Recently, I was drawn into a lengthy conversation with an older man. After we'd already talked about ten minutes, he told me he'd recently left his former church because "the preacher got up there and said that Jesus was a Jew."
He believed this statement to be completely in error. There was no way, he told me more than once, that Jesus was a Jew. He'd read his Bible, multiple times, and he said he couldn't point to one passage that said Jesus was a Jew and challenged me that I couldn't, either.
I have to admit that off the top of my head, I couldn't say that there was a passage that ever said Jesus was a Jew. There are passages that strongly infer it, and this man could even quote those back to me, but none that came outright to say it.
I asked what he made of verses that show Jesus attending, and participating in, the holy Jewish festivals. I asked what he made of Jesus being found as a young boy in the Temple, listening and teaching. I asked what he made of the Lord's lineage, the way we trace His roots back through all of the generations of the tribe of Israel. He readily admitted that Jesus was called the King of the Jews (which he said isn't mentioned until Revelation), but "that don't make Him one."
"Let me ask you this," he said. "Who was Jesus's father?"
God, I answered hesitantly, not knowing if that was the "right" answer or not for this man.
"Exactly," he said. "And God ain't no Jew. And if God ain't no Jew, then Jesus cain't be no Jew." (Yes, he said 'cain't'.)
I have absolutely no way of responding to that. There certainly were things I could say and get into the theology of God a little bit, but theology was obviously not this man's strong suit. And it's not that I fault him for that; part of it may be his generation (he further revealed himself to be prejudiced toward Jews), part of it may be inadequate teaching, part of it may be lack of teaching at all. I don't fault people for ignorance, willful or accidental. Plus, time was starting to press in. I had things I needed to do on a certain schedule, and a crowded lobby was not exactly the place to challenge this man's theology. So I simply looked at him, raised an eyebrow, and said, "I don't think you've got your Bible quite right, my friend. So we'll have to agree to disagree."
What I wanted to say to him was, "If it walks like a Jew and talks like a Jew...it must be a Jew."
But I think this is a sticking point for a lot of us, in different areas of our theology. It's hard sometimes to figure out what God is saying if He doesn't just come right out and say it. This has led us to spend a good deal of our time trying to figure out what God 'means' by this or that.
It doesn't have to be so hard. God is not as obscure as we sometimes make Him out to be. He says what He means; He means what He says. He gives us enough information that the truth is right in front of us, if we'll open our eyes to see it. Look at the creation of the universe - nothing about it was contrived. It was simplified, straightforward. A cloud is a cloud. A mountain is a mountain. The universe is infused with meaning, but there's no hidden meaning in it. It's all right there for the understanding, if we'll open our hearts and our minds to look.
No, the Bible never says that Jesus was a Jew. We occasionally see other persons calling Him a Jew. We see Him going to the Temple like a Jew. We see Him quoting Scripture like a Jew. We see Him living and loving and dying like a Jew. Maybe nobody thought they really had to come out and say it.
Like so many other things of God in this world, maybe it's up to us sometimes to figure out what's right before our very eyes.
If it walks like a Jew and talks like a Jew...