In this blog I want to cover the Jews and their practices. I want to look at the festivals, prophecies, and other messianic foreshadowing. This will revolve around the question- is Jesus the Jewish Messiah?
First, some history of Judaism. The roots of Judaism go all the way back to the beginning of known history. Genesis 1, the first chapter in the Pentateuch, indicates that our world did not exist before that point. And also indicates that the first people to ever live were aware of Yahweh God. You could push the beginnings of the nation of Israel to the time of Abraham in Genesis 15. This is where God promises a nation of his descendants would be the people of God, the chosen nation. The actual starting date of the Jewish faith is not set in stone (or is it?), but is usually attributed to the time of Moses. When Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai this established the rituals, practices, and religion of the nation of Israel.
It wasn’t just the Ten Commandments that became law to the Jewish people, there were 613 laws total that the nation of Israel was to follow. As you read through some of these laws you might wonder what the point of them is. Many of them are behavioral, some of them deal with hygiene and health, and many more deal with ceremonies. A heavy burden was put on the people to follow these laws meticulously. They were strictly enforced. For instance, in writing the name of God, YHWH, the scribe, who’s handwriting was flawless, would only write one letter at a time, washing his hands between each letter. Why such a drastic emphasis on these seemingly arbitrary laws?
Consider Passover, which is near the time of Easter. During Passover the Jewish people were required to put the blood of the Lamb on the side of the door post and the top of the door post. When this was done, the Angel of Death would skip over the house. Does this sound like a ridiculous thing to do? Were the people wondering why on earth they were doing such a thing? How foolish it must have seemed that blood around your door would keep you and your household safe.
Passover is 1 of 7 festivals that were ordained in the Hebrew Bible (which is the Old Testament). The other festivals are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, first fruits, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is in remembrance of God providing manna from heaven so that the Jewish people could survive day by day. First fruits deals with thankfulness for God’s provision over the crops. Pentecost is in remembrance of the giving of the law. The Feast of Trumpets is in anticipation of a messiah. The Day of Atonement was the 1 day a year that a priest would go into the Most Holy Place and make a sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the people. The tabernacle represented the presence of God.
As the Jews were carrying out these rituals and celebrations, prophets spoke throughout the land. If they were caught prophesying falsely, they would be killed, so we know they didn’t take their jobs lightly. These prophets were able to foretell events and informed the people of God’s will. About 300 prophecies were made about the Jewish Messiah. The picture began to develop among the Jewish people of what the Messiah would be like.
Let’s look at the expectations versus what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to usher in God’s kingdom on earth. They were expecting a ruler and King that would be a descendant of Abraham and of David. They were expecting the Messiah to bring peace throughout the land. Another expectation, though it is not found in the Hebrew Bible, is that the Jews expected the Messiah to push back the oppression that the Roman Empire was putting on the nation of Israel. So When Jesus said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what belongs to God”, this may have disappointed certain Jews. However, Jesus claims that his kingdom was not of this world, so the expectation of a military ruler should not have been expected of Jesus.
Did Jesus bring peace? Absolutely. He established the ultimate peace between sinners and a holy God. Was Jesus of the proper lineage? Yes. Matthew and Luke both record this through two separate family lines. What changes did Jesus bring to the nation of Israel? Israel, as a bloodline, became scattered in 70 AD. Israel, as God’s chosen nation, became available to people of every culture. Israel is the people of God, which is attained by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.
What about the prophecies? 108 prophecies in the Old Testament are specifically fulfilled in the New Testament. The odds of any person fulfilling just 8 random prophecies is similar to blindly choosing 1 specified quarter out of a pool of quarters covering the state of Texas 1 foot deep. The odds exceed mathematical impossibility long before getting halfway through the prophecies. We know these prophecies are historical and accurate because of the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These documents of the Old one Testament predate Jesus and show that there are no significant textual changes to our modern Bibles.
Some of the prophecies could be considered self fulfilling, and some could be fulfilled by several people. When you take the prophecies together it is overwhelmingly in favor of pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.
Try reading Isaiah 53 to somebody that does not have much knowledge about the Bible. They will surely think it is talking specifically about the death of Jesus, which it is… over 500 years before the fact! How about Micah prophesying the town that the Christ would be born in; it would have been safe to go with Jerusalem, but he rightly prophesied Bethlehem. What about David (Ps. 22:16) and Zechariah (12:10) identifying the crucifixion method of Christ’s suffering hundreds of years before it was even invented. Psalm 22 prophecies many of the specifics at the scene of the crucifixion.
All these would certainly make a convincing case for Jesus as being the Jewish Messiah, but the prophecy that would devastate me the most if I did not believe Jesus was Messiah is in Daniel 9:24-26. Studied carefully, this prophecy describes to the very day that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem to be “cut off”. It also indicates that the Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the 2nd Jewish temple. The temple was destroyed convincingly in 70 AD. If the Jews accept the Book of Daniel, and they do, and if the Messiah had not arrived by then, then either the Jews missed something significant or they are forever without fulfillment.
Look again at these festivals, see if Jesus has become the fulfillment of them. Feast of Tabernacles: at the crucifixion, the veil in the temple was miraculously torn, demonstrating the dwelling of the Spirit of God was now with man. Unleavened bread: Jesus said that he was the bread that came down from heaven. The manna gave people temporary life, but Jesus is the bread of life for eternal life. Pentecost: went from being about the law to being about the Spirit. The Spirit of God was poured out as the indicator of being of God’s family- not the law. Feast of Trumpets: was to announce the Messiah. He came now we await the trumpets of his second coming. Day of Atonement: the high priest could go in and make the sacrifice on behalf of his people for sins. Jesus is the high priest and the sacrifice, actually offering himself on the very day of Passover. He is the Passover lamb. The blood on the door posts would have been in about the same spot as Jesus’s nail pierced hands and is crown of thorns. Now if we claim the blood, letting ourselves be represented by it, we do not see death as our final state.
All the rituals, laws, and prophecies were pointing forward to a certain fulfillment. The Jewish people were never meant to have fulfillment in rituals and festivals alone, they were meant to point to a certain completion, fulfillment. They serve as a picture of the work that the Christ would come to do. In light of the prophecies and all the fulfillment that Jesus accomplished, it is apparent to me that many Jews (non-messianic Jews) have missed the coming of their Messiah. The New Testament describes this fulfillment. Jesus is this fulfillment.