Communion and Passover

I recently read a wonderful book by a Catholic scholar, Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Passover.  Not too long ago, I read a wonderful book by the late French Catholic scholar, Louis Bouyer, Eucharist. It is wonderful to see a developing interest in the original context for understanding the Bible. I will not emphasize Bouyer’s book in this post. I will write a bit about it. I should note that the term Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving, is very Jewish in rooting and comes from the blessing prayer, or thanksgiving prayer Yeshua prayed before the bread and the wine. “Blessed are you Lord our God” … is the Jewish thanksgiving formula. 

Boyer argues that the liturgy for the Communion service in the ancient Church was based on Jewish synagogue liturgy which itself was based on Temple liturgy. He presents a strong case that the most basic prayer, the Amidah or the Shemoneh Esreh (the 18 Benedictions) formed the basic prayer for the communion liturgy. Grace after meals and elements of the Passover liturgy were integrated into the liturgy as well. For post Temple Judaism, the Amidah prayer is prayed as a substitute for sacrifices with the hope that God will accept this prayer in lieu of bringing an actual sacrifice. Hence the prayer is repeated in the morning and evening as were the sacrifices. In the Christian version of the prayers, the worshipper does not offer the prayer as a substitute for the sacrifice, but as a liturgy to enter into the meaning of the sacrifice of Yeshua and to receive the life that flows from His death and resurrection. When we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy in the Amidah worship prayer, we enter into the experience of being in very Holy place of God (Eph. 2:5). This leads to taking the bread and the wine. 

Some of the elements of Pitre’s presentation are worth evaluating and probably worthy of our embrace as Messianic Jews. Pitre presents the case that Yeshua’s discourse in John 6 in a Passover context about eating His body and drinking His blood has Passover roots. There are several emphases the bread and the wine in this that some do not see in their celebration of communion. 

First of all, the Bread of the Presence (literally the Face) in the Temple, eaten by the priests is connected to eating the bread of the Lord’s supper. The Mishnah, the Jewish application of Law in early rabbinic Judaism going back to the Pharisees, presents the Bread of the Presence as a manifestation of God’s love. This bread is offered with sacrificial wine. In the three pilgrim feasts, the table with the bread is carried out and shown to the people in the words, “Behold, God’s love for you.” The bread and wine of the Last Supper is the bread and wine of His Presence as a sign of the New Covenant. 

Secondly, the feeding of the five thousand has overtones of the miracle of the manna in the wilderness, which was supernatural bread, the bread of angels. Those who asked afterward for Yeshua to do an actual miracle of manna from heaven are asking that He do an actual repeat of the miracle of manna. Why? This was expected in some Jewish traditions at that time as a miracle of the Messiah as the new Moses. However, Yeshua was offering Himself as the supernatural manna, and He is our supernatural bread in fulfillment of the manna expectations. 

Thirdly, Pitre argues that the lambs killed for Passover were impaled after their slaughter. The lambs looked like a crucifixion. The crucifixion of Yeshua as the Lamb of God would have presented an image of the lambs that would find association by first century Jews who experienced Passover every year due to the annual Passover pilgrimage festival. 

Fourthly, Pitre also argues that the seder celebrated the four cups of wine as in the Seder today. This is found in the Mishneh as well. Luke presents us with two cups. The one after the supper, Pitre argues, is the cup of redemption, the third. This is a common view in Messianic Judaism. He also presented a new argument for me.  That is that Yeshua said he would not drink of it again until he would enter into his Kingdom. There was no recording of Yeshua eating the Lamb or drinking the last cup. Yeshua was the Lamb and many have noted that Yeshua and his disciples did not eat the Passover lamb. Pitre also believes Yeshua ended the seder early before the last cup. He then notes that just before He died, He drank the wine offered to him on the sponge, and then gave his spirit up to the Father. Was that the fourth cup? I find this to be more speculative, but possible. 

Pitre is a proponent of the Catholic view that when the bread and wine is blessed and set apart by the priest (a necessary act for the transformation) it becomes the real body and blood of Yeshua. However, this is qualified because he argues that it is not the earthly body and blood but a partaking of his resurrected body and his actual life. This becomes, in my view, closer to the Lutheran view of the real presence. What is the actual body and blood really if it is not the earthly body and blood but resurrected and supernatural? I have argued that the Baptist view that the bread and wine are only part of a dramatic way of remembering and do not really convey the reality portrayed is wrong. Rather we participate in the symbol and receive the real life of Yeshua. Catholics, Anglicans, Moravians, Lutherans and Reformed all explain this in different ways, but say we really enter into and renew the reality of his death and resurrection in us as we partake. It should be the same for Messianic Jews.

I think this book by Pitre richly adds to our Messianic Jewish theology. 

The Orthodox Response to the Worship and Prayer at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount

A great culmination of the 21 day fasting and prayer for Israel’s salvation and world harvest took place on May 28 when 100-120 million joined in prayer.  The central event was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where 800 gathered including Lou Engle, Dr. William (Billy) Wilson, the President of Oral Roberts University, Messianic Jewish leaders and so many more. It was a great day. Before the event, a very negative article came out in the Jewish press vilifying this as a missionary event. My readers need to understand that the Orthodox Jewish leaders see all followers of Yeshua, who maintain the hope of Israel embracing Yeshua, as missionaries. The article was, of course, imbalanced, and foolish. Here is what I wrote to the IHOP leaders:  

I wanted to write something more since my response was so brief.

Over the years, I have noticed such articles, and some even say that Israel should not partner with Christian Zionists since they think Israel will believe in Yeshua at the end of this age!  Why should they be so upset that people believe this?  If the end of this age comes and Yeshua is revealed, then their arguments against his messiahship are defeated.  But until then, why not partner with Christian Zionists? Somehow all who believe in Romans 11:11-15 and Matthew 23:39 are suspect. Both texts teach that Israel will turn to Yeshua. But other, wiser Jews have argued that holding such a view of the final end is without practical effect, unless coupled with overt efforts of Jewish evangelism in this time before the end. They argue that believing in the final revelation of Yeshua should not cause a rejection of Christian Zionist support since such an eschatological vision does not mean that Jewish people will not be rightly treated. For liberal Jews such point will never come. For them, the answer to this article would be “so what.” For Orthodox Jews the Messiah will come, and it will not be Jesus. They could declare their conviction they look for as the time that the world will all accept the true Messiah, but not Jesus.  And should Christians not support Orthodox Jews and Israel since they believe this? This is all so very stupid. It is true that there is an issue with those who seek to follow the Bible and bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua. 

There are three types of Christians Zionists.

1.  The first group eschews Jewish evangelism and does not support Messianic Jews who are winning their  people. But they do believe that Israel/Jewry will ultimately confess Yeshua. (Romans 11:15, 25, 26)

2.  The second group does not engage in overt evangelistic efforts. This group might contain individuals who discretely share their faith with Jews.

3. The third group believes that Romans  11:15, “Israel’s full acceptance” implies a growing movement of Messianic Jews (Rom. 11:14-some of Israel) and therefore they strongly back Messianic Jewish works that seek to bring a witness for Yeshua to our people. This is a necessary prelude to all Israel being saved. 

All three of these groups can easily support the 100 million prayer for Israel’s salvation and protection from destruction.   When Mike Bickle speaks about salvation, he is not only speaking of embracing Yeshua, but of being protected from destruction which is a big emphasis right now in this difficult time.

Note as well the Roman Catholic Catechism paragraph 674 below!  This is the unifying idea for all.  It is amazingly so well stated. Is the author in the Jewish Press so ignorant that she does not know this? Probably she is that ignorant and is not aware of what all true Christians confess form all streams of the Church.   

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.

This is amazingly so well stated

Event Response 

Since writing the above, I attended the amazing gathering of 800 at the Temple Mount Southern Stairs.  A few hundred ultra Orthodox protestors sought to block our entrance to the Davidson Center entrance to the Southern Steps. They shouted “Missionaries go home.  We don’t want you here.” Many Messianic Jews attended the gathering at the steps and Israel is our home! They pushed and shoved. A few fell down or were hit. Then the police opened up the way into the entrance.  During our meeting they gathered below our site and chanted during the whole time, but they were at a distance. It did not disturb our gathering but actually gave all a sense of the spiritual warfare over Yeshua. We prayed blessing over them to overcome their cursing. 

Articles in the Jewish press were mixed in response. Some were more negative to the Ultra-Orthodox Protestors than to the gathered Christians. One Ultra-Orthodox Jew, Aryeh King, who is one of the Deputy Mayors of Jerusalem said the gathering was a desecration of a Jewish holy place which has nothing to do with Christianity. This is historically totally wrong since this is the area of the water immersion of the 3000 who came to faith on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot). It was place of the immersion into the Holy Spirit of thousands. The location has everything to do with Messianic Jews and Christians. What a foolish and ignorant response! We were all thankful for Mayor Lion who did not cancel the event and for the police who enabled us to enter. 

Losing the Presence and Power of the Spirit 

I have almost 60 years of observing the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For a time, I rejected the Pentecostal/charismatic orientation (June 1969 to Spring 1974), but then, through Bible study and experience, I fully embraced this orientation as biblical and essential. The evidence is dramatic. As Philip Jenkins documents in The Next Christendom, the progress of Christianity in the majority of the world is with amazing miracles and is Pentecostal/charismatic.  The leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance told me last spring that of 600 million people connected in denominations and streams through the WEA, 400 million are Pentecostal/charismatic.  They are not in name only but practice preaching a Gospel with signs following and gatherings where the gifts and power of God are the norm.  The amazing books by Heidi Baker on her work in Africa and the great scholar Craig Keener in his world survey of the miraculous (1000 pages), The Credibility of New Testament Miracles, gives irrefutable testimony of God’s ways in extending the Kingdom.  This is a key part of the Gospels teaching on the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

We see also the classic teaching on the importance of the power of the Spirit from famous leaders of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, A. B. Simpson (Christian and Missionary Alliance) A. J. Gordon of Gordon College fame, and V. Raymond Edmond, President and Chancellor of Wheaton College (1940-1967).  Edmund’s book They Found the Secret emphasized being baptized in the Spirit as a definite crucial experience for all believers. 

However, there is another phenomenon in the West and in Israel.  It is the decline of the reality of Holy Spirit power, signs and wonders and the practice of the charismata. In the early 1980s, in America while I was in the Washington area, I connected to a growing charismatic movement both in denominational churches and new apostolic stream churches.  Our own Messianic Jewish congregation was very much part of all this.  I was so optimistic.  I saw growing unity, people coming to faith, and frequently with a supernatural element.  Then it declined.  What happened?  One of the key charismatic pastoral leaders in Israel, a disciple of the renowned Derek Prince, noted a significant decline form the 1990s in Israel.   How did that happen?

My answer is that the presence and power of the Spirit needs to be always zealously pursued or there will be decline.  Fostering the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit is to be pursued as part of this.  If it is not done, it will decline.  Then, as with some mega churches in the United States, social psychological methods that attract will replace the Presence and Power.  For a season the replacement can look successful, but it is as with Rehoboam, there is a replacement of bronze shields for the gold, and the glory is in the gold. Human beings given what they are, with a tendency for laziness, fear, and offense, eventually are giving to a decline in the Presence and Power. Openness to the Spirit will sometimes produce manifestations that offend the mind but may be legitimate. There needs to be discernment. 

I have a name for this phenomenon.  It is the Spiritual Second Law of Thermodynamics.  The Second Law is known in science as the axiom that the energy of the universe as a whole is running down, dissipating, or going from useable energy to dissipated.  This used up energy is always increasing (the law of entropy increase).  This is why scientists agree that the universe is slowly moving towards energy death.  It will take eons, but this is where it is going.   The only answer is a new infusion of energy from outside the universe itself. Of course, science knows of no such source of new energy but is limited to knowledge in this universe.  It is the same in spiritual life.  We will tend to run down in spiritual power and energy unless we have new infusions of that energy by the Spirit of God.  

Those who are part of movements of congregations with great evangelistic gains tell us how they have maintained their spiritual energy.  Here are some pointers. 

  1. Fostering praying in tongues to build up our inner person is important. As I Cor. 14 says, the one who so prays edifies his spirit. 
  2. Regularly giving invitation for people to receive the gift of immersion in the Spirit. Many charismatic in name pastors do not have confidence to do this since they are in doubt.  They fear nothing will happen.  I recommend that it is Yeshua who does the work, and we need to pray for it regularly and trust him. 
  3. We need to teach people how to hear the voice of the Spirit and how to walk in a sense of His prophetic speaking and leading.  This is not just for prophets but for all (“the testimony of Yeshua is the Spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).  “You can all prophecy.” (I Cor. 14:31)).  We should train them to expect this to happen in our witness to those who are not followers of Yeshua. 
  4. We need to foster the practice of spiritual gifts in our congregations until we see that most do practice the word gifts of I Cor. 12 and 14.  In larger assemblies, people can be vetted by appointed elders before they are released to the public. The reason this is not done is that leaders fear that it will be messy, and they are uneasy about governing. As someone who has done this for over 40 years now and fosters this in our related congregations, I say to these leaders, get over this.  If you want spiritual power, you need to learn how to foster and govern. 
  5. We need to see the leaders and people regularly lay hands on others for blessing and for healing and not give up until we see it happening.  
  6. Of course, all of this depends on motivating our people into personal devotional life where they daily receive new renewal in the Spirit and learn to live their day in the Spirit. 

The great last scholar, Jon Mark Ruthven, argued that life in the prophetic and the power of the Spirit is part of the essence of the New Covenant. We also do pray for revival and trust that revival will lead us back to these emphases. 

A Most Momentous Month, May 2023

The most momentous day in history during my lifetime and maybe in centuries will take place on May 28, 2023. On this day, over 100 million people will be networked for fasting and prayer for the salvation of Israel. Here is a little history. 

In March 1983, Mike Bickle, the founding leader of the International House of Prayer, was given a prophecy that his calling was to raise up a prayer movement that would lead to 100 million intercessors praying for the salvation of Israel. At that point, he had hardly any sense of the importance of Israel/the Jewish people and their irrevocable election. However, he received this word and did have a prayer and fasting time in May 1983 with his local community.  

Now 40 years later, the 24/7 prayer movement has become very large. The point has been reached where over 100 million people are networked for a world prayer day for the salvation of Israel on May 28th. Over one million are embracing fasting and praying for 21 days to lead up to the great day of prayer at the end of May. Lou Engle will lead prayer at the Southern Steps of the Temple on that day. 

In addition, at the end of January, Jewish ministry leaders and Church leaders, some with significant roles in world leadership, came together to discuss the past and future of the Messianic Jewish communities. They committed together to pray and fast on May 28th for the outpouring of the Spirit and greatly needed revival in the Messianic Jewish communities.  

I believe we are moving into the most momentous of days. I expect we will see a revival in the Messianic Jewish communities. I believe we will also see an alignment of the Church with Israel and the Messianic Jewish community. Toward Jerusalem Council II has been working toward that alignment for 28 years. Our ministry, Restoration from Zion of Tikkun Global has been working for this in parallel to Toward Jerusalem Council II. Tikkun Global itself is our family of ministries that is committed to an alignment that someday will lead to the salvation of Israel. We are all in on the prayer movement from IHOP and have been in partnership for 33 years. If you want to link to IHOP during May for encouragement for your fasting and prayer, please sign in to their streaming service for this purpose. Revival in the Messianic Jewish community will be a game changer. It will establish a more biblical theology of Holy Spirit power and successful advance for the Gospel. Let us pray and believe for great things. 

Congregational and Leadership Government and Accountability

The teaching course on government and accountability in congregations is called polity. To graduate and be ordained in the association I joined (Presbyterian, 1972), I had to take a course in polity. My first congregation, The First Hebrew Christian Church in Chicago, eventually became one of the first four Messianic Jewish congregations that continued into the future in North America. The name was changed to Adat HaTikvah. However, in the days before that, I sought to come to an understanding of biblical polity. What did I come to believe? Here is a little instrument to help people deal with the question. The survey is a yes or no survey. I note that there are some people who would agree with the statements listed. This will help you to think out where you stand in the light of the Bible’s teaching. 

  1. I believe that local congregations should be run by a senior pastor who should make all the final decisions, and all members should submit to him. He may have advisory elders, but the decisions are his to make. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  2. I believe congregations should be primarily governed and run by a plurality of elders without any designated lead elder or pastor. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  3. I believe that though the final authority in a congregation is in the plurality of elders, there should be a lead elder or pastor-teacher that gives leadership and casts the primary vision for the congregation. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  4. I believe that the final authority in a congregation should be by the vote of the members. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  5. I believe that congregation members, though not the final authority, are part of the decision-making process and should confirm major directional decisions and the budget from the elders before the elders can move forward. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  6. I believe congregations should be fully independent. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  7. I believe that congregations and their leaders should be linked in associations and mutually accountable. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  8. I believe that the right model of congregational government and leadership is not independence or under the commandment of an association leader, but semi-autonomous where the decisions are primarily the responsibility of the local elders but where an issue of moral failure or in other crises, the leaders of the association will be involved to help resolve such matters. ( ) Yes ( ) No 
  9. I believe that God raises the leader of an association and all should submit to him as the decision-maker for the association and for all the congregations in the areas where he chooses to make decisions and policy. Other matters are left to the local leaders. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  10. I believe that congregations and leaders are organized better when they are members of associations where equipping leaders can travel to strengthen congregations through their equipping ability. Equipping also takes place in joint gatherings. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  11. I believe that it is important to define government in written documents locally and also in writing for associations so that there are checks and can balances so all are protected from imbalance. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  12. I believe that it is best to not define government in writing, either locally or in associations, since we should just trust one another and be led by the Spirit. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  13. Associations of congregations are stronger and more fruitful if they are led by a visionary and capable leader. ( ) Yes ( ) No  

Are we moving to an amazing replay of first century Israel history?

It is commonly taught that we are seeing a lineup of nations against Israel, a setup that seems like a replay of the first century but with one amazing difference.  Instead of Jerusalem’s destruction, the last days’ final war against Jerusalem will lead to Israel’s full victory with the return of Yeshua.  Zechariah 12 and 14 make this very clear.

One aspect for those who do not live in Israel might seem quite amazing.  It is that the divisions in Israel seem in some ways quite analogous to the first century.  We have Jewish secularists who still desire to be Israeli Jews but are like those who were very Hellenized in the first century.  They like the Sadducees do not believe in angels, demons, or the inspiration of the prophets.  The Ultra-Orthodox are like the strict Shammai Pharisees who believed that living strictly in accord with myriads of multiplied laws would make us so holy that the Messiah would come and bring us victory.  We also have the Zealots of our day who want to take the whole Land now and push the Arabs out of the Land.  Recently, in response to a terrorist attack, some of these modern Zealots have rioted against the nearby Palestinian village, burning cars and houses and shooting at civilian innocents.  These folks and their leaders are not democratic libertarians. The Prime Minister spoke out against this anarchy, but two of the party leaders in his coalition support the reactive violence and are frustrated at him.  Yeshua warned that the Zealots would gain ascendancy and Jerusalem would be destroyed.  As in the first century, there are also religious Jews of a more open and tolerant stream like the Hillel Pharisees of old.  Will the nations unjustly invade, maybe in some kind of U. N. action in response to zealot policies?  Maybe. Or will it be a Muslim invasion of the surrounding nations supported by the rest of the nations (writers W. Shobat and J. Richardson)?  We don’t know.

However, as in the first century, there is a growing Messianic Jewish community.  In the first century, the destruction of Jerusalem did not lead to repentance and the embrace of Yeshua, though the prophecies He gave were clear and fulfilled.  However, this time, the witness of the Messianic Jews with the whole Body of Believers will lead to the embrace of Yeshua before Jerusalem is destroyed.  He will return to rule and reign forever.

In Memory of Dr. Jack Hayford

Many are writing about Dr. Jack Hayford.  It is remarkable how many leaders see him as a personal friend.  Many are writing about him and their connection.  I have such a story as well.

My connection with Jack began indirectly in the Spring of 1995 when Rabbi Marty Waldman received the vision for a second Jerusalem Council and the project he first called Jerusalem Council II.  It later became Toward Jerusalem Council II.   Marty shared this vision with the three other Executives of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations of which I was one.  Marty was the President.  We confirmed the vision.  Marty said that God spoke to him to fly to Israel where Jack was doing a seminar for Pastors.  If Jack confirmed this, then he was to work to bring it about. We confirmed Marty going and the Union put up money for the trip.  Jack enthusiastically embraced the vision. He said we could use his name, his stationary, and more to foster this vision.  He eventually became the President of the International Church of the Four Square Gospel.  Their executive eventually signed the Seven Affirmations of TJCII.

I first met Jack in person at a Promise Keepers planning meeting after Coach Bill McCartney became convinced to include Messianic Jewish leaders. Jack was warm and welcoming to us.  Subsequently, Coach and Raleigh Washington sponsored a great conference of thousands in Palm Springs, The Road to Jerusalem.  I was a speaker as was Jonathan Bernis, other Messianic Jews, and Jack Hayford.  It was a great conference where I gave the message that is to this day my most listened to, Messianic Jewish Theology in 15 Minutes.  Jack enthusiastically endorsed this message.

Jack sent a wonderful video greeting for my 40th anniversary of ministry in May of 2012 at the Tikkun national conference.

The real lasting fruit came when Jonathan Bernis and met with Jack and the leaders of the newly formed The King’s College and Seminary (now The King’s University.)  We approached him to consider having a Messianic Jewish joint program with our school, Messianic Jewish Bible Institute.  Jack was enthusiastic.  We even interviewed key faculty to vet their understanding of the continued Jewish calling of Messianic Jews.  I became a visiting professor and taught at the Van Nuys campus annually, Messianic Jewish Theology, Apologetics, New Testament, and Eschatology.  Most years Jack and I would have dinner together.  The school was at the Church On The Way campus.  Before the real estate meltdown in 2007-8 Jack gave me a tour of the hospital he was planning to buy for the school.  It would have dorms, classrooms, offices, and more.  Alas, the meltdown ended those plans. Jack’s vision of the school as a school that was flexible in the way of offering courses, academically solid, and which would empower in the Spirit. Jack eventually transferred the school to Gateway Church under Robert Morris.  The King’s University thrives and the Jewish program continues under the able leadership of Dr. David Rudolph.  And yes, I am still a visiting professor.

One year I was so very privileged.  Jack sponsored an annual leadership conference at the Church on the Way.  Amazingly I was invited to present two keynote addresses to over 1000 leaders. One was, What Kind of Church Must there Be to Make Israel Jealous and to see the Return of Jesus?  The second was, What kind of Messianic Jewish Movement Must There Be to see the return of Jesus? Jack graciously embraced these messages and endorsed them at the meeting.

When Jack spoke, he said that he never sought to build a mega-church but a faithful church. And so it was, and it became mega.  Jack had a deep integrity, humility and how we need more like him!  As Jack was aging, he recommended Pastor Jerry Dirman to carry on his work in the Four Square for the Jewish connection.  He was again preparing the way.

In 1986, 1,100 gathered at the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia at the Sheridan Hotel.  The Friday Erev Shabbat service began with Israel’s Hope leading the worship.  There was a processional of Torah Scrolls from the regional congregations.  We sang Jack’s hymn, Majesty.  Harvey Smith, our treasurer, turned to me and said, we might as well go home now because nothing is going to be better than this.  The presence of the Spirit was amazing.  Now Jack arrives in heaven and no doubt hears the human and angel choirs singing Majesty. Goodbye, for now, you were a great friend and friend to the Jewish people and the Messianic Jewish Community especially.   


Our Meeting with Pope Benedict

It was the fall of 1997, and a small group of three Messianic Jews, one Catholic charismatic Priest theologian, a Catholic Archdeacon of Vienna,  and one Episcopal Anglican clergyman/rector met with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  He would not long after become Pope Benedict XVI.  

The six of us were a committee representing Toward Jerusalem Council II.  (See the web site for information on this effort.)   We were given this opportunity due to the recommendation of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna.  A few months earlier in the Spring, we had dinner in his palace in Vienna next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  The Cardinal was the primary editor of the New Catholic Catechism and a student of Joseph Ratzinger.  He was very moved by our meeting and therefore recommended us.  Our mission was to see repentance in the Church and to see a full embrace of the Messianic Jewish community. 

Cardinal Ratzinger was the leader of the College of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body that puts out statements and larger documents to foster Catholic doctrinal unity.  His position was one of the highest in the Church. His reputation was that of a rigid man enforcing rigid orthodoxy.  Of course, this is the spin of a more liberal press. We found this not to be true. Yet we entered with great concern to be circumspect.  We expected 30 minutes but were given an hour.  We met in the very room where the members of the College meet, a conference setting.  We were told by Father Peter Hocken to not mention anything about our connection to Free Churches (those not from the historical state Churches, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox). We who were Jewish were just to present ourselves as Messianic Jews and as part of the Messianic Jewish congregational movement.  

Cardinal Ratzinger entered the room and greeted us warmly.  He then asked us to present our purpose.  We had our plan.  Rabbi Marty Waldman would present his story as the child of Holocaust survivors.  Then he would present something of the movement.  I would present the theology of the movement.  David, our prophetic brother, would add anything as he was led by the Spirit.  Fr. Peter and Canon Brian would add their words of understanding and commitment to the vision.  We later followed this same pattern in meetings for many years until today. 

Our meeting lasted almost an hour.  We said noting of the Free Churches. We were taken very seriously.  After answering some of his questions, the Cardinal said to us, “If you people are  who you say you are, the second coming of Jesus is nearer than we have thought.”  He knew Romans 11 and saw Jews turning to the Lord while remaining Jews as an eschatological sign.  

After this, he asked to caucus with the two Catholics.  First, he already knew of our connection to Evangelicals.  He had his source of information, but this did not bother him.  He remarked to the Catholics, that it was not a surprise that we had this relationship since the Free Churches (Evangelicals) where more flexible and open.

He then said he was going to appoint Cardinal Schonborn to be the liaison to the Messianic Jews.  He would get the Pope John Paul II to support this.  This was amazing.  

We also met with Cardinal George Cottier, the Pope’s Theologian, who vets what is given to the Pope and reads all the Pope wants to put out.  He was really with us and started a Catholic-Messianic Jewish dialogue where all came to great accord.  The dialogue lasted for 14 years and is today is at a new level.  Cardinal Cottier would report to Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II.  When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he continued in his support for the Messianic Jewish community and the dialogue.  There is much more that can be written.  He was a serous theologian whose book on Yeshua is very good.  My connection to believing Catholics, who really love Yeshua, does not mean that I am not troubled by some Catholic doctrines, but I am so grateful for the opportunities that were opened to us by Pope Benedict.  The memory of our meeting will forever be dear to me. 

Messianic Jewish Movement Compared to Gentile Jewish Roots One Law Movement

The Law of Moses.  

MJM:  Is applicable in the New Covenant, but in that application, it is important to distinguish Jewish covenant responsibility and Gentile responsibility.  Jews are responsible as part of their election to maintain Jewish identity and the patterns of life given in Torah in regard to the weekly Sabbath and the annual Feast/Sabbath days of which there are 7.  This also includes avoiding the foods on the forbidden list in Lev. 11.  We distinguish between Jewish-specific Torah and universal Torah which in Rabbinic thought is summarized as the seven laws of Moses. 

GJROLM:  There is one law for the Jew and Gentile.  All are called to keep the same Torah with maybe the exception of circumcision.  Soft one law people say that Gentiles are not required in the same way as Jews but that Gentiles are invited and that it is better and more blessed if they keep them. 

On Biblical passages releasing Gentiles from Covenant responsibility for Jewish specific law. 

MJM:  Acts 15 releases Gentiles from the Jewish specific parts of the Torah, the Sabbath, Feast/Sabbath days, and food laws except for eating blood which goes back to Noah.  This is also clarified in Col. 2 where the seven biblical annual feast/sabbath days are said to be a shadow but the substance is Messiah. “Let no man hold you accountable,” means that you are not accountable to keep these days.  Romans 14, probably written for Gentiles, says that it is up to one’s conscience as to which days to keep, and there is no apostolic rule for such.  Gal. 5, warns against circumcision for Gentiles and notes that the one circumcised is responsible to keep the whole Torah (law).  So, the exhortation is to not do it.  The clear air-tight implication is that the one in Yeshua not circumcised is not responsible for the whole Torah but only the universal standards.  I Cor. 7 also notes that each is to maintain their distinct callings as Jew and Gentile. 

GJROLM:  All the passages noted above are re-interpreted to support one law conclusions.  Acts 15 is just the beginning point for fellowship, but Moses being read in the synagogues is interpreted to mean that all will study Torah and eventually keep it all.  Col. 2 is interpreted to mean that no one is to hold you accountable as to how you keep the sabbath/Feast days but of course, all will keep them.  So also, Romans 14 means that eventually there will be unity to keep these days.  Gal. 5 Is usually ignored. 

On the Legitimacy of Church Traditions 

MJM accepts the legitimacy of Church traditions for the Church, especially Protestant traditions.  As such it accepts the legitimacy of the Church year, the two climactic celebrations of the Church year, Christmas as the celebration of the Incarnation and birth of Yeshua (though there are different views among Messianic Jews as to the date of the birth), and Good Friday/Easter (Resurrection) as the observance of the death of Yeshua and the celebration of his resurrection.  We do not argue that the Christian use of Christmas trees is pagan. We also accept the legitimacy of the Church’s weekly celebration of the first day, Sunday as the day of resurrection.   We accept that God has not enjoined Christians to take Saturday or the 7th day as their Sabbath rest day and accept the Church also seeing Sunday as a day of rest.  We still believe Sabbath continues as a seventh-day celebration for Jews.  Scholars criticize those who say such practices are pagan or rooted in paganism as committing the genetic fallacy.  The meaning of a practice is not some long-ago pagan connection but is defined by the meaning given to it by the community that practices it.  It is recognized, with regard to dating Good Friday and the Resurrection, that the actual dating is very debatable, and we do not pretend to have a final solution. We have no objection to Christians being led by the Spirit to keep the seventh day as their day of rest. 

GJROLM: They criticize church traditions as pagan and declare that Sunday is based in Sun Worship, Christmas in Mithraicism or other pagan celebrations, and Easter in the feast of the pagan God Ishtar.  They call the Church to forsake these pagan practices.  Christmas trees are condemned as pagan.  The Church should embrace the biblical Feast days. 

Our Call to the Churches 

MJM people ask the Church to embrace the following.  First to declare their embrace of the biblical teaching on the continued election of Israel.  Secondly to embrace that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are called to identify and live as Jews, as part of their people.  Third, we desire that the Church would teach the whole Bible in context.  This means teaching on the meaning of the Sabbath and Jewish Holy Days including their historical meaning, fulfillment in Yeshua and still to be fulfilled eschatological meaning.  Fourthly we ask the Church to be in alignment with the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel and the Diaspora, to pray for and support Jewish ministry and consider, if they are in or near Jewish population centers, to embrace witness to Jews and Jewish ministry.  We recognize that a Church may be led by the Spirit to seasonal celebrations near the time of the Feasts (for example a Saturday evening) and to join with Messianic Jews to bring out the full meaning of the first four things that we hope the Church embraces.  We are glad when the church is led to create Jewish space for Jewish members including services, home groups, and specific discipleship programs.  We ask the Church to avoid the actual days of Jewish Feast sabbaths for its seasonal celebrations of the Feasts as the time when our families and congregations gather in our own programs.  

GJROLM seeks to see the Church leave its Christian traditions and keep the Jewish Biblical Holy Days including the seventh-day Sabbath and biblical food laws.  There is some dispute on the right dating and GJROLM people vary on whether to keep the rabbinic dating or dating they calculate to be more accurate.  Some embrace Jewish traditions such as wearing prayer shawls.  While fringes are commanded in the Bible, prayer shawls are a Jewish tradition for one way to demonstrate the command.  Again, GJROLM people keep the Torah food laws for clean and unclean foods.  Some buy Torah scrolls and read the Torah in Hebrew in their services. 

Summary: Many times Church leaders have a negative response to GJROLM people and confuse them with Messianic Jews and think this is what the MJM is teaching.  This is very painful to us in the MJM.  There are key papers from the main organizations of the MJM (the mainstream movement organizations) that refute the GJROLM teaching and orientation.  We think GJROLM teaching will cause division and that it erects a new wall of partition. 

Sukkot | Tabernacles

The first day of Sukkot/Tabernacles begins with a sabbath rest and then will celebrate the next six days as well but not as sabbath day rest days until the 8th day of rest, Shmini Atzeret. 

Messianic Jews and Christians who are zealous for a Jewish-rooted (original context) understanding of their faith are familiar with the major Feasts and Holy Days.  Most know their historical meaning to ancient Israel, fulfillment in Yeshua, and last days and Age to Come symbolism.  I will not belabor this, but no doubt many of you see site after site and blog after blog teaching on this.  Here is a very brief review and then some new comments on what is not usually taught.

The Fall Feasts come on the seventh month of the biblical calendar.  It is the month of making perfect (as symbolized in the number 7).  The month begins with the sound of the Shofar.  It is called Rosh Hoshana due to the Rabbinic teaching that the universe began on this day. It is taught in Judaism, and I think it is likely, that the blowing of the Shofar is a clarion call to get ready and fully engage and prepare for the whole month.  We do see a foreshadowing of the trumpets of the judgments in the book of Revelation.  On the 10th day, Yom Kippur is observed.  Confession of sin takes place, sin is forgiven and covered (kippur).  Of course, Yeshua, our High Priest, fulfilled the meanings and brought His own blood into the most Holy Place.  The day looks forward to the general repentance of Israel and the nations where repentance will take place and His Yom Kippur/Passover atonement will be applied more fully to the whole world.

Sukkot is a festival of the final harvest of the year.   It is also the largest harvest.  We are to dwell in makeshift dwellings and remember our time in the desert before entering the promised Land.  This is to remind us that God provided in the desert and that our provision comes from Him.   However, it also looks forward to the Kingdom of God being in full manifestation on Earth.  After the last wars, the nations will enter the Kingdom of God and send representatives to the Feast, including all who battled against Israel and survived.  We are therefore commanded to rejoice during the week of the Feast.  This was the Feast in which Yeshua proclaimed himself the Light of the World.   The context may have been the candle-lighting ceremonies in the Temple.  Also, he proclaimed himself the Water of Life.  “If any man thirsts let him come to me and drink.”

The rejoicing on Sukkot would have especially been an enhanced rejoicing every seventh year, the Sabbatical Year, and the 50th year, the Jubilee Year.  First, on the Sabbatical year, all debts were canceled.  All who were indebted were given a new start. This is an amazing law.  It influenced American law so that one can declare bankruptcy and be released from debt every seventh year.  All who fell into need and debt would have a new start, a clean slate.  Also, the land was to lie fallow and be renewed.  God promised that if Israel acted in faith, the sixth-year harvest and what grew naturally would be so abundant, there would be no lack.  Such a law could only be possible by supernatural provision by faith obedience.  As a principle of agriculture, we know that land renewal is so important and fields must have fallow years.  The Feast of Sukkot therefore would produce much greater rejoicing in the sabbatical year.

The Jubilee Year was much greater than the Sabbatical Year.  Not only was debt canceled.  That happened in the 7th Sabbatical year in the cycle, the 49th year, but the 49th year led to the 50th where land was redistributed.  All who had to sell their land now received it back.  The land returns to the family owners, even if the leader of the family who lost it had died. Since in an agricultural society great wealth is in the Land, the restoration of the Land in this way precluded an ensconced class of the very rich and those who would live on the land as serfs.

Yeshua proclaimed his ministry as a time of Jubilee and his announcement in Luke 4, that his ministry would reverse circumstances for the poor, the sick, the demonized, the grieving, the imprisoned, and the abused, was an amazing announcement. It proclaimed liberty as the announcement on Yom Kippur on the Jubilee year.  “Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land” became the cry of the patriots in the American Revolutionary War and is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.  The goal of the Torah is amazing,  to see that all had provision and a store of wealth.

Alas, we are told in Jeremiah that Israel did not have faith to keep the Jubilee year. This raises other questions about economics.  The Bible allows for rich and poor in society, and gaining wealth in trade, production and more. It is not re-distributed.  But a part of the wealth is, that is the land. The great debate between the most libertarian, the progressive Democrats and the Socialists is a great debate with a huge gap of the divide. For Libertarians, income taxes are a type of stealing.  The Democrats say that the rich need to pay their fair share (which percentage is never defined and then the higher taxes end up being charged to the consumer in higher prices).  The socialists want to level wealth and income.  What a great gulf!  There is a middle ground, that the wealthy would pay for lifting the poor by providing job training, real education, and police protection so that the young would not turn to criminals for their advance.  Rather than the government doing so, I would like to see the incentives for taxes such that the rich have to give a percentage that they choose to private programs that they believe are doing the best job with real results. Corporations can do job training and then hire.  This is more productive than paying for often worthless college experiences.

At any rate, let us rejoice this Sukkot.

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