I have heard this said more times than I can count. It is based not in fact, of course, but in bias, and in ignorance, and in fear.
Fear? What are they afraid of? Well, simply put, Jewish people are afraid of being traitors to God. After all, they’ve been told their whole life that if they believe in Jesus they can’t be Jewish.
People are usually afraid of what they don’t understand, right? So, let’s take a look at that statement to see if we can understand it.
We’ll start by taking out the “religious” aspects. When we remove “Jewish” and “Jesus”, and restate it in a logical format, it becomes a relationship: If A, then Not B
One test of the logic of a relationship is to see if the converse is true, i.e., if not B, then A? That leaves us with: Not believing Yeshua is the Messiah means you must be Jewish.
I don’t think that works, do you? After all, Zen Buddhists (nothing against Zen Buddhists here, I’m am just using them as an example) don’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah, but they’re not Jewish. Hindi’s don’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah, and they’re not Jewish. Communists don’t even believe in God, for Pete’s sake, and they’re not Jewish (although in the 50’s, Senator McCarthy thought all Jews were Communists, but that’s a different story. Besides, he thought everyone was a Communist.)
So it’s a statement that works only in one direction, meaning the converse is not true.
Now let’s look at this from a different angle. If believing Yeshua is the Messiah is an absolute disqualifier for being Jewish, to have a disqualifier you must have a qualifier. In other words, to identify what is not Jewish you have to know what is Jewish.
That is a question I don’t think anyone has ever answered to everyone’s satisfaction. What is a Jew? I once read that a famous Rabbi (sorry- forgot who) said that anyone who believes in God is Jewish. That seems to be too easy, and I am sure makes many Replacement Theologists shudder in fear. It also weakens the legitimacy of the topic statement, doesn’t it? If you really don’t know what makes one Jewish, how can you declare there is something that absolutely prevents you from being Jewish?
For the purpose of this commentary, would you agree with this definition: anyone who does what Jews do is Jewish? Is that good? It kinda makes sense, is a simple enough concept, and seems to be a universal qualifier, doesn’t it?
The next thing is to figure out what Jews do.
1. Jews believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Messianic Jews believe that, too.
2. Jews observe the laws and commandments in the Torah.
Messianic Jews do that, too (actually, no one does that or ever has except Yeshua, so let’s just say Messianic Jews try to do that, just as Jews try)
3. Jews celebrate the Festivals of the Lord, as defined in Leviticus 23.
Messianic Jews do that, too.
4. Jews believe in the existence of a Messiah promised by God to bring us back to Him.
Messianic Jews believe that, too. Nearly a quarter of a Million Jews, at that time in history, believed it was Yeshua. And that’s about the same number of Messianic Jews, today.
Remember, there was no “Church” in the first Century- there were two kinds of people: Jews and Pagans. That’s it.
Then Yeshua showed up, and there were three types of people: Those who believed Yeshua was the Messiah (made up of Jews and Gentiles), Jews who didn’t believe He was the Messiah, and Pagans (who, frankly, didn’t care either way because they had plenty of their own gods.)
But the Jews who believed were still considered Jews. And the Gentiles….now here’s the kicker….were becoming Jews! That’s right! The Gentiles were becoming Jews because following Yeshua meant to live like Jews did.
Yeshua was a Jew- no one argues that. The Christians try to make us believe He lived as a Jew but was resurrected a Christian! Not so. He did all those Jewish things, and taught others how to do them the way God wanted them done. Messianic Jews do all those Jewish things, and don’t forget that all those Jews in the First Century who believed He was the Messiah were all considered Jewish. So, if I do all these Jewish things and believe this Jewish man, who did and taught people how to do all these Jewish things, is the Messiah, why does that make me a Gentile?
I’ll tell you why. Because today, when a Jew wants to believe Yeshua is the Messiah, Christianity says they have to become Christian. The Jews say you can’t be Jewish if you believe in Him, and the Christians say if you believe in Him you shouldn’t still do Jewish things. We finally got the Jews and Gentiles to agree on something about Jesus, but it’s the absolutely wrong thing!! Oy!
Did you know one of the greatest Jewish Rabbis of all time, Rabbi Akiba , believed a Jew named Bar Kochba was the Messiah, and no one says he wasn’t Jewish. Some Ultra Orthodox Jews believe Menachem Schneerson is the Messiah, and no one says they aren’t Jewish. Every Jewish mother believes her son is the Messiah, and they’re Oh-so-Jewish!
The truth is that believing Yeshua is the Messiah doesn’t disqualify you from being a Jew. In fact, even not doing Jewish things doesn’t really disqualify you if you are born Jewish. Therefore, bloodlines notwithstanding, as long as you do all the Jewish things described above, you are a Jew whether or not you choose to accept that Yeshua is the Messiah.
In Messianic Judaism, both the Jews and the Gentiles live a Jewish lifestyle. Messianic Jews do what Jews do (most, anyways. In truth, many, many Jews don’t do what Jews should do, and no one says they’re not Jewish. Not until they accept Yeshua, of course.) In fact, for the last 17 or so years since I decided to accept that Yeshua is the Messiah and became a “Messianic Jew” I am more Jewish now than I ever was before.
Hey, if you are Jewish and you are curious to know the truth about this Yeshua guy, don’t be afraid. Christianity has turned that nice, Jewish boy into someone totally different than who He truly is, so don’t buy the “Can’t be Jewish if” thing. Ask, question, argue, learn, and then decide for yourself. After all, those are some of the most Jewish things we Jews do- we ask, we question, and (man-oh-man) do we ever argue.
So go ahead- be Jewish! Don’t be afraid, don’t be put off, don’t worry about losing your Judaism. Nu?… you just might find it.