And He said, It is a light thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give You for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
What is the “Messianic Movement”? The Messianic Movement is NOT a RELIGION, nor is it a DENOMINATION. It is an INTERNATIONAL INTER-RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT comprised of both CHRISTIANS and JEWS.
However, the beliefs and practices of this International Inter-Religious Movement can not be easily defined or described, because it is so diverse with so many people from so many different backgrounds, views, beliefs, and perspectives that comprise it.
THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT – A BRIDGE?
The best way to describe the Messianic Movement is as a ideological bridge that spans across two interrelated, yet distinct religions: Christianity and Judaism. It is a bridge because you can get on it from both directions, not just one. And the intersection of these two religions are the following shared beliefs:
- Both religions believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the One True, Living God;
- Both religions believe in the Hebrew Scriptures (or what Christians call “the Old Testament”);
- Both religions believe in an afterlife;
- Both religions believe in angels; and
- Both religions have replaced the Hebrew Scriptures with another writing and their traditions (Rabbinic Judaism with the Talmud and rabbinic traditions; and Christianity with the New Testament, Church Councils, and their denominational beliefs and traditions).
THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT – AN EXTREMELY DIVERSE MOVEMENT?
Because the Messianic Movement does span two inter-related, yet distinct religions, it cannot be easily defined or described, because it is so diverse with so many people from so many different backgrounds and belief systems that comprise it. In fact, on this bridge, you have everything from non-Jewish Christians who have an interest in the Jewish background of their faith on the one side of the bridge to Orthodox, Chasidic Jews who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Promised Messiah on the other side, and everything in between those two extremes. Consequently, then, to say that one is “Messianic” is merely to denote that one is somewhere on this bridge, but nothing else beyond that.
As a result, what one point on the bridge may constitute “Messianic” for one person may be an entirely different position for another person. Therefore, what’s considered “Messianic” all depends on who you ask.
As I’m going to show in the rest of this four-part series, the Messianic Movement has grown way beyond its present definition and view of itself, because it only defines one side of the bridge, the Jewish side. Since it’s definition is incomplete, then it’s description of itself is not helpful for those in the movement and those outside of the movement. As I am going to show, I believe that both the definition and understanding of the movement has to be greatly broadened, and maybe even re-contextualized, in order to prepare people for what God is leading His people towards: the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.
MY OWN INTRODUCTION
I was first introduced to the “Messianic Movement” in 1982 through a band called Lamb, although at that time, I did not know the name of this movement, nor did I realize there was a connection between it and the band. My wife had gone to the Bible bookstore in the area where we lived, and they had several Lamb albums on sale. My wife bought them all. What motivated her to do this, my wife still isn’t sure even to this day. But she brought them home and I put one of the albums on the record player, and I so enjoyed the music and lyrics that I listened to them over and over again (Much to the dismay of my wife at the time).
Shortly after this, due to things going on in my own life and what I was seeing in the American church, I believed that something had changed from the way the church was in the book of Acts to the way it was today, so I spent better than six months researching everything that I could find on the time period from 200 B.C.E. to 1,000 C.E. The more I research, the more convinced I was that something had occurred to transform the early Jewish sect of Yeshua/Jesus and His early disciples into what evolved into Christianity. I just wasn’t sure what had happened. After completing my research, I came to my own conclusions, independent of any Messianic writer or teacher. At that time, I did not even know there was a movement called the “Messianic movement” nor did I realize that there were others who had drawn similar conclusions.
It wasn’t until after I received my Master of Arts degree in English, and I moved my family down to the Phoenix area, that I came across a book by Dr. David Stern, called Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospels: A Message to Christians while visiting a local library. It was in his book that I discovered that Dr. Stern and I had drawn many similar conclusions, but quite independent of one another, and it was through his book that I learned about the Messianic movement. In fact, after reading his book, my wife still remembers me running through our apartment yelling, “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy!” So after calming down from the excitement of discovering I was not alone in my thoughts, we became part of the movement for the next eight years because of the similar viewpoints and ideas that I shared with them.
During that time (1992 – 2000), the groups we were a part of were either extremely small or were not well established. A couple of them were home groups; consequently, we ended up going from group-to-group because the groups would either collapse or disperse. Eventually, we did find a group large enough to have children in attendance, but unfortunately, none of them were my own childrens’ ages, so they did not have anyone their own age to play with. But we hung in there until I needed to move due to work, and the new location did not have a Messianic congregation, so we went back to attending a local church.
I realize not everyone’s experience was like mine; however, it was my experience. At this time, the Messianic movement was not well known or popular, so as a result, the groups were extremely small. Most of the people in the groups I attended were non-Jewish like me, but the one large group I eventually did find did had a few Jews attending. Unfortunately, the larger Messianic organizations at that time did not give non-Jews the same voting rights or decision-making power as those who were Jewish. As a result, there were many non-Jews, like me, who wanted to be a part of the movement, but we were not given the same voice as the Jews who were in the movement.
From 2000 – 2015, we were out of the movement. However, in the Fall 2015, God spoke to my wife and I, and He told us that it was time again for us to again obey His Torah, to remember His Sabbaths and feasts, as well as to keep His commandments; in addition, He also directed us to a local Messianic body, Rosh Pinah, in Oklahoma City, which we attended until the end of July 2016. On August 1, 2016, we left the country for three months to live in Jerusalem, Israel. We met many people over there, and we learned quite a bit.
When we came back, the Lord led us to a small Assemblies of God church on the Cocopah East reservation, where we pastored for almost two years. Then near the end of the two years, the Lord again moved us to Phoenix, where I am working on a book and we have again started attending a Messianic congregation here in town,
The last four years has been quite a ride for us with the Lord, but our present participation in the Messianic movement and our learning to be more Torah-observant than what we had been previously is due to us striving to be obedient to the will of God for our lives. In other words, this time we are part of the movement and are being Torah-observant simply because God told us to do it.
PART 2: WHAT IS “MESSIANIC JUDAISM”?
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