Messianic Judaism is a movement comprised of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus, in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world and the most Jewish of Jews. He was a descendant of both Abraham and King David, was reared in Jewish home and not only attended synagogue – but following His Bar Mitzvah, He also taught in the synagogue. Yeshua was born under the Law. (Galatians 4:4) He taught that He came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it. (Matthew 5:17 – 19) He was a rabbi who performed unparalleled miracles, bringing great blessing to the nation of Israel. All of His early disciples also lived very Jewish lives. The Messianic movement was entirely Jewish at its inception, and continued to exist as an authentic Jewish movement for 700 years. Messianic Jewish believers have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, they remain strongly Jewish in both their identity and lifestyle!
The Tanakh (the Older Covenant) provides the foundation of the Jewish faith, and the New Covenant Scriptures (also of Jewish authorship inspired by the Holy Spirit) completes the Jewish faith. IN fact, the Hebrew Scriptures, themselves, affirm that they are not complete, and that God was going to make a new Covenant with the Jewish people. The book of Jeremiah contains this amazing prophecy of a New Covenant:
“Behold days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them.” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord. “I will put My teaching within them and on their hears I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Traditional Judaism is based on “the covenant which they broke,” and cannot save anyone. In contrast, the Messianic Jewish community believes that God has established this New Covenant through Yeshua’s death and resurrection – that He died and rose again on the third day, forgiving our sins so that we can enter, by faith, into this New Covenant relationship with God. They believe that Yeshua ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and is coming back to earth to reign from Jerusalem over Israel and all the nations of the world. At that time, the fullness of the New Covenant will be realized.
What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and Christianity?
Christianity is the faith in Yeshua as primarily expressed by His Gentile followers, and is made up of numerous denomination and various doctrines. People who identify themselves as Christians number over one billion in the world. For most of the First Century A.D., the faithful followers of Yeshua were predominantly Jewish. However, as more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith, some had little understanding or regard for its Jewish roots and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. A “de-Judaizing” process set in, that is, a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and form the Jewish people. This separation eventually led to the formation of second branch of faith in Yeshua which is primarily composed of Gentile believers, and is known as “Christianity”. While there is only one faith, and we are definitely one in the Spirit with true Gentile Christians, Jewish believers have their own expressions of the faith. For some, believing in Yeshua could mean a return to the Jewish lifestyle, while at the same time maintaining that the only way to salvation and eternal life is by placing their faith in His saving grace. (Romans 11:24 – 25).
When did Messianic Judaism Begin?
Messianic Judaism is actually 2,000 years old, dating to the time of Yeshua Himself. Yeshua was Jewish. He was raised in a Jewish home and ministered to Jewish people in the Land of Israel. His disciples were Jewish, and the apostles were Jewish. The writers of the B’rit Chadashah (the New Covenant or New Testament) were Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke) and, for a time, the faith was strictly Jewish. By the middle of the First Century A.D., there were tens of thousands of Jewish people who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah (Acts 2:37 – 42, 4:4, 21:20).
Why do we use the name “Yeshua” more often than “Jesus”?
Yeshua never heard the name “Jesus” in his lifetime! Yeshua is his given Hebrew name! It means “salvation” or “the Lord is Salvation” (Matthew 1:21). He was always called “Yeshua,” a common Hebrew name at that time. When Latin speaking missionaries, who called the Messiah “Yesu”, brought the Good News to the British people, “Yesu” became “Jesus” in English.
What does “Christ” mean?
Some people mistakenly believe that “Christ” is Yeshua’s last name. Rather, “Christ” is His title in much the same way as we might refer to a “President” or “King”. This title is taken form the Hebrew word “Mashiach” or “Anointed One”, which was translated “Christos” in Greek and later anglicized to “Christ”. The actual English translation of Mashiach is “Messiah” and means an anointed, God-appointed leader. Examples of this title in the Tanakh are found in Daniel 9:25 and Psalms 2:2. In the New Covenant, Yeshua claimed the tile of Messiah (Mark 14:61 – 62 and John 4:25 – 26).
I encourage you to support the Messianic Jewish movement and, more importantly, learn how to share your faith with your Jewish friends. For everyone, the only way to the Father is through the Son.
This is the first in a series of articles on the Messianic Jewish movement and why we should be sharing the good News with the Jewish people. Upcoming articles will be as follows: “The Jewish Roots of Christianity”, “The Debt We Gentiles Owe”, “Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World” and finally, “Messianic Bible Studies”.
John Denson is currently Director of Shalom Ministry and can be reached at:
P.O. Box 19695
Detroit, MI 48219
[248 545 8800]