A Christian Understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus - Part 2
Fr. George Morelli · December 30, 2009
Fr. Morelli continues his look at Christ's roots and how cognitive distortions can taint this view.
Last week based on an Associated Press news report “Dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova’s capital, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukkah, officials said.” I started a Healing series entitled: A Healing Lesson for the Nativity: A Christian Understanding the Jewishness of Jesus. This lesson that fits nicely with the Gospel read on the Sunday before the Nativity, the Genealogy of Jesus. recounts the Jewish line of Jesus from Abraham to Joseph. In previous broadcasts I have discussed the need for healing not only of individuals, but of families, both for the parents and children, society and even the Church. Sometime I have used a current news report as the starting point for the Healing commentary. For example when popular teen unmarried role model for Children got pregnant. Or when children began to ask questions about same sex marriage, which is condoned and promulgated by a significant proportion of society and which if opposes is considered by the proponents to be unjust, un-American, unsympathetic, inhumane, of course they can not say un-Christ like because it is only in Christ that a marriage between male and female can take place an d be blessed by the Church. Because the AP Menorah destroying incident whether true or not is so hurtful to ourselves as observers, the Jewish people, and scandalous to the world who may consider this heinous act to be what Orthodox and Christian is all about a healing has to take place to appreciate the Jewish roots of Jesus and the transformation of the Old Covenant into the New Covenant. … I said last week, I and all of us must not judge individuals, we must take the beam out of our own eye .. but we can comment on the deeds that are done or not done that would not conform to Christ and hate them … we can heal ourselves and those around us by witnessing the truth .. and if necessary modifying our own lives. Last week I also discussed that Jesus was a Jew who did Jewish things. I talked about His background, His birth, following the Jewish laws, His Childhood, beginning His public life and preaching and praying in synagogues … now I continue:
He observed the Jewish Feasts
In the three years of his public life St. John records that Jesus observed the Passover Feast (Pesach, Pascha) each year. At the beginning of His public life St. John (2: 13) tells us: “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” St. John (6: 3-4) tells us the next year to teach the people: “…Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” At this point Jesus performs the miracle of the loaves and fish. This miracle has great significance. It adumbrates the gift of Jesus of Himself that He gave to us at His last and third Passover of His public life, the Paschal supper wherein He changing bread and wine into His real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, (of which we can partake of at every Divine Liturgy). Father Lev Gillet, (1980) also known as an author under the pen-name: ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’ states: “’He ….gave the loaves to [H]is disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.’ But above all, the multiplication of the loaves is the sign of a spiritual reality: Jesus is the food for our soul, the living bread that comes down from heaven …the Eucharist [but also] …His presence, [H]is word ….[H]is invisible action….”
Of this last Passover feast before His Passion, Crucifixion, three days buriel and Resurrection for our salvation St. John gives this account: “Six days before the Passover …[days later]… a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:1, 12-13) St Matthew (26: 17,19) gives us more information about this particular Passover meal: “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the [P]assover?” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the [P]assover.”
Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths Sukkoth) as St. John records: “Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand….. The disciples of Jesus had gone up to the feast, then [H]e also went up, not publicly but in private.” (Jn 7: 2,9-10). Jesus was even at the Jerusalem temple to celebrate the Feast of Hanukkah itself. Once again the record of St. John (10:22-23): “It was the feast of the Dedication [Hanukkah] at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.”
Jesus dressed in the Jewish manner
Recall St. Matthew’s (9:20) account of the woman with a hemorrhage for 12 years: “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment [emphasis mine]….” This event is also recounted by St. Luke (8:44).
And St. Matthew (14: 34-36) also records when Jesus want to the region of Gennesaret “… they came to land … And when the men of that place recognized [H]im, they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, and besought him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment [emphasis mine]; and as many as touched it were made well.” The point to be made is that there is nothing particularly notable about the tassels making up fringe of Jesus garment, but that he dressed according to the Jewish custom of His time. The healing power of is not in the garment or its fringe, but emanates from the power of Jesus Himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit. Similarly when an any object is blessed the prayer reads “…Lord, send down thy Holy Spirit, with a blessing from on high, upon this …..; that fortified by the might of heavenly protection, it may be potent unto bodily and salvation and succor and aid, unto all who shall desire to make use of it, thought Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Although there is no tradition or scriptural text that indicates Jesus would have worn other common Jewish items, but it is likely He would have because they were worn in His time. Also, wearing them in secret or unostentatiously would point demonstrate the spirit behind them versus hypocritical pharisaical display He condemned during is public life. Recall Jesus words about this: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long …” (Mt 23: 2-5). Among these would have been phylacteries (tephillin). Consider God’s words to Moses: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Dt. 6:4-9). The small boxes, would have a scroll with God’s instruction above as well as words from Exodus (13: 1-16) and Deuteronomy (11: 13-21) .
Cognitive Distortions concerning the Jews.
In other essays I have focused on the role of cognitive distortions in evoking dysfunction emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression and the need to restructure such distortions into rational cognitions and functional emotions. Several cognitive distortions are especially relevant to what might be termed anti-Semitic incidents fueled by anger:
• Selective Abstraction: The focusing on one event while excluding others. In the case of the life of Jesus, focusing the Jewish leaders labeling them as emblematic of all Jews is plain and simple distorted thinking and wrong. As pointed out above, not only was Jesus a Jew Himself, but His Apostles, disciples and His initial supporters were all Jews too.
• Arbitrary Inference: Drawing a conclusion unwarranted by the facts in an ambiguous situation. Concluding all Jews would have fit St. Luke’s (23: 20- 21 description of the events: “Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!”..” The them were the select crowd called to rally by the Jewish leaders. Among those in the crowd were the Jews who were the supporters of Jesus who obviously would not have been the one’s shouting ‘Crucify Him.’ We know this because St. Luke (23:27) also records: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.” Let us not forget the woman at the foot of the cross, including Mary Christ’s mother, and the beloved disciple, John
• Polarization: Perceiving or interpreting events in all or nothing terms. Applying polarization to incidents such as this we might think of people, to be of two poles, those anti-Christ versus those who favor Christ. In fact many even among those who consider themselves Jewish are Jewish in name and culture only. Some label themselves, admittedly a minority: Jews for Jesus. They maintain many of the Jewish practices, and in fact run programs explaining the meaning of Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths, Sukkoth) and Hanukkah, pointing out the messianic elements and the relationships to Jesus. and how they believe these festivals are related to Jesus. Although not having the fullness of the Orthodox faith they share with us that Jesus is the Messiah, He is God the second person of the Holy Trinity, was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of mankind, and was resurrected from the dead for our Salvation.
• Generalization: The tendency to see things in always or never categories. Christ came for all mankind. As He Himself said: “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly….” (Jn 10: 10). To consider that some will never respond to God’s grace is fallacious thinking. St. Luke tells us: “And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope [emphasis mine] that they might feel after [H]im and find [H]im. (Acts 17: 26-27)True followers of Christ, should put on Christ. St. Paul told the Galatians (3: 26-28): “…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ came that all men may be saved. As the Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998) as told us: “…all religion exists only by the Resurrection of Christ and is mystically supported by this event.”
• Catastrophizing: The perception that something is worse than it actually is. Even when Our Lord’s own words were not followed, He did not catastrophize. Recall the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus when He told him what he had to do to attain perfection. (Mt. 19: 16-26). Jesus’ reply, with no evidence of emotional overreaction on His part: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)
• Emotional Reasoning: The judgment that one’s feelings are facts. Due to human brokenness (Morelli, 2006), mankind is susceptible to emotionally dislike those who are perceived as different from themselves. Often this is done with those who are different by ethnicity, nationality, race and/or religion. Feeling however are not facts. The writer of Genesis tells us: “So God created man in [H]is own image, in the image of God [H]e created him … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:27, 31).