"See What I Mean Sundays" - What Kind of Jesus Are We Talking About?

May 5, 2014

What follows is a thought from a chapter in my upcoming book, tentatively titled, "Converging Destinies: Jews, Christians, and the Mission of God."  This is one of my core convictions. Could it become yours too?

In John, chapter four, Yeshua identifies himself as a Jew when he says to the woman at the well, “we worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews.” Similarly, the woman identifies him as a Jew when she asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman, since Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

imagesimages-1The average Christian would freely admit that Jesus was a Jew.  However, this admission is usually little more than lip service.  In its art works, imaginings, and rhetoric, Christendom remakes Jesus in its own image, seeing him as the generic Christ, the cosmic Savior, the Man for Others, a Designer Christ, the Metaphysical Hero—but not as the ultimate descendant of “Jacob our ancestor who gave us this well” (Jn 4:12), not as the Son of David, not as fully, and as to his human nature, solely, totally, truly and permanently a Jew.

In an address at the November 2000 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Craig Blaising addressed this issue squarely.  He pointed out how none of the great creeds and confessions of the Church make any reference to the Jewish identity and Davidic lineage of Jesus, even though Scripture takes pains to do so, as in Romans 1:6, referencing “The gospel of God which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,” and 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.”[1] In view of the unambiguous testimony of Scripture, we would do well to agree with Blaising when he says:

The incarnation is not just the union of God and humanity; it is the incarnation of the Son of God in the house of David as the Son of covenant promise.  From a human standpoint, Jesus is not just a man, or generic man; he is that man--that descendant of David.”[2] 

Dominican scholar Bernard Dupuy saw this clearly in 1974:  “We have to get back to the One who became incarnate as a Jew among the Jews; to the One for whom being a Jew was not some kind of throw-away garment but his very being.”[3]  That this is a position we have to “get back to” indicates that the Church has departed from a proper awareness of the full identity of Jesus, the Son of David.  It is absolutely imperative that we return to the truth about who Yeshua is.  Once we regain a proper sense of who he is, the Jewish people come out of the shadows, no mere stage hands, but rather, key actors in the continuing drama of God’s redemptive purpose.

images-2In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Yeshua is quite direct on this matter.  In effect he says this:  “You Samaritans don’t know what you are talking about, we Jews do know what we are talking about because salvation is from the Jews.”  The blessings that come to the nations come from Jacob’s well, the covenant people of Israel, and Jesus, the Son of David and King of the Jews, is the vessel, the bucket, that draws this water that the nations might drink and live.

The church has forgotten this.  In implicit assumption, even when not through explicit statement, the Christian theological tradition transforms Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David and ultimate King of Israel and the nations, into a generic Christ, a cosmic Christ, a metaphysical a-historical figure.  Christendom has made the Son of David into the “Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country.”

All Christians should be terrified by this indictment because no such Christ ever existed—such a faith is a faith in nothing, a theology of thin air, a soteriology of smoke and mirrors.  This is what Jacques Derrida calls logocentrism. He contends that western philosophy and theologizing refer only to words compared with other words, so that the concept of coming ever closer to the some objective single "truth" or "meaning" through rational processes is but pompous illusion.  For Derrida, all Western philosophical discourse is simply talk—words about words.[4]

Is this what you believe?  Is this your “Christ of faith?” Is Christian theology just holy words about holy words?  Is it only talk? Or are the words of Christian confession instead rooted in a solid rather than a metaphysical referent?  Is your confession of faith rooted in something substantial, in the incarnate Word made flesh—Jewish flesh—covenant flesh?   Are your words of faith grounded in the only true Christ who ever lived, Jesus the Son of David, the root and repository of all the covenants, the one in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen?

Jesus of Nazareth never has been nor is he now simply the Lord of the Church.  He is first the Messiah of Israel, who unambiguously self-identified as a Jew, and was recognized as such by all who knew him.  There is no Lord of the Church who is not first, last, and always the King of the Jews.  He is not simply the cosmic Christ, the Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country, the Generic Savior, but bone of Jewish bone, flesh of Jewish flesh, the Holy One of Israel, and the Seed of David in whom all the promises of God are fulfilled—his promises to the Church, surely, but first, his promises to Israel.

Again, Dupuy puts it beautifully:

Unknown-2It was in becoming incarnate in the Jewish people that Jesus offered himself as savior to the entire human race.  We can acknowledge Jesus only as he appeared to us: as this particular Jew, this just and suffering servant; it is thus that he reveals himself in order to reign over the world.[5]

Do you see what Dupuy saw, and do you see what I see?  Do you see a Christian theology that has turned away from the One and Only Savior to fashion a Christ of its own choosing?  Jeremiah’s words to his generation apply just as well to Christendom: Instead of embracing the Savior whom God sent into the world of, by, for, and through the Jewish people, instead of drinking at Jacob’s well, the Church has forsaken the fountain of living waters and hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, which can hold no water.

[1] Blaising, Craig.“The Future of Israel as a Theological Question.” JETS 44/3 (September 2001) 445.

[2] Blaising, loc cit

[3] Dupuy, Bernard.  “What Meaning Has the Fact that Jesus was Jewish for the Christian?” in Kung, Hans and Walter Kasper, eds., Christians and Jews.  Concilium: Religion in the Seventies, Volume 98.  New York: Seabury, 1974: 74.


[4] Derrida is the father of “Deconstruction,” which advocates freeing texts from the interpretative traditions attached to them.  Osborne comments on the views of Derrida and the deconstructionists:  “There is no extratextual referentiality, for texts simply point to other texts (intertextuality) and words point to other words (metaphoricity), not to any external world behind the text.  Yet it must be stressed that that proponents do not consider deconstruction a negative movement that destroys any possibility of communication. They are not hermeneutical anarchists but seek to free the reader/interpreter from the "false" constraints of Western thinking and from the search for final meaning in a text.  From their viewpoint, they are liberationists!” Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Circle: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991:383.


[5] Dupuy, loc. cit. 

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