I once heard a Jewish believer make this sobering statement: “Jews don’t need a Christian Christ. Christians need a Jewish Jesus.” Hmmm, I thought, he has a point.
Many Christians are shocked to learn that Jesus, the one they consider the founder of Christianity, was born a Jew, died a Jew, arose a Jew, is seated in Heaven a Jew and will return as a Jew on steroids – “the lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David” (Rev. 5:5). But their eyes really start to cross when they learn Jesus would have never thought himself a Christian. Or called himself one.
The term “Christian” did not come into existence until decades later when unbelievers in Antioch started calling his followers that name (Acts 11:26). And as many historians believe, it was not a compliment. But a mockery.
But what’s truly rattling the stained-glass windows of Christendom these days is the discovery by more and more believers that Yeshua never started, much less converted to, the religion of Christianity. That he came, not to start a new religion, but to fulfill the types and shadows of the only religion God has ever given His people. Or ever will. Namely, the Mosaic Law. And Yeshua’s arrival signaled that even that divine religion had fulfilled its purpose. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal. 3:24,25).
Christianity did not begin to organize into a religion until almost a hundred years after Yeshua’s ascension. It reached full religious status under Constantine, who after severing the faith from its Jewish roots, made it the chief religion of the Roman Empire. And himself, as pontifex maximus, its chief priest. In the process, the simple gospel message that we could now come boldly into God’s presence through faith in Yeshua was nullified. It was replaced by a glitzy, full-blown, ecclesiastical approach to God through a robed priesthood unsanctioned by Scripture. A religion given theological support by a handful of influential writers, rightly called “the Fathers of the Church.”
These Church scribes, unlike the Jewish writers of the NT who grew up with the Scriptures, had little knowledge of, or interest in, God’s promises to Israel. Converted from pagan backgrounds, they preferred the “wisdom” of the Greek philosophers, especially Plato. And their leavened teachings soon pushed God’s ecclesia off the bedrock of Scripture onto the shifting sand of man’s thoughts.
And that’s where we’ve been ever since – even after the Reformation! In retrospect, have we been any less blind to the gospel than the Jews in thinking Yeshua gave us a new religion called Christianity to practice?
But today is a new day. And God’s Spirit beckons. “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him” (Hosea 6:1,2).