A Healing Lesson for the Nativity: A Christian Understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus - Part 1
Fr. George Morelli · December 23, 2009
Fr. George uses a recent incident in the news to show the healing necessary for all, including society, when one does evil.
In previous broadcasts I have commented on current news issues that impact on our understanding of the world in the way Christ counseled us. In the spirit of healing our ourselves, our families, society and the Church. Yes even healing Society or the Church, the Body of Christ, have to be dealt with. The topics such as what to tell children when a popular role model falls short, was one AFR broadcast dealing with healing children’s understanding of brokenness. This AFR broadcast is in the “Smart Parenting” series entitled: “Fallen Star.” In previous broadcasts I have also talked about cuss control and the talking to our children about same-sex marriage and the necessity for the Body of Christ, His Church, to focus on the gift He gave us, His Body Blood, Soul and Divinity, His very real Divinity, which is denied to us when we miss Divine Liturgy, either by choice when we decide to do other things on Sundays like going to sporting events playing golf instead of partaking the Divine Banquet. Especially egregious is when the parish Church enhances such brokenness by scheduling Church School during Divine Liturgy instead of some other time. This needs healing.
This week and possibly finishing up next week I am going to talk about Healing all that may have been made infirm by a news report. Whether the report is true or false I do not know. But the fact it was made even if false bring a terrible wound on those affected and all need healing. If this incident is like that spoken of by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, 11. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” a healing is needed for those falsely accused. It in some measure the report is true then healing is needed for the actions of those who give forth the perception of the Church, broadcast as a terrible evil, which in this technological age can be seen by all. This is especially relevant in this season of the Feast of the Birth of Christ .. which coincides with this reported horror. Healing exists not only is necessary for ourselves, our families, our society, but even in the Body of Christ, the Church. Now we are coming up to the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(The) kingdom (of God), is characterized, as we have shown, by humility and gentleness of heart. It is the combination of these two qualities that constitutes the perfection of the person created according to Christ. For every humble person is invariably gentle and every gentle person is invariably humble (St. Maximus the Confessor, “On the Lord’s Prayer,” Philokalia II).
I recently received by Google Alert an Associated Press report with the following first sentence: “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.” Whether true or false healing for all involved is needed. I will talk as if the core of the event is true, although it could have been deconstructed in some way by the media. As I said previously whether true or false the fact it was reported produced a grave injury to all. It true then the injury is even more critical. What makes this so critical is that this past Sunday the Sunday before the Nativity we read of the genealogy or Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, tracing His roots from Abraham, through the House of David, all the prophets and leaders of the Jewish people, some righteous some wounded themselves, right down to the his Birth.
My immediate emotional reaction was profound sadness for the Jewish people celebrating this beautiful feast who suffered from this hateful deed and for all those who are true followers of Christ. I also have deep sadness for the scandal to those who would construe this is a Christ-like act and thus denigrate Christ and this true followers , instead of seeing the deed for what it is: a demonic act.
However in disclosing my feelings and understanding of this event I must also keep in mind several points. I must beware of the errors in reporting that are made by the news-media. I was not present at the reported incident. I do not know the name of the priest accused of this heinous lack of true Christ-like charity. I also have to keep forefront in my mind Our Lord’s instruction: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7: 1-5). Let me judge myself, and God will certainly judge me also.
However, I must also keep in mind the words of the holy Apostle John “…All wrongdoing is sin…” (1 Jn 5:17). To be kept in mind as well are the words of St. Paul: speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle (Titus 3:2). But we also learn from the holy Apostle and evangelist John that acts or deeds can be judged. St. John informs us what Jesus told him about the acts of a group who had left the Church “ you hate the deeds ..which I also hate. (Rev. 2: 6).
Thus without judging the individuals involved I can comment on what deeds, works or acts we should display or not display toward others.
A true Christian reflects God
Who is God? “…God is love…” (1 Jn 4:8). St. John goes on: “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 Jn 4:20). This is based on Jesus’ summary of all the commandments: ” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mat 22: 37-40).
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The reason the Parable of the Good Samaritan is such a powerful example of the core of Christ’s teachings is that He spoke the parable as the answer to a simple but essential question posed to Him: “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29). The characters in the parable were two Jews and a Samaritan. One of the Jews was a temple priest, the other a Levite that is to say an assistant to the temple priests. The Samaritan, from the viewpoint of the Jews was an unbelieving foreigner of pagan decent. Because of ethnic and religious differences these groups had great dislike and discord between them. Jesus uses this extreme example to show who teach His followers who is our neighbor. In St. Luke’s rendering of the parable there is also another character, a man who “…fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Lk 10:30). It was the despised Samaritan, that “…had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Lk 10: 33-34).
Jesus was a Jew who did Jewish things.
The background of Jesus
Jesus was a Jew, from the House of David: St. Matthew’s first verse of the first chapter of his Gospel tells us: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” As St. Luke (2:21) tells us as per Jewish law “…And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus…” Scholars tell us that the name Jesus is the English translation of the Hebrew word Yeshua or more properly Yehoshua which means ‘Yahweh’s salvation’ (Spangler & Tverberg, 2009).
Following Jewish law after His birth
The Jewish law of consecration and purification, was given by God to the people of the First Covenant. As God told Moses: “Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine” (Dt 13:2). And God’s words as recorded by Moses in the Book of Leviticus (12: 2-3) “Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” Initiation in the Orthodox Church is by Holy Baptism, which Jesus Himself told us to do. St Matthew (28:18-20) records the command: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” St. Paul goes on to explain that baptism is a new circumcision so to speak: “In [H]im [Jesus] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col 2:11-12).
The Childhood of Jesus
Consider a general summary given to us by St. Luke (2:39) of the childhood of Jesus, with Mary His mother and Joseph considered His father: “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord.” Thus for example the boy Jesus, about 12 years of age going to the Temple at the time of Passover. St. Luke (2: 41-42) tells us: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom…” Jesus was found teaching the rabbis, and as St. Luke 2:47) records: “… and all who heard [H]im were amazed at [H]is understanding and [H]is answers.”
Beginning His Public Life
Our Lord attended a Jewish wedding service at Cana, a little Galilean village outside of Nazareth. Here Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine from water poured into stone water-pots meant to cleanse the dirt collected on the feet, hands and arms of the attendees. Of these vessels St. Marks informs us: “…(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.)” (Mk 7:3-4).
The essentials of the Cana miracle told to us by St. John are well remembered: “… the wine gave out, … His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim…. “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; (Jn 2: 2,5,7,10-11).
Jesus read prayers and preached in the synagogues
St. Mark records quite concisely: “And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues …” St. Matthew (4:23) tells us Jesus preached: “… the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.” Going to the synagogue was not occasional, but was a sabbath tradition which Jesus kept. St. Luke also tell us some of the detail of His preaching in which Jesus proclaimed Himself the fulfillment of the first covenant. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4: 16-21).