“Don’t you ever say that you used to be Jewish! You are still Jewish and always will be!” Like an Old Testament prophet, complete with boney finger in my face, Ziva, an Israeli believer rebuked me, because when I greeted her, I said, “I also used to be Jewish.” I was a brand new believer and she was the first other Jewish believer I had met. Until this time, I had considered myself cut off from Judaism. It was a painful price to pay (and one I would discover later that I didn’t even have to!), but Yeshua had radically changed my life and I loved Him for it… no matter what the cost.
Erroneously, I assumed that to believe in the Jewish Messiah, was to renounce Judaism: my religion, my heritage, my culture, and my people. The very statement seems strange, right? If He is the Jewish Messiah, why would I consider myself cut off? To understand that, you need to know what it was like to grow up Jewish.
Mr. and Mrs. Christ?
“I was about twelve years old when I first learned that Jesus was Jewish,” writes Dr. Michael Brown in his book The Real Kosher Jesus. In the same chapter he also shares the story of our mutual friend Mike Goldberg, who grew up thinking that Jesus was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ!
I can relate to both of their experiences. I too thought for the longest time that Christ was simply Jesus’ last name. We are taught, if not directly, indirectly, that one of the very definitions of being Jewish is that we don’t believe in Jesus. I have a strange memory of a phone call I made when I was about ten years old. I saw a sign on a car that read, “I found it!” In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I had seen this phrase in different places around Richmond; however, this time I jotted down the phone number and called it when I got home. I was curious to discover just what exactly he had found.
The person on the other end of the phone was excited to inform me that he had indeed found Jeeesus. I hung up the phone. Had I been cleverer at the time, I might have quipped, “I didn’t know He was lost!”
What is a Christian?
When I did “find” Him for myself in 1983 as an eighteen-year-old freshman in college, I assumed I had “left” Judaism. I was now a Christian. I didn’t like this term, mostly because everyone I grew up with—except for my Jewish friends—claimed to be one and yet it didn’t seem like any of them lived like a Christian. It didn’t take long for me to realize there were cultural Christians and true believers. There were people who claimed to be Christians because they grew up in a home where their parents told them they were Christians or because they went to a church on Sundays, and there were those who truly had a relationship with the Living God. In fact, growing up, most of the Jews I knew simply defined Christian as non-Jews.
Even though I did not dare call myself a Christian, I was still quite sure I was now separated from my people, my religion, and my heritage—cut off. If there was one thing I had learned growing up Jewish, it was that Jesus and Judaism don’t mix! I couldn’t explain everything we believed as Jews, but I could sure tell you exactly what we didn’t believe! In my mind, I was now outside the camp.
However, Zivas words changed that, “You are still Jewish and always will be.”
In the comments section, share with me your experience with the word “Christian” or you perception of Jesus/Yeshua growing up. Or ask me a question about mine.
Part II “I Am Still A Jew?”
 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus, Frontline, Lake Mary, FL, 2012, p. xv.
 ibid, p. xvi.
Photo (c) Maurice