May 12, 2014

The Life of Faith

In his book Why the Jews Rejected Jesus David Klinghoffer explores one of the most sensitive questions of all time: How could so many of Jesus’ own people not accept Him as Messiah?

One reason, answers Klinghoffer, stands above the rest: the Jews rejected Jesus because the religion Jesus founded, Christianity, rejected the Torah.

“Jews,” writes Klinghoffer, “have always considered the meaning of their existence to be summarized in the event before the Mountain of God where they encamped . . . to hear God’s commandments. It was the moment of birth for the Jewish people. On that occasion, the Lord introduced himself to the people this way: ‘You have seen what I did to Egypt, and that I have borne you on wings of eagles and brought you to Me. And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ [see Ex. 19:4-6]” (p. 214).

“The covenant—the commandments—was the reason God brought the Jews to meet Him. There is no other purpose to Jewish existence. There is no other purpose to human existence. The Jews have long believed that the universe remains in existence only because they accepted the Torah, which obligated them to be a “kingdom of priests,” ministering to other peoples, teaching them about God. The commandments were simply the terms of this relationship with God that Israel now entered into.

“To abandon those commandments was to abandon the whole meaning of Jewish existence. To give them up, you had to have an awfully good reason. Jews who ceased to believe in God had a reason. But Christianity had none that was satisfying. . . . Everything else Christians might argue on behalf of Jesus the Messiah, all the other rhetorical points they lodge in their disputations and pamphlets and polemics and apologetics, falls away before this simple fact. No authentic Messiah would inspire a religion that ended up calling upon the Jews to reject the manifest meaning of Sinai” (pp. 214, 215).

Klinghoffer’s question demands an answer: Why would a Jewish Messiah set aside the faith that was so important to His own people? The answer: He wouldn’t, and He didn’t.

Sixty miles north of Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth stood in a fishing boat and spoke a powerful one-sentence parable that defined the kind of follower He was looking for: “Therefore,” He said, “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matt. 13:52).

The imagery in this parable is of a Jewish teacher of the law—a scribe—who has been listening to Jesus teach. There were, in fact, scribes who followed Jesus around and stood at the water’s edge listening. A scribe was devoted to the study and teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. You might say a scribe woke up thinking about Genesis and went to bed thinking about Malachi. The life of a scribe was centered on Scripture, and to this point in history, a scribe’s treasure house was filled with the Hebrew Scriptures—what we call the Old Testament.

But in this parable, the scribe has begun to recognize that the Scriptures he treasures so dearly are being fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Deep into the night the scribe goes back to his scrolls, discovering Yeshua to be the fulfillment of Hebrew scripture: king, priest, Son of David, Messiah. So the scribe adds a second room to his house—a room filled with new treasure. We call it the New Testament.

The message of this remarkable parable isn’t one of either/or, either old treasures or new ones. Yet as we consider the Jewish-Christian divide, we do find either/or. We see the devotion of our Jewish friends to the Torah, to the commandments, to the Sabbath; but we also see their rejection of the Lord of the Sabbath.

By the same token, many Christians celebrate the faith of the New Testament, but downplay the ancient faith as though one replaced the other. But one didn’t replace the other. It built on the other, fulfilled the other.

The beauty of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, in spite of our faults, is that we are truly Judeo-Christian. We celebrate faith in Christ—and the ancient faith of Christ. We bring out of the storeroom new treasures as well as old.

Andy Nash is the author of The Haystacks Church. He leads tours to Israel and can be reached at [email protected]