WHAT DOES MESSIANIC MEAN?
What does the word messianic mean in the Bible? What is the difference between Christianity and Messianic Judaism? In Twenty Six Eight, we blend Christian and Jewish beliefs and practices. This unique combination is called Messianic.
Today, the word Messianic is used and understood in different ways in both Christian and Jewish communities. While many have heard of Jewish followers of Jesus, represented by organizations such as Jews for Jesus, or Chosen People Ministries, there are congregations of non-Jewish followers as well. So, here’s how we understand and use the term Messianic, and some basic history and background that defines the origins of a Messianic expression of following Jesus.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM MESSIAH – JESUS
The definition of Messianic comes from a Hebrew word that means anointed one. In Greek, the word christos is literally translated as to anoint. In the Bible, when God chose a man to lead his people as a deliverer like Moses or a king like David, that man was anointed with oil, symbolizing God’s presence would be with him as he led and ruled. If the anointed person was a king, he could be referred to as a Messiah or anointed one. People throughout the Bible were anointed, usually Kings like David and Solomon or the priests who serve in the Temple. This concept foreshadowed how God would restore the world. One day, he promised to send the perfect Messiah to rescue the world from death and reign forever as God’s appointed representative. The entirety of the Biblical story points to this Messianic figure in prophecies and stories through the law and the prophets. Throughout their generations, the Israelites looked for this Messiah for thousands of years.
When Jesus came to earth, he fulfilled the role of Israel’s perfect Messiah by dying and then being raised from the dead. As a result, many Jews believed he was God’s Messiah. Even though they believed Jesus was the Messiah, they continued to practice a Jewish lifestyle. In the first century, when a Jewish person believed Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel, they were Messianic (literally, they were followers of the Jewish Messiah). At the same time, they remained ethnically, religiously, and culturally Jewish. In fact, immediately after Jesus’ resurrection, Jews who followed Jesus were considered a sect of the Jewish people and religion. From their beliefs and practices, it was evident they didn’t believe in another religion or worship another God.
THE SPREAD OF THE GOOD NEWS
Then, something extraordinary happened. Messianic Jews were so changed by Jesus that they wanted other people to experience his life. So, they started doing what Jesus told them to do: tell people he was God’s Messiah, the king-healer, that he rose from the dead, and that he alone could reconcile them to God through forgiveness. And they did what he did: healed the sick, served the poor, lived in resurrection power, loved each other, and obeyed his words. When others encountered God’s power and love in them, many wanted to follow Jesus, too. Some of those who chose to follow were Jewish. But some were non-Jewish (called Gentiles).
When these non-Jewish people trusted that Jesus was God’s Messiah, they were taught to practice the same lifestyle Jewish believers practiced. This lifestyle was described in the Jewish scriptures (what many today all the Old Testament). Foundationally and practically, the life Jesus called his people to practice was contained in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. While these non-Jewish believers weren’t ethnically or religiously Jewish, they too were considered Messianic because they trusted in Israel’s Messiah, participated in God’s covenant promises, were part of his chosen people, and followed Jesus’ teachings. This meant they practiced the spiritual, moral, ethical, relational, and communal life described in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
THE DIVISION OF JESUS’ PEOPLE
Eventually, tragic divisions crept into Jesus’ people. Animosity arose between Jewish followers of Jesus and Jews who didn’t follow Jesus. The Jews didn’t agree with the Christian identity of these Jewish followers of Jesus. Many Jews who believed in Jesus didn’t want non-Jewish people following Jesus if they didn’t convert to the religion of non-Messianic Judaism, because it tried to redefine their Jewish identity. Even today, there are still Orthodox Jews who disagree with the Messiah manifested in Jesus.
Non-Jewish Christians developed spiritual, religious, and ethnic pride against Jewish and non-Jewish believers. Not only did non-Jewish Christians reject the Jewish people, but they also rejected the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that describe how followers of Jesus are called to live. It was an absolute mess! Despite these challenges, Messianic faith—what is commonly referred to as Christianity—has spread throughout the earth during the last two thousand years.
THIS IS WHAT LIVING MESSIANIC MEANS TO US
Messianic faith, or Messianism — what is commonly referred to as Christianity—has spread throughout the earth during the last two thousand years. In the last few decades, Jews and non-Jews who follow Jesus are once again discovering the beauty of what it means to live as Jesus lived. Practically, this means Messianic Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentiles are exploring how to blend Christian theology and practice with our heritage in Israel, biblical Judaism, and the Torah.
Like historic Christianity, they worship the God of Israel, obey Jesus’ teachings in the gospels, follow the epistles, and believe in God’s promise to transform the world through his church. But they also embrace a whole-Bible experience with the historical biblical practices like the Sabbath, God’s calendar and his Appointed Times, keeping kosher, wearing tassels, studying the Torah, and supporting the nation of Israel. Today, the Messianic Movement is growing by leaps and bounds as Christians grow hungry for genuine and whole-Bible experience in a world where Christian is often without authenticity.
MESSIANIC: WE’RE RUINED. IN JESUS, WE’RE RESTORED
God promised to restore everything through a special people group called Israel. He promised to renew the world through a unique member of Israel called the Messiah, who was specially appointed and empowered to reign over and restore the world on God’s behalf. We believe the Jewish Messiah was Jesus Christ, and he was the one who ministered in Israel as a Jewish Rabbi, or teacher, and died in Jerusalem, and was raised from the dead. and this is where the term Messianic comes from. When he died and rose again, he proved that he was Israel’s Messiah. So, Jesus is God’s way to restore the world.
WE’RE UNFAITHFUL. IN JESUS, GOD IS FAITHFUL
When God promised to restore the world, he said he would prove his promises by giving his people the land of Israel, multiplying them, and blessing them (Genesis 12:1-3). These promises would be fulfilled in and through Jesus, their Messianic hope. Even though Israel rejected Jesus, he didn’t reject them. Despite their unfaithfulness, God promised to be faithful to them. So, trusting Jesus means we believe he will keep his promises no matter what.
WE’RE SEPARATED. IN JESUS, WE’RE RECONCILED.
If we don’t trust in Jesus, we’re separated from God; literally, a long way away from him and his life (Ephesians 2:13). But when we trust in Jesus, we’re brought near. Everything that keeps us apart from him is removed and we’re be reunited to him. So, trusting Jesus means we’re reconciled to him and receive his life (Romans 8:31,32).
WE’RE OUTSIDERS. IN JESUS, WE’RE ADOPTED
When we trust Jesus, we become part of his chosen people and members of his family (Ephesians 2:19). This privilege is called adoption and through it we receive a new identity (Galatians 4:5). All the benefits and responsibilities of adoption into Jesus’ family, Israel, are given to those who trust in Jesus, whether they’re Jewish or non-Jewish. So, when we trust in Jesus, we have a new identity and are part of his family.
WE’RE POOR. IN JESUS, WE’RE HEIRS
God made four unbreakable agreements (covenants) with his people. In these four covenants and in the New Testament, God promised he would give life and Holy Spirit to anyone who trusted in Jesus. His agreements with Israel not only promise new life and identity, but also call his people to follow his ways. These ways are described in the Bible, starting with the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. So, inheritance means we trust Jesus enough to obey him. Even today, we see God’s incredible miracles in the lives of Israelis living in the new state of Israel today and the lives of believers.
WE’RE HOPELESS. IN JESUS, WE’RE HOPE-FILLED
Because Jesus, our Messiah Yeshua was raised from the dead, we have assurance God will give us eternal life by raising us from the dead (I Corinthians 15). The hope we experience in today’s relationships and circumstances point to the ultimate hope of eternal life in God’s presence (Romans 8:1-39). So, when we trust Jesus, we cast off hopelessness and receive unshakeable hope that changes our past, present, and future (I Peter 1:3-9).
WE’RE ALONE. IN JESUS, WE’RE GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE
When we trust Yahweh, God’s presence dwells in us (Romans 8:1-17). In temptations or trials, relationship or circumstance, pain and confusion, joy and sorrow, God is always available to help us because we trust in his Son, Jesus. To have God, then, means everything that he is and everything he promises is available to us forever.