential three steps to ministering to Jews. If the answer to that last question is, “Yes”, then you have planted a seed. Now you have to let it grow, at it’s own pace. Now you can tell them more about the Tanakh passages and, since they doubt what they knew to be true (which is, essentially, you can’t believe in Jesus and still be Jewish) and are open to the real truth, you can take the Tanakh passage and relate it directly to the New Covenant passage. And remember, also (this is VERY important) to point out that the New Covenant is NOT a new religion, Yeshua never taught against the Torah or Judaism, and that the New Covenant is the eye-witness account about a Jew, written by Jews, of what happened to Jews. That is also the description of the Old Covenant, isn’t it? Eye-witness account written by Jews of what happened to Jews.

If you can master these questions, and deliver them with the compassionate understanding that for thousands of years Jewish people have been told believing in Jesus is being a traitor to your family and to God, then you have a good chance of helping Jews to find and know their own Messiah.

If you “bible-pound” Jewish people with threats of hell and eternal damnation and quote from the New Covenant, you might as well “kick against the goads” and not even waste your breath. Being a Jew I can tell you this: Jews will not be able to accept the truth about who and what Yeshua is until they can get past all that they have been told He isn’t.

Here is an absolute truth: people believe only half of what you tell them, but 100% of what they say. You need to get them to doubt what they believe before you have a chance of them listening to what you have to tell them.