Yeshua. Not another religion or set of commandments. In fact he fought against the very concept of religion.
The story begins in the Torah which tells of a relationship between God and man. Initially, God gave mankind the right of free will. Along with this huge privilege to choose for ourselves came massive responsibility since our choices have far-reaching consequences. In order to make perfect decisions we have to be perfect. But we are way away from that. Our decisions come from an internal conflict; There’s a struggle in each and every one of us – the conflict between doing good, being considerate, building others up, encouraging, caring for the weak accepting those who are different… in short, loving others. Or to be selfish, always putting ourselves in the center and chasing after what feels good to us even if we end up pushing, stomping upon or being unkind to others who get in our way. And this, by the way, is what the Bible calls “sin”.
We’ve got heart disease
This constant struggle within us between the sin that thinks only of self, and the love of others is much like a hereditary disease that we all carry and are infected by. The disease of sin is the reason that the world around us looks the way it does. How would the world look if we all cared about the needs of others first? But none of us is capable of perfectly loving and considering others. We all make wrong choices and hurt others – or in other words, sin. And that is precisely why we are separated from God; while he is perfect and has perfect standards, we don’t even come close. Look around you, our choices affect everything. From petty arguments to hatred and divorce. From rivalry between religions to horrific wars. From pollution to natural disasters and terrible diseases. All of these are results of our bad choices; Sin – our sin and the sins of our ancestors for generations.
So if this internal lack of peace is the problem, the solution cannot be external If all the missiles and weapons suddenly disappeared, people would still pick up sticks and stones to fight with; human beings have always found ways to fight and make war. Crime and hatred may be expressed in external actions but the source of the problem lies deep, deep inside in this inner struggle is a heart of brokenness that produces sin.
Religions cannot fix the heart, they just know how to start wars and build huge luxurious places of worship, in which the poor and hungry are forgotten The solution religions offer to please God is to wrap dyed strips of dead animal skin around the arms, to separate meat and milk, to worship rabbis and kiss the hands of priests, as if that’s how we impress God.
But in the New Testament, Yeshua teaches that rules and human laws cannot fix or change hearts.
Religion – it’s like trying to cure AIDS with bandages.
Yeshua taught us that it would never open the door to the perfection of Heaven, and that we simply cannot save ourselves by our own efforts. The bottom line is, trying to fix the heart with the help of religion is much like a grave that’s been painted and decorated with flowers; It may look good on the outside, but underneath, at the root of the problem, everything is rotten.
Blaise Pascal wrote that there’s a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person. As human beings, no religion or anything of this world will be able to fill that hole in our hearts or provide real satisfaction to our lives because that’s not what we were created for. While religions teach how we should try to reach up to God in our own strength, God says “No, I will come down and become one of you”. There are a few descriptions of this earthly revelation of God in the Bible the most well-known term being “the messiah”.
The prophets and kings of the Bible give us the ID card that lead us to identify the messiah:
- Isaiah prophesied that his birth would be supernatural as a sign
- Micah prophesied that he would come from eternity and be born in Bethlehem
- Moses predicted that the messiah would be a great leader than he was
- David described him as perfect
- Daniel prophesied that he would come and die before the destruction of the Second Temple
- Isaiah predicted his people would reject him, that he would suffer much agony, but that his death would make us, unrighteous sinners, right with God
- Kings David and Solomon described him as the Son of God, coming into the world in human form
- Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be written on our hearts that would finally deal with the root of the problem
…And the New Testament describes how these prophecies were fulfilled in the life of the most famous Israeli history. Yeshua.
The Messiah from Nazareth left us an example of a perfect life, not only with high moral standards of purity, justice and truth, but also of grace and compassion, forgiveness and love. Here is a love that sacrifices itself to the very end; taking the punishment we deserve on himself – not because we are better than others or that we somehow earned it, but because that’s how God showed his love. Love humbled himself and sacrificed himself for me and for you.
But the story doesn’t end there – the Messiah came back to life and promised that whoever believes in him gets eternal life like an inheritance He will come to dwell in us by his Spirit, shatter his heart of stone and change it from the inside to become a new creation. This is how the battle with the disease of sin can be won, and we can gain spiritual meaning to life and access into God’s kingdom.
One worth following
Even though he wasn’t a military leader and never ruled an empire, never wrote a book or even a single poem, he wasn’t a celebrity or a prime minister… even though there were no social networks back then, yet even so, today after two thousand years, we and many others see Yeshua as the ideal to imitate. This is because his love and the words of his mouth live on, and bring about miracles and wonders first of all in the lives of many Jewish people, and then also as a light to the gentiles. Starting with the rejected ones of society and the common people to rulers, kings and great philosophers, the words of Yeshua produced life and hope in dark places. Words that inspired more paintings, poems, books and even legislation, than any other person in history.
The message of Yeshua as a Jewish man was revolutionary, it was not a religious message of do’s and don’ts. He did not push people to try and find their way to God through following rules or bizarre laws, but talked about God’s love and kindness towards everyone, both Jew and Gentile. He also demonstrated this love in his life, and handed himself over to die on behalf of sinners.
So let’s just admit it, religion only keeps us away from God, it creates wars and hatred between people – the terrible things that certain Christians did to our people were no more than religious acts.
What religion says do, Yeshua has already done.
What religion binds up, Yeshua releases.
While religion is blinds, Yeshua gives new sight.
What about you?
As Jews, we can not afford to put Yeshua on the shelf next to all the other thinkers, we can’t ignore his words and actions. He’s not just the most famous Jewish person in the world, but he is the most influential person of all time. And what he has done in our lives, he also does in the lives of others. We are the first to admit, we are not perfect – we’re sinners – but in Yeshua we have found forgiveness for our sins and eternal life.
So do not let Uncle Obadiah, your teacher, or the rabbi from your bar mitzvah do your thinking for you – in the end, they will not be up there to hold your hand. Explore, read and learn about Yeshua for yourself!