LCJE Builtan—Devotion Reflection
I have just recently returned from attending the LCJE North America meeting in Atlanta.
I have just recently returned from attending the LCJE North America meeting in Atlanta. Once again I found this meeting to be very encouraging and informative. Encouraging primarily by the fact that one meets with so many other Christians, who are committed to active participation in sharing the Gospel with Jewish people, and informative primarily by the fact that there is so much good teaching and sharing of good mission practice; mission practice which deals specifically with how best one can share the Gospel faithfully with Jewish people and within Jewish contexts.
It will not therefore surprise anyone at the LCJE to know that Jesus is Jewish, but this truth is still a somewhat shocking surprise to many. In teaching about the Jewish identity of Jesus I often begin by reading the segment in Luke’s Gospel (Ch 2 verses 21-40) where Jesus is taken to the Temple to be circumcised. Let me share a few brief reflections on this:
Firstly, here in 2v21 Jesus is given a key mark of Jewish identity. At his circumcision (brit-milah) Jesus would have shed his blood. This ‘shedding of blood’ takes place on three separate occasions during the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels. The first time is here at his circumcision. This act marks and celebrates the covenantal identity Jesus shares with the Jewish People. The second time is during his ordeal as he prepared for his arrest and crucifixion. This second shedding marked his humanity. The third and final time is upon the cross when Jesus offered his sinless life as an atoning sacrifice for sin. This declares the reconciling love of God and points to the divinity of Jesus. It is my conviction that these three identity markers: namely his Jewish identity, his humanity and his divinity are all vital in teaching about Jesus, and in any full presentation of the Gospel message.
Secondly, here in this segment Luke presents Jesus in the context of the Temple. The Temple features often within the outworking of events within the ministry of Jesus. The relationship between Jesus and the Temple is a key ongoing relationship in the life of the early Church and its encounters with emerging non- Messianic Rabbinical Judaism. If one wants to explore this relationship further I strongly recommend the excellent study book by Oskar Skarsaune-“In The Shadow of the Temple- Jewish influences on Early Christianity” (IVP Academic, 2002).
Thirdly, here in this segment Luke introduces the ministry of Anna. Luke tells us that she never left the Temple (2v37) and she was fully involved with a life of fasting and prayer. Anna’s faith and spirituality has strong connections back to Hannah in 1 Samuel 2. Anna praises God for the birth of Jesus, just as Hannah praised God for the birth of Samuel. Also there is a powerful continuity being displayed here, pointing back to the prophetic ministries of key women such as Miriam (Exodus 15) and Deborah (Judges 4) and forward into the life of the early Church with the prophetic ministry of the daughters of Philip (Acts 21).
In the light of this, I think we need to consider carefully both how God guides us today and how we can best share the Gospel. In terms of God’s guidance primarily we understand God guides through the teaching of the Bible. I understand that God will never lead contrary to his revealed word. In addition to Biblical instructions God guides through prayer and fasting (as modelled by Anna), through the words of prophets and prophetesses, by the advice and inspiration of Church leaders and other key people, through dreams and visions, via angelic encounters and inner convictions (shaped and inspired by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit), by signs, circumstances, common sense and experience.
In terms of sharing the Gospel we see the need to be Biblically astute, united and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Regarding the core content of the Gospel we must uphold and glorify Jesus, Jesus the Jew, Jesus fully human and Jesus fully divine. May we all be encouraged by the way God guides us and by our sharing of the Gospel in the days ahead.
Rev Alex Jacob - The Church’s Ministry among Jewish People