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From the Mind of a Christian Jew #1

The New Covenant and Jesus


FROM THE MIND OF A JEWISH CHRISTIAN

by Daniel Juster (1986)


THE PROMISE OF A NEW COVENANT

     The promise of a New Covenant was anticipated by the Torah
itself. Before Israel had even entered the land, Moses foresaw
the nation's faithlessness toward God's Covenant. Indeed, the
Book of Deuteronomy called for a circumcision of the heart
(Deuteronomy 30:4-6) from which the calloused flesh of the heart
would be cut away and an attitude of yielding love and obedience
toward God would ensue. But as Israel's history progressed, its
continued failure prepared the prophets to receive revelation of
something more to come. Israel was depleted by idolatry. First,
the nation was split into north and south; then came the
captivity of the Northern tribes and an end to their national
existence. Finally, in 586 B.C.E., the national life of the
Southern Kingdom ended as the King of Babylon conquered the last
vestiges of the nation.

     The prophets spoke God's Word in the context of these tragic
events: Joel foresaw an age in which the power of the Spirit of
God would be universally given to all (Joel 2:28-29). Most
striking, however, were the parallel promises in Jeremiah and
Ezekiel of a New Covenant to be offered to Israel. Jeremiah
ministered to the last remnant of people in the land of Israel
before their final demise in 586 B.C.E. Meanwhile, Ezekiel
ministered simultaneously in Babylon to those taken captive.
Despite the seeming hopelessness due to Israel's national demise
and the failure of Israel in its call of God, both prophets
predicted a resurrection of Israel's national life. The dry bones
vision in Ezekiel 37 and Jeremiah's prediction of a limited
70-year exile gave hope. Israel would live (Am Yisrael Hai).

     Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah predicted a New Covenant (B'rit
Hadashah). Messianic Jews believe that B'rit Hadashah has been
established by the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua.
     However, not all the features of this New Covenant have yet
been fulfilled. As regards to the presence of the Kingdom, only a
partial - but central-part of the New Covenant has come into
being; for Jeremiah predicts that all Israelites shall personally
know God through and as part of this covenant. It is not our
purpose in this section to fully outline the relationship of
previous covenants to the New Covenant; this will be a major
theme of chapters 2-4 of this book. It is only our purpose now to
lay out the structure of this New Covenant in its' original
context as background material for future exposition. Our outline
comes from Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.

     The New Covenant is, first with the house of Israel and
Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). The Messianic Age does indeed include
gentiles who have fellowship with God in an age of Israel's full
restoration; but an offer of salvation to the gentiles is not in
clear view in these passages.
     Secondly, the covenant will be different from the Mosaic
Covenant which God offered after the exodus.
     Third, this difference is expressed as God's law or Torah
being written on the hearts of the people of the nation (Jeremiah
31:33). Ezekiel says "a new heart will I give you; and I will
take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of
flesh..." (36:26-27). After adding the fourth and fifth features,
he continues with the promise that God will cause them to walk in
"my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." The New
Covenant is therefore not an abrogation of Torah but an ability
to walk in Torah! What a contrast to common teachings today!
However, is it Torah in the general sense of God's ways (which is
reflected in the Books of Moses) or is it the whole Mosaic
system? Abraham, in Genesis 26:5, was said to obey God's charge,
commandments, statutes and laws. The rabbis debated whether or
not Torah would be altered in the Messianic Age. Some thought
that parts of the Torah had a temporary relevance to an imperfect
people, but that in the Messianic Age we would be so close to God
that Torah would be altered to fit this situation. This problem
will be discussed later.
     Ezekiel adds a fourth promise: that we would have a new
spirit. This is parallel to receiving a new heart. 
     Fifth, God would put His Spirit within us.
     Sixth, the New Covenant includes the promise that Israel
would dwell in its own land in safety and security (Ezekiel
24-28). God's name will be glorified /magnified among the nations
through His work in Israel as a nation. What a contrast for those
who hold that the New Covenant does away with national Israel!
     Seventh, the reception of the New Covenant will bring
forgiveness of sin and cleansing from iniquity (Jeremiah 31:34,
Ezekiel 36:25), whereby Israel will be God's people and God will
be Israel's Lord.
     Clearly the prophets, in contrasting this covenant to the
Mosaic, knew the extent to which this covenant would enable the
fulfillment of God's purposes for Israel. Was for giveness
offered under the Mosaic system? Yes. Was there an ability to
love and do God's law? Yes, if we are to believe David's
meditation in Psalms 19 and 119. Yet even David had grievously
sinned.

     The New Covenant would come with a power of forgiveness
previously unknown. The Spirit would be given in a direct and
powerful way to all, never before known. This would enable a real
knowledge of God in changed hearts to an extent and at a degree
never before known. This covenant would be fully effective in
producing the resulting life which the Mosaic Covenant could not.
     How utterly exciting is the hope of the prophets! This New
Covenant is offered in his descendants as well as worldwide
dominion. All the Messianic prophecies concerning the everlasting
rule of the Messiah are extensions of this covenant.

For Those Familiar with Dispensational and Covenant Theology


     Two great theologies have predominated in the interpretation
of Scripture in the believing Church over the past seventy-five
years. One has been called "covenant theology," the other
"dispensationalism." We agree with the dispensationalist view of
the literal fulfillment of God's promises to Israel, including
the Messiah's 1,000 year reign on earth. We find it misleading,
however, to speak of the Old Testament period as the dispensation
of law and to contrast it with the present age as an age of
grace. We certainly agree that there is a distinction between the
Mosaic covenantal government and the New Covenant. Both, however,
are covenants of grace, even though the Mosaic (as a national
constitution) is much more concerned with judicial matters. We
must not confuse the Mosaic Covenant as understood by its later
Judaic interpretation as a system of works-righteousness. God
never sought to convey, under any age, any concept other than
that of salvation by grace through faith. 
     We might speak of the Mosaic dispensation with its system of
Temple and sacrifice as a means of grace anticipating Yeshua, and
contrast it with the New Covenant in Yeshua which is our primary
and sole means of entrance into God's presence. Salvation is
always offered by grace in Yeshua whether explicitly as in the
New Covenant Scriptures or implicitly, by anticipation in the
sacrificial system. We agree with the dispensationalists that
each covenant should be seen as distinctive, even if intertwined
with and anticipating others.
     Contrary to some dispensationalists, Messianic Jews do not
see a complete distinction between redeemed Israel and the
Church; rather, we see redeemed Israel as a distinct part of the
universal people of God from all ages. Furthermore, we do not
perceive that Yeshua ever offered Israel the literal earthly
kingdom, but then postponed it. John 6 shows that the people were
only too ready to receive this literal "kingdom." Yeshua offered
Israel the spiritual Kingdom that all might have an opportunity
throughout the years to come under God's rule. Matthew 13
summarizes the nature of the Kingdom that Yeshua intended to
offer. The worldwide earthly Kingdom of God will yet come as the
fruition of the Spiritual Kingdom when Yeshua returns. 
     We do not find the tribulation period to be one in which the
Church is removed from the earth, while Israel alone is used for
God's purposes on earth. Hence, we may see a Jewish believer as
both part of Israel and the universal people of God.

     Covenant theologians also emphasize the universal dimensions
of the moral law in Torah. They, too, emphasize the oneness of
all God's people from all times, even seeing the saved of Israel
as the "Church" in the Old Testament. Noting the graciousness of
all the covenants the covenant theologian unifies all covenants
as reflections of one universal covenant of grace. However, he
sometimes goes so far in this that he misses some of the
distinctions between the covenants - which are all covenants of
grace. The promises to Israel are spirttualized as symbolic, and
are applied to the Church. God's purpose through a nation among
the nations is lost. There is no biblical reason to think that
God's purpose in the Church excludes His purpose in Israel.
     Covenant theology also denies the literal reign of the
Messiah on earth, which is consistently taught in Scripture
(Revelation 20, i.e., the Millenium). This loss of place for
Israel caused the older covenant theologians of years past to
think that a "Christian nation" where all citizens professed
faith could be enforced. The Church is a pilgrim people within
all nations but is not itself to directly rule the state. A state
church brings oppression, for God did not call the church to
civil rule, but to be an influence as salt and light in society.
Yet the Puritans of 17th century America were correct to seek to
base civil law and government on biblical law. The covenant
theologian lost the place for Israel in God's purposes and
falsely thought of the Church as a new, spiritual Israel
replacing forever the old physical Israel which no longer had any
spiritual purpose, despite Paul's strong words concerning the
gift and call of God as being irrevocable (Romans 11).
     However, the people of God do seek to influence society
toward a social consensus in which biblical law has a great sway
in our legal system (e.g., law based on the Judeo-Christian
ethic).

     We have great respect for the truths discovered by both
dispensational and covenant theologians. We believe, however,
that Messianic Judaism offers the opportunity of a fresh
perspective which is more comprehensive than either and maintains
the best discoveries of both.
     Israel's purpose remains as a test to all nations in which
Jews reside.

     
Yeshua, the Law and the New Covenant

     Yeshua indeed preached the coming New Covenant. He also
taught on the Law. Understanding Yeshua's teaching in these two
areas is crucial to Messianic Judaism.
     In Matthew 5-7 we have a wonderful summary of Yeshua's
teaching, which centers on major aspects of the Law. It is also
interesting that Matthew 5-7 has covenant features reminiscent of
the Mosaic revelation.
     Instead of beginning with a specific act of God's grace
(e.g. the Exodus) which should cause us to respond according to
the covenant teachings, Yeshua begins by promising blessing to
people who demonstrate certain behaviors and attitudes (the
Beatitudes). This is because Yeshua Himself - His life, death and
resurrection - is God's act of grace which leads to a new
response of faith and obedience under the New Covenant. The
Beatitudes are those basic moral qualities which bring a rich
life: the poor in spirit (who recognize their need of grace);
those who mourn (especially over spiritual corruption); the meek;
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the peacemakers;
the pure in heart; and those who are persecuted for
righteousness' sake. These are the truly blessed ones!
     There then follows an exposition of Torah and a discussion
of true piety and prayer. Instructions on trusting God for all
our human needs are given (not laying up treasures for
ourselves) as well as the example of true prayer. The section
ends appropriately with blessings and cursings (7:21-27). The
wise man who hears and responds obediently to Yeshua's teaching
is like the man who builds his house on a rock. He will be able
to withstand the storms and trials of life. The foolish man (who
does not respond) will be like the man who builds his life on
sand. In the storms of life, he will be swept away.
     These chapters are central for an understanding response to
the Torah. Yeshua never confutes the intended meaning and purpose
of Torah if properly understood. When Yeshua, says, "It has been
said ... but I say unto you," His argument is with the
interpretation of the Law, not the Law itself, Hence Yeshua seeks
to bring out the inner implications of the Law in terms of its-
deepest intent. His emphasis is on our inner attitude or motive
and not just on our external actions.
     We are still looking for those who will take with utter
seriousness the background statement for Yeshua's teaching in
Matthew 5, that is verses 17-19, (parallel is in Luke 16:16-17),
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets, I
am not come to destroy but to fulfill. Till heaven and earth
pass, not a jot, not a tittle shall in any wise pass from the law
until all is accomplished. Whosoever then relaxes one of the
least of these commandments, shall be called least in the kingdom
of heaven, but he who does them and teaches them shall be called
great in the kingdom."
     Though it seems incredible, some have actually read this
passage ignoring v.19 and have said that "fulfill" means to do
away with because we now just have to obey the Spirit.
     Others have taught that Yeshua here was speaking to Jews
still under the Old Testament; that Matthew 5-7 is law, not
grace, but that New Covenant life is under the Spirit and not the
rigidities of Law.
     Still others have taught that Matthew 5-7 is a kingdom ethic
for the Millenium. Yet one wonders if, in the Kingdom, when
Yeshua reigns, Jews will still be constrained by Roman soldiers
to carry their load a mile as in the first century (Matthew
5:41). Should they then respond by going the extra mile in the
light of Yeshua's teaching! Injustice will not exist in the
Millenium. Yeshua's teaching is for the present unjust age. The
law Yeshua gave applied to His day directly.

     Matthew 5-7 seeks to distill the essence of Torah insofar as
it reflects God's eternal standards of love and truth. It is not
the Old Testament dispensation exposited nor the millenial ethic;
it is God's eternal law made clear and applied to human life in
this unjust world. It is clear that no one can live up to the
standard Yeshua taught. Yet we only recognize our need for grace
when we realize how far short we fall from God's requirement.
Relaxing the Law produces the illusion of thinking we have
attained righteousness by our self-effort. We would then cease to
depend on God's grace in Yeshua.
     Yeshua teaches that Torah is God's Word; He is not teaching
the eternality of the Temple system whose demise He predicted.
But so far as the Books of Moses reflect God's eternal law, they
will never pass away. Until heaven and earth pass away is a way
of saying until there is no human society, or never. Hence,
rather than relaxing Torah, Yeshua exposits it to show the
heights and depths of God's requirements in deeds, attitudes and
love so that no man will hold himself as righteous in himself.
Only the fruits of the Spirit can produce a likeness to the
Messiah in us from "glory to glory" (II Corinthians 3) whereby we
live increasingly as Matthew 5-7 teaches and as Yeshua lived.
     Furthermore, it is in light of the high standard here that
we confess our sins and forever depend on the power of Yeshua's
atonement and the Holy Spirit to produce righteousness, knowing
that we are accounted righteous in Yeshua alone. Matthew 5-7 then
becomes our guide under the New Covenant by the power of the
Spirit.

     Let us now look more closely at Yeshua's exposition,
remembering that His quarrel was not with the Law but with the
misinterpretations of the Law - God's standard.

     In His exposition of "You shall not kill" (Matthew 5:21), He
goes to the issue of heart attitude: The source of murder is hate
in one's heart. Therefore Yeshua teaches that anger and insult
are from the same source and also bring judgment upon a person.
We must not think ourselves to be pure simply because we have
refrained from committing an external deed. Hence, before we
bring an offering, we are to seek to be reconciled to our
brother. True worship only flows from the heart that bears no
bitterness and seeks reconciliation.

     His exposition of the command against adultery is similar.
The external act flows from a lustful heart attitude. Therefore,
"everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart" (vv.27-28). It is that heart
attitude to which we must give our attention. Rather than allow a
commitment to sin to keep us from eternal life, it would be
better to do away with the eye or arm which is the organ
executing the sin and hence our idolatry of the sin (vv.29-30).

     On the command to write a bill of divorce, given as an
accommodation for the protection of woman and the hardness of
man's heart, Yeshua reasserts God's original (Torah) standard of
the lifetime commitment of marriage: "Everyone who divorces his
wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an
adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits
adultery" (vv.31-32).

     In regard to the command against swearing falsely - but
performing our oaths to the Lord - Yeshua goes beyond the command
to the ultimate standard of God behind it. This ultimate standard
is the sacredness of giving our word, the standard of honesty and
truth. Hence, a man's word is to be his bond of commitment
without the need to swear.
     Yeshua says, "But I say to you, do not swear at all either
by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth for it is
his footstool, or by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great
king. And do not swear by your head for you cannot make one hair
white or black. Let what you say be simply yes or no; anything
more than this comes from evil" (vv.34-37).
     Why? Because the godly man says "yes" and his word is
honest. Any need to invoke heaven or earth is extraneous to the
truly righteous man.

     The command of an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"
was a judicial principle to guide the judges of Israel: A
punishment was to fit the crime. In the ancient near East, this
limitation of vengeance respected the dignity of man.
     Unfortunately, some took this principle limiting revenge to
be a vendetta allowing personal revenge. To this Yeshua responds
by commanding a loving response to the enemy that reflects God's
love and mercy - to turn the other cheek. Even when the hated
Roman occupation troops under the law of conscription forced Jews
to carry a load for one mile, their response was to take that
burden an extra mile. The Torah had already taught that if your
enemy's ox falls under his load, you are to go and help your
enemy (Deuteronomy 21). This is all summed up in the command,
"You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemies, but I say to you love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you so that you may be the sons of
your father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the
evil and the good and sends rain on the just and unjust"
(5:43-45).
     Some have thought that this was a command against all
self-defense. That is not the issue; the issue, rather, is to
have love as a motive in all situations. Love may defend another
or prevent evil; but the motive must be love, not selfishness.
     The illustrations given - turning the cheek and going the
extra mile - are examples of love. Yeshua said, "You must be
perfect as your heavenly father is perfect" (6:48). This can only
be accomplished in Him!

     Yeshua also teaches on a piety that is truly godly, not an
outward display for the praise of men. This involved almsgiving,
fasting and prayer, the latter exemplified by the wonder ful
model of prayer he taught: "Our Father who art in heaven ... "
The first two lines of this prayer are parallel to the Kaddish
(sanctification) prayer still recited in many parts of the
synagogue service. Compare the first two lines of each:
"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom
come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew
6:9).
"Glorified and sanctified be God's great name in the world which
He created according to His will. May he establish His kingdom
during your days and during the life of all the house of Israel"
(Kaddish).
     Yeshua taught the avoidance of bondage to material things -
not laying up treasures on earth - and trusting God to provide
for all our needs.
     "Seek (ye) first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
and all these things will be added unto you" (6:33). 

     Yeshua was the greatest upholder of the true nature of Torah
that the world has known. He lived it! He fulfilled the Law in
living it and providing a way by His sacrifice and resurrection
that we might be empowered by God to live it as well!

Yeshua did have controversies with the religious leadership

     Perhaps the most famous controversy was in regard to the
Sabbath. Yeshua intensifies the meaning of law by bringing out
its deeper intention as opposed to the rabbinic understanding of
the Law by multiplying its external requirements. Yeshua never
invalidated the Sabbath. He taught that He was Lord of the
Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the
Sabbath. This is clearly the implication of all the teachings in
Torah about the Sabbath. Hence, Yeshua rejected the
multiplication of rabbinical laws defining what was and was not
permitted on the Sabbath. To go through a field on Sabbath and to
pick and eat the grain on the way was not harvesting to Yeshua
nor work in the biblically intended sense (Matthew 12). He
invoked the example of David, who even ate the holy Temple bread
in circumstances of need.
     Nor was it a violation of the Sabbath to provide healing
when compassion spontaneously welled up within, for this would
enable another to experience Sabbath rest through the miraculous
power of God's love. If circumcision was performed on the Sabbath
to make a minor member of the body whole before God - it being a
covenant sign - He who had miraculous power could as well make
the body whole. This was argued on the rabbinical principle "From
the minor case to the major" (John 7).

     One of the other great controversies regarded the rabin-
ical extensions of the law relating to clean and unclean foods
(Leviticus 11). It was held that unless one washed before meals
according to ritual prescriptions, he was unclean. Galilean
commoners uninformed of such procedures were considered unclean
and their food unclean. Some members of the religious
establishment thus despised all the am-har-aretz, the people of
the land.
     Yeshua's teaching was rejected because he was not a graduate
of rabbinical training. Yeshua taught a Torah - true spirituality
which applied not only to rabbinical scholars but to artisans,
farmers, craftsmen and fishermen. His response was to first call
into question the rabbinical tradition as a standard of
cleanliness (Mark 7:14-23; Matthew 15). What defiles a man is not
what goes into him but what comes out. It is our corruption of
heart attitude that is most serious; we must not be diverted from
this main issue by questions of external cleanliness. The
important issues flowing from an evil heart are, "evil thoughts,
fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness,
deceit, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these things
come from within and they defile a man." 

     Either Mark or an early scribe added the phrase "Thus he
declared all foods clean" (Mark 7.21-22).

     What constitutes a food? Does this mean we can now eat blood
(forbidden in the Noahic covenant) or even vermin? No, food is
defined by the scriptural lists in Torah. To any Jew in Israel,
the meaning of food was therein defined. There was no thought
among any Jews of eating non-Biblical substances. Hence, in Mark
7, what God calls food is clean, whether or not rabbinical ritual
and washing has been followed.
     Matthew 15 states the clear conclusion, "to eat with
unwashed hands does not make a man unclean." The tradition of the
elders was questioned to show how this tradition contradicted
Torah itself. Yeshua quoted Isaiah, who stated that they "taught
as doctrines the precepts of men" (Mark 7:6; cf. Isaiah 29:13).
Indeed, they rejected the intent of the command of God to
maintain their tradition. 

(This section of the Gospels has then nothing to do with "clean"
or "unclean" foods - Keith Hunt)

     The Scripture commands us to honor our father and our
mother, but the tradition taught that the means that would be
used to honor them could be kept back from them if it was
declared "korban," dedicated to God. Thus the Word of God was
voided by tradition (7:6-13).

(If they claimed they were going to dedicate all their money to
the synagogue, then they got out of having to help their parents.
Jesus condemned such a man made law that made God's law void -
Keith Hunt)

     Yeshua's most biting criticism appears in the 23rd chapter
of Matthew, amazingly prefaced by this statement: "The scribes
and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe
whatever they tell you but not what they do" (emphasis added).
They are then denounced for binding heavy burdens on men's
shoulders, motivated by the desire for external show and the
praise of men. The inconsistency of parts of the tradition is
again demonstrated. The tradition said that if one swore by the
Temple or the altar it was worthless; but to swear by the gold of
the Temple or the altar, that was serious and binding. Yeshua
said, "You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the
temple that has made the gold sacred? ... For which is greater,
the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who
swears by the altar swears by it and everything on it; and he who
swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it"
(vv.17-22).

     This is not to cast aside the whole rabbinic tradition, but
simply to question its tradition (as when He took the position of
Shammai or Hillel in the debates on divorce or the resurrection,
respectively). However, when tradition went against God's Word
and when religious leaders missed the true essence of Torah,
Yeshua was severe in His criticism.
     Yeshua never hinted that the Torah, in its role as a
reflection of God's eternal standard of righteousness, would be
invalidated. 

     In John 5 we read of Yeshua and the Sabbath. Yeshua is the
Lord of the Sabbath. He does not identify Himself as, Lord of
that which he seeks to abolish. In John 6, we read of Yeshua and
Passover (Leviticus 23:5). The miracle of the feeding of the
5,000 recalls the Passover feast of unleavened bread and the
manna in the wilderness. Of course all of the Gospels record
Yeshua's last Passover seder with his disciples. We read that
Yeshua blessed the bread, probably the afikomen or sacred dessert
portion of the meal, and broke it as a symbol of His body broken
for sin. The third cup of wine in the meal, the cup of
redemption, was then made to stand for His blood, shed for the
remission of sin. The Talmud enjoins that wine should be red in
sacred contexts to remind us of sacrificial blood. In John's
gospel, Yeshua is the Passover lamb who takes away the sins of
the world - just as the Passover lambs are slain in the temple.
And, like the Passover lamb, not one of His bones is broken (John
19:36).
     In John 7-9, the context is the feast of Succot (Leviticus
23:34). On this occasion Yeshua uses the impressive ceremonies of
Succot recorded in the Talmud tractate Succot to illustrate the
truths that He gives to the water of life and that He is "the
light of the world." The procession carrying water from the pool
of Siloam would circle the Temple and pour their libations on the
altar. This was done seven times on the last day of the feast.
(And that was the last day of the 7 day Feast of Tabernacles, NOT
the 8th Day, or Last Great Feast - see my studies on that under
"Passover studies" on this website - Keith Hunt)
     Yeshua said "If any man thirst let him come to me and drink.
He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his
belly will flow rivers of living water. Now this He said about
the Spirit" (John 7:37-39).
     The evening witnessed the impressive sight of the lamps
being lit in the Court of the Women. Light streamed forth,
illuminating the Temple with great brightness. In this context
Yeshua said, "I am the light of the world, he who believes in me
will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John
8:12). Yeshua is the light which illumines our path indicating
the way to go. He is our image of what God is like and what man
should be.
(John 8 is on the Last Great Feast Day - the Octave or 8th day of
Leviticus 23 - also fully expounded under "Passover" on this
website - Keith Hunt)

     John 10 mentions the feast of dedication (or Chanukah), a
post-biblical feast which celebrated the great victory over the
Syrio-Greek oppressors who desecrated the Temple in 165 B.C.E.
Chanukah at this time was a minor feast. In the days of the
Maccabees, evil shepherds sought to compromise their religious
practices with the culture of Greece in its pagan idolatry. This
provided a context for Yeshua's discussion of his role as the
Shepherd of His sheep.

Yeshua established the New Covenant

     This is clear in Matthew 5-7 where He recapitulates the life
of Moses and gives the stipulations of a new covenant. The nature
of this covenant only becomes clear in His death, resurrection
and ascension, and the interpretation of these events by the rest
of the New Testament writings. However we see aspects of this New
Covenant in other Gospel teachings. Key chapters are Matthew 13,
16, and John 17.
     Matthew 16 records the great confession of Peter that Yeshua
is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We recall that "son of
God" was a title for Israel (Hosea 11:1), Israel's king
representative, and hence especially of the Messiah. At this
point Yeshua makes His great statement concerning a new worldwide
movement of faith, although its extent outside of Israel may not
at that time have been clear to the disciples. He says, "Upon
this rock I will build my congregation (Kahillah-original
language of speech) and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it" (Matthew 16:18).
     This new movement of God worldwide must have a covenantal
basis. That covenant is the New Covenant; entrance into it is
through the confession of the Messiahship of Yeshua. Its
foundation is the death and resurrection of Yeshua. As seen from
the rest of Matthew 16, his Messiahship entails not only the
kingly crown, but His suffering death as a prelude to the reign
of resurrection power. The New Covenant includes the way of
entrance into the presence of God through Yeshua's atonement, the
reception of the Holy Spirit and a newly recreated human spirit
(Ezekiel 36:26-27), and incorporation to the universal body of
Messiah.
     John 17 makes it clear that Yeshua seeks the salvation of
the world. He prays for His disciples to love one another - to be
one as He and the Father are one - and that those who believe in
His name through their witness might be one in love in the same
way. Then shall the world know that He was in the Father and the
Father in Him. Jochaim Jeremias brings out the universal scope of
the ministry of Yeshua in his fine little book, "esus' Promise to
the Nations."
     Yeshua's goal is not to do away with Israel's purpose as a
nation, but to establish a worldwide spiritual kingdom. In
Matthew 13, we find that Yeshua's intention was not to set up the
worldwide (earthly) Messianic kingdom at that point in history,
but a spiritual kingdom under the rule of God that would spread
among all peoples. It would be a grain of mustard seed, starting
from the tiniest beginnings but growing into a large bush. It
would be as wheat among tares or weeds. Both grow together until
harvest. Any attempt to root out all the weeds before harvest
would also destroy the wheat. So, too, Yeshua's Kingdom would
grow in the midst of an evil society. It would itself be
contaminated by it. However, at the harvest, the Messiah's
return, the Kingdom would be fully separated from evil.

     Yeshua's words after His resurrection were to, "Go ye
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: and, lo,
I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew
28:19-20). We note that obedience to a command is not contrary to
the spirit of the Gospel!

     The covenantal nature of Yeshua's work is brought out
especially in the accounts of His crucifixion. When He died,
the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom
(Matthew 27:51). The curtain separated the Holy of Holies from
the rest of the Temple. Only the High Priest entered this holiest
place annually, with the blood of atonement for Israel on Yom
Kippur. The separation was an ever present reminder of our
transgressions separating us from God's presence. The torn
curtain indicated that through Yeshua's atonement we now had
entrance into God's presence. As we were in Him, the separation
from God was removed.
     The Temple system was central to the Mosaic Covenant. The
torn Temple curtain demonstrated the reality of a new covenant
and a new sacrifice superior to the old system (Hebrews 7-9). So,
too, Yeshua's promise of the coming of the Spirit (in all of the
Gospels as well as in Acts 1:8) is clear reference to a
fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant which includes the
promise of the Spirit in Ezekiel 36. 

     In the midst of all this, the crucial place of the call on
the nation of Israel is not lost. Luke 22:28-30 promises the
disciples a place in the Kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. Judges are rulers. However, the passage in Acts 1:6-7 is
even more significant. At the end of his forty-day period of
post-resurrection teaching, before His ascension, the disciples
ask: "Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Yeshua replied, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons
which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (1:7). The
disciples were clearly concerned about the literal establishment
of the Kingdom of the Messiah on earth during which Yeshua would
reign on the throne of David over the nation of Israel, and from
Israel, over the whole world. The disciples saw themselves as
part of this restoration even though they were followers of
Yeshua during the age of the universal body of the Messiah.
Hence, Jewish believers do not lose their calling to maintain
their part in the call of the nation Israel.
     It would have been so easy for Yeshua to correct His
disciples' misperception, if it was a misperception. For forty
days after His resurrection-and especially at that moment He
could have conveyed to them that this hope was a mistake of their
too literal understanding of the Scriptures; and that the kingdom
would never be restored to Israel. But no, He indicated that this
hope would come to fruition some day; but only the Father knows
the times and the seasons during when these things would take
place. Yes, the gift and call of God remain for Israel, as well
as the fact that Yeshua truly established a New Covenant which
would include Gentiles who responded in faith.
..........

To be continued


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