The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, Christian, covenant, event, freedom, God, grace, hearing, heart, house of prayer, israel, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, judaism, lamb, life, love, mercy, yeshua
Editor’s Note: Published in the Washington Post’s ‘On Faith’ section at the following link: What the Rabbi Doesn’t Get
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public debates. He is also a dear personal friend, which is why I was more than a little mystified to see his editorial in the Washington Post, published one day after our November 1 debate.
The title of that debate, as proposed by Shmuley but not to my liking, was, “Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis?” In my opening comments, I answered this question in the negative, stating that America’s greatest moral crisis was certainly not homosexuality but rather the lack of the knowledge and consciousness of God, because of which every area of society suffered.
I also explained that what two gay men did in private was between them and God and was certainly not our greatest moral crisis, and I stated emphatically that rampant heterosexual divorce had done more to destroy marriage and family than all the gay activists combined. I then addressed the church’s sins against the LGBT community, for which I have publicly apologized a number of times. (Those reading Shmuley’s report on the debate would not have a clue that I made any of these statements.)
It was only after this considerable introduction that I explained that my issue was with gay activism, which was something I did not go looking for but rather something that came knocking at my door and at the door of my community. I argued that it posed a serious threat to our moral foundations and our religious freedoms, which I documented in terms of the queering of our educational system, the attack on the male-female gender binary, the implications of queer theology, the pervasive influence of the media in promoting gay-slanted values, and specific examples of the loss of religious freedoms as a result of gay activism.
My appeal to Shmuley was simple: Let’s stand together and address the sins of the predominant, heterosexual community, from pornography to materialism, as well as the negative effects of gay activism. Shockingly, rather than focus on these substantive issues, Shmuley pressed the question of whether I believed homosexual practice was on a par with incest or pedophilia. How in the world did this become the subject of the debate? (For the record, I stated that sin is sin, and that my own past sins were as bad as – or worse – than homosexuality.)
As to the alleged evangelical obsession with homosexuality (an accusation raised throughout the debate by Shmuley), I asked the almost entirely evangelical audience to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!
The truth be told, there is no “gay obsession” in evangelical churches, and, where pastors and leaders are concerned about the effects of gay activism, they are hesitant to speak up, lest they be branded intolerant bigots, homophobes, Hitlers, or jihadists, not to mention accused of inciting violence against gays.
Rabbi Shmuley wrote, “I argued passionately that evangelicals had become obsessed with homosexuality,” yet despite his best efforts to persuade and despite his considerable rhetorical skills, the audience was unaffected. “I could not move them,” he recounted. “Try as I might, my audience would not budge.”
Why was he so ineffective? It was simply because evangelicals have not become obsessed with homosexuality and, more broadly, because he was missing the whole point, which was not whether consensual homosexual acts were better or worse than consensual, adult incestuous acts (both are clearly proscribed in the Bible), nor was it whether we should ignore issues such as divorce, promiscuity, or materialism. Rather, the issue was this: Gay activism presents a serious moral threat to America in that it seeks to undermine the traditional family (which is already tottering through heterosexual failings), and by fighting for special LGBT rights and freedoms, the rights and freedoms of others are threatened.
Those who were present at the debate are well aware that my esteemed colleague completely skirted the issue of gay activism and refused to answer numerous direct and telling questions. Instead, almost by sleight of hand, he manufactured a misleading distraction from the real debate (“You believe that homosexuals are just like pedophiles!”) and turned a deaf ear to my appeal to join with the evangelical community in standing for comprehensive morality, upholding biblical values regardless of whether they are deemed politically correct. Worse still, he argued that homosexual acts were not moral transgressions and that a committed gay couple could have a fine, Jewish home, thereby marginalizing himself from both the evangelical community and the Orthodox Jewish world.
To watch the debate, go here: http://askdrbrown.org/about-dr-brown/itinerary/shmuley-vs-brown-debate-is-homosexual-activism-americas-greatest-moral-crisis.
Posted in Culture, News Tagged with: debate, Dr. Michael Brown, Evangelical Christianity, gay activism, homosexual activism, homosexuality obsession, Is Homosexuality America's Greatest moral crisis?, judaism, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, religious freedom
A campaign to raise awareness of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah from Chosen People Ministries, which included billboards and a full page ad in the New York Times promoting a free book explaining the chapter, also featured a public open-mic debate with Dr. Brown at a Marriott in downtown Manhattan on July 15th. The debate began with a presentation from Brown on Isaiah 53, and followed with an opportunity for anyone in attendance to challenge his presentation. Below is a report from Dr. Brown, including live excerpts from the presentation and comments/challenges from some of those that came to the mic:
Reaction from Jewish counter-missionaries (those that actively oppose the message of the gospel being spread to the Jewish people) to the campaign and debate included the following from 5 Towns Jewish Times:
Last Thursday night, Chosen People Ministries held a poorly attended public debate at Manhattan’s Marriott East Side, featuring top missionary lecturer Dr. Michael Brown, author of a five-part book series which purports to answer Jewish objections to JC. Among the few Jews who attended were several countermissionary experts, including Rabbi Moshe Shulman, executive director of Judaism’s Answer (www.judaismsanswer.com). Shulman engaged Brown in collegial exchange and scored several points in refuting Brown’s scholarly allegations that Isaiah 53 definitively supports the messiahship of JC.
Commenting afterwards, Rabbi Shulman noted, “Debates with Jews about the messiah are not new. Over 500 years ago, the Spanish Jewish communities suffered such indignity as part of the Inquisition. Today it’s more subtle, and Jewish apathy is furthering missionary inroads into Russian, Israeli, Bukharian, Persian, and American Jewish communities. The Orthodox can no longer claim to be immune. And what’s happening here is equally unfolding in Israel with little resistance or outrage.”
As well as the following from The Jewish Star:
The chapter, according to the translation in The Times, speaks of a singular “suffering servant,” which Glaser maintains is a reference to Jesus.
Isaiah 53 is a standard polemic text that missionaries use, said Rabbi Tovia Singer of Outreach Judaism.
“Isaiah 53 is the fourth Servant Song which began in Isaiah 41,” Rabbi Singer explained. “In the first three Servant Songs it identifies the servant who suffers at the hands of the nations as Israel. Isaiah introduces the servant of G-d, both in the singular and plural, who endured tremendous pains, but who is ultimately vindicated in the Messianic days… The chapter [is] molested, ripped out of context and mistranslated and presented to Jewish people who know nothing about the faith that they are being asked to abandon.”
In response to allegations such as these from counter-missionaries that the campaign should elicit “resistance and outrage” from Jewish people, and that the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is “molested, ripped out of context and mistranslated” by Messianic missionaries, Brown said the following:
When you hear almost hysterical charges like these from Rabbi Singer, you can only ask yourself why the counter-missionaries are protesting so loudly. Could it be that Isaiah 53 speaks for itself so clearly?
Really now, why would a Jewish rabbi get so upset when we tell our Jewish people to take their Bibles (in Hebrew or in a good Jewish translation) and read Isaiah 53 for themselves? Are we being criticized by professional counter-missionaries for encouraging fellow Jews to read their Bibles, pray, and think for themselves?
In reality, the greatest evangelistic tool we have is not our gospel literature or our arguments or our debating abilities. It is just the text of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. Countless thousands of Jews have embraced Yeshua as the Messiah based on their study of Isaiah 53, and we are confident that many thousands more will come to faith as well.
For more information on messianic prophecy, including Isaiah 53, see Real Messiah’s Messianic Objections section, and the book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 3.
Posted in Israel & The Jewish People, News Tagged with: counter-missionaries, isaiah 53, israel, jews, judaism, messianic judaism, New York City, New York Times, orthodox jews, prophecy, prophets