Parahat B’Shalach Commentary

I’m experimenting with podcasting, and this is my first podcast. I have to admit, learning the technical aspects has been an adventure. I’m still in the learning-a-new-thing fog. I have plenty to learn.

Input from experienced podcasters would be appreciated.

Music credit: “Music for Manatees” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Click here to listen.

Could the Christian Jesus be the Messiah?

Share this article on Farcebook

I thought I would take my tongue out of my cheek this morning and speak a little more plainly. Could the Christian Jesus be the Messiah? The Jesus portrayed in other articles of this blog is a parody of that Jesus — the blond-haired blue-eyed pork-eating Gentile. This Jesus is so ridiculous that readers know (I hope) there’s something amiss. But what about Jesus as he’s genuinely understood by Christians today? Satire aside, does he qualify to be the Messiah?

This isn’t going to be a scholarly article. If I start to footnote it and reference it properly, it will never see the light of day. So, we’ll keep it a work in progress, and an interaction with readers. If there are comments, questions or challenges, then I can flesh out issues at that time.

So, with that in mind, let’s roll.

Christians generally like to apply Deut. 18:5 to Jesus, claiming he is the “prophet like me” spoken of by Moses. Specifically, I think the passage is applied to Joshua, Moses’s immediate successor. If there is a New Testament passage which unequivicably links this passage to Jesus, I’d like to know what it is. Certainly the New Testament presents Jesus as the Prophet of prophets, but when, for example, Deut. 18 is alluded to in Acts 3:22, it seems that the speaker is referring to the prophetic tradition itself, and himself in particular. Read the passage, and see if you agree.

Still, Deut. 18 gives a very important guideline for identifying a prophet: the word which he speaks must be 100% accurate. Since Christians would overwhelmingly agree that Jesus passed this test, they do present him as qualifying for prophethood (and by extension, Messiahdom) in the regard. Where many of them shoot down their own argument is in jumping on this dispensationalist bandwagon that says that prophets can now mess up and it’s okay. No longer is it such a Bad Thing to say that God says X and have X turn out not to be true. These prophets are still learning to hear God and to exercise their prophetic gift, it is said.

So Jesus qualifies as a true prophet under obsolete criteria. There goes that testimony out the window.

Another prophet test, not often quoted, is Deut. 13. Here the prophet comes with all the bells and whistles, but is disqualified by his message. He says, “Let us go after other gods… and serve them” (vs. 2).  This is the Jesus present so often by Christians. No, this Jesus doesn’t say, “Let’s go after the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” But he does “entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk” (vs. 5).

How does he do this? By (apparently) freeing us from the Law of Moses. I can find no New Testament passage to support this notion, and plenty to oppose it.

I posed this question some time ago to an online forum: “Why do Christians eat pork when Isaiah 66 expressly forbids it?” One of the answers I received, presumably from someone who didn’t even look up Isaiah 66 to see what my point could possibly have been, was “We don’t follow Isaiah; we follow Jesus.”

This pitting of Jesus against the so-called “Old” Testament was a strategy of Jesus’s detractors, as depicted in the Gospels. Time and again, they attempt to get him to contradict or oppose the Law of Moses, only to have him turn the tables and show that they — not he — are the ones who are being unfaithful. When the time came for his trial, the Gospels state that the testimonies against him were contradictory. They couldn’t pin anything on him. Yet today, many of Jesus’s so-called followers are quick to do just that. They state that Jesus — and if not him, his apostle, Paul — taught his followers that they are free from the commandments of God given to Moses. This, according to Jesus’s words in Matt 5:19, is the fast-track to least-in-the-kingdom-of-heaven status.

A champion of this lawless Jesus, according to Christian interpreters, is the already-mentioned apostle Paul. A favourite passage to contort in favour of the Gentile Jesus is Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Now, this could mean that Christ did away with the law. After all, what would “end of the law” mean other than that? Well, it could mean “goal or purpose of the law” as well. We use “end” like that all the time in English. To what end does Paul use the word “end” here?

The great irony is that the following passage is a midrash on Deut. 30. (A midrash is illustrative use of Scripture.)

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say, ‘who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.”

Paul brilliantly uses this passage to illustrate the incarnation, the death and the resurrection of Jesus. He then punctuates his argument with the bold statement that the “word” referenced above is “the word of faith which we preach” (Rom. 10:8). He equates the “word in you mouth and in your heart” with confessing Jesus “with your mouth” and believing “in your heart that God has raised him from the dead” (v.9).

In that Paul so eloquently equates the “word” preached by Moses with the “word” preached by the apostles, it should be clear here that “end” in v.4 refers to “goal or purpose.”

Since Paul identifies the word preached by Moses with the word preached by the apostles, it should be no surprise that 1 John 3:4 calls sin “lawlessness.” The subject of 2 Thess 2:1-12 is commonly referred to in Evangelical circles as the Antichrist. Verse 3 calls him the “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness” (depending on your version — there is a textual variant here). Verse 8 says he is the “lawless one.”

It seems to me that Jesus, as presented by Christians today, is certainly a “lawless one.” They say that he is the Christ, but in telling the world that he frees them from the law of God, they present him more in line with Antichrist.

Is it any wonder that Christians find their mission to Jews to frustrating? Even the Christian Scriptures warn against the Jesus whom they present.

It is certainly true that when the Messiah sets foot in Jerusalem, there are those who will look up on the one they have pierced (Zech 12), and come to terms with the fact that he has been there before. As well, there will be those who will have to come to terms with the Messiah’s mission:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

That the mountain of the LORD’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

And shall be exalted above the hills;

And all nations shall flow to it.

Many people shall come and say,

“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

To the house of the God of Jacob;

He will teach us His ways,

And we shall walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

— (Isaiah 1:1-3)

(All references from NKJV)