What Are the Messianics?
Guest Blog by Lynwood Johnson
The Messianic movement or Messianism is as old as the days in which Jesus lived in Israel and identified Himself as Israel’s promised Messiah. It is also a contemporary and growing presence throughout Israel, the United States, and other nations.
Many Christians are surprised to learn that all the New Testament writers were Messianic Jews, with the possible exception of Luke. None of them ceased being Jews active in their synagogue communities, but rather they continued living as practicing Jews who understood Jesus’ words and attesting miracles supporting His claim of being Israel’s Messiah anticipated by numerous prophets. We read in Acts 6:7, “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Guess what? These priests and the other ‘disciples’ were Messianic Jews. Remember too, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were followers, and members of Judea’s highest religious authority, the Sanhedrin.
To summarize a lot of Messianic history, across the centuries there was a ‘faithful remnant’ of Jewish men (yes, men; for historic cultural reasons) who read the Hebrew Torah (the first five O.T. books) and the Tanakh (the balance of the OT) and quietly concluded that Yeshua (“Jesus”) was Israel’s promised Messiah. To hold these views publicly meant heavy persecution and ostracism from their community. That outcome often meant loss of livelihood.
The modern Messianic movement began to take shape in the 1960s and 1970s, almost parallel with the “Jesus Movement” here in the US. A number of organizations and leaders emerged who sought to build a bridge between Judaism and Christianity with messaging appropriate to each. To the Jewish, the message is that the concept of the Messiah was a hope and future that was alluded to in numerous places in the Jewish scriptures, and in the person of Yeshua HaNazret (Jesus of Nazareth) is the complete fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Jewish people have only to read their scriptures for themselves to notice the connections. Once they do, they start asking questions their rabbis would rather not answer.
To the Christian community the message is that the cradle of Christianity is Judaism. Where do we get the notion that God is One, there is no other; He has given His word and His word is authoritative? Where do we learn our God has given His people numerous promises and He has not failed in the fulfillment of any? The Jewish scriptures, of course.
I like to picture the Jewish/Christian differences in theology to an epic movie with an intermission. The first part of the movie is a digest of Jewish history which tells a huge story of God calling out a man, a family, a nation a race – to be His chosen people. These chosen people reject Him repeatedly; and He in His grace rushes to forgive them, repeatedly. We learn tons about God and His love in this first part of the movie. And we learn that the Jews are not the only ones who reject God, over and over. We do it, too. The Jewish story is ours, as well.
However, come the movie’s intermission, the Jewish folks walk out. They want nothing to do with this ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Most Jews reject the blossom, the flower (‘Lily of the Valley’) the culmination of the Father of Israel’s intention: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29), our great Cohen HaGadol (Great High Priest) who entered the heavenly most holy place only once to remove the sins of all mankind. (Hebrews 9: 22-28)
But that’s not all. While the Jewish people are leaving the theater at intermission, they’re passing another group coming in – the Christians! For them, three fourths of their Bibles are somewhat interesting material, but the real juice begins at Matthew, Chapter One.
To put it succinctly, Jewish people and Christians could both strongly benefit from deeper study of both. The ‘New Testament’ is an elaboration and fulfillment of the Old. When one reads the Old Testament though a lens of pattern recognition it is amazing what God has implicitly put into His great story.
A quick example: Passover and the death angel passing over. Fathers of Hebrew households were given specific instructions through Moses on what to do. (Genesis 12) The instructions included slaughtering the lamb, draining its blood into a basin, and daubing the lamb’s blood with hyssop on the doorposts and lentil of their doors (lentil is the horizontal part of the door frame.
Of course, some blood would drop to the ground beneath the two doorposts, as well as from the lentil. 3 puddles of blood. Think: a crown of thorns and spiked ankles. Spiked wrists. Hyssop. Sour wine.
The death angel “passes over” every one who has put their faith, trust, life – in this Man.
For Messianics, Passover is our “Easter.” The killing of the lambs foreshadows Calvary. The “Lamb of God” took our place there, for us. Once. For all. By our faith in Him and trust in what He has done in our behalf, we find the complete freedom He promises.
As said, the above is just one of many examples.
So, what are Messianic Congregations like? Well, like 90% of Christian churches, they’re small – 30 – 150 people or so; with a few rather large assemblies. There are an estimated 300 Messianic congregations or synagogues in the U.S. Thirty years ago there where hardly any Messianic gatherings in Israel. Now, there are about 200. It is amazing what God is doing in these last of the latter days!
Messianic congregations are unified in the mission of seeing Jewish people come to embrace Yeshua as their Savior, Lord, and God. God’s chosen people are our favorite people!
The worship service itself is very similar to synagogue order of service.
This is very comfortable for Jewish people checking us out. Christian visitors remark regarding the strongly Biblical message they are familiar with, and almost stunned by the added depth of the “Old Testament” foundations and parallels. A remark often heard: “How come I never heard such depth of teaching in our church?”
Who would a Messianic congregation be a great fit for?
For couples in which one is Jewish and the other is Christian. Both are comfortable in this space. Also for Jewish people who have an awakened ‘itch’ that there is something more to their faith than what they’ve been hearing from their rabbis.
And, similarly for Christian believers who have a restlessness wherein they sense the Spirit has something more.
And, truly He does.
Lynwood Johnson holds the Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has pastored churches in Illinois, Michigan, and Phoenix. He is a Messianic Teacher at Tree of Life Congregation, Scottsdale, Arizona. In his spare time he cleans his garage.
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What Are the Messianics?
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Two Measures Foolish: Foolish to God for we sin – Foolish to the world for the cross.