Over the next month I will be preaching about the Jewish holidays that Jesus celebrated throughout his lifetime. One of the things that has been lost on the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, actually down through the centuries, is the Jewishness of our Christian faith. Jesus was raised Jewish and practiced Judaism throughout his entire lifetime. That would’ve included celebrating all the Jewish holidays that for most Christians today have little or no significance. Many in Central Jersey are aware of the Jewish holidays because many of our schools are closed on certain Jewish holidays. But I think it’s helpful in our Christian faith to understand Jesus’s connection to his Jewishness, therefore as I’m preaching on this topic throughout the month of October and I will also be blogging about it as well. This coming Monday starting at sundown will commemorate the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which is the celebration of the Jewish New Year. On the Jewish calendar this year will be 5777, I’m not sure what that year is connected with and I didn’t find the starting date in my research. I think it may have something to do with the beginning of recorded history but that date predates Abraham by at some 2000 years. Rosh Hashanah is a very serious New Year holiday, unlike our New Year’s celebration here in America. Also called the feast of trumpets, Rosh Hashanah begins the 10 days of repentance that culminate in Yom Kippur which makes up some of the primary Jewish High Holy days. Jewish tradition says that God writes every person’s words, deeds, and faults in the Book of Life, which he opens and examines on Yom Kippur. If the good deeds outnumber the sinful ones for the year, that person’s name will be inscribed in the book for another year on Yom Kippur. So during Rosh Hashanah and the 10 days of repentance that follow people can repent of their sins and do good deeds to increase their chances of having their name inscribed in the Book of Life. Rosh Hashanah is sometimes referred to as the judgment day because of this evaluation by God of our good works compared to our bad works. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, the shofar (rams horn) is blown to call people to repent and to remind them that the holy days are arriving. In some synagogues the shofar is blown 100 times to call people to repentance. We see a vast difference in the Jewish New Year and our New Year celebrations.
Jesus picks up this theme of judgment in John’s Gospel when he says,” I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, the time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear it will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man,” (John 5:24-27 NIV). In this passage we see Jesus describing himself as both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Because Jesus has both titles he also has the right to serve as God’s eternal judge. As the Son of God Jesus has eternal and complete insight and wisdom. As the Son of Man Jesus has partaken of the human nature himself and therefore he has the right in his humanity to serve as our eternal judge. God through the Lord Jesus Christ will call each of us to account for the opportunities he is set before us. Remember in the Jewish tradition it is Book of Life where all of our deeds are recorded and we’ll be judged according to the weight of those actions. While there is a Book of Life but it’s not based on our good or bad deeds. That sounds more like Santa Claus’ shopping list. The Lamb’s Book of Life will determine where we spend eternity. In Revelation we read, “if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life he was thrown into the lake of fire,” (REV.20:15 NIV). Eternal separation from God in a place we refer to as hell is a hard concept for us to understand and yet it is a very biblical concept and one that we should not take lightly.
Jesus had earlier in the John passage told us the simple condition for passage into the Lamb’s Book of Life. Again his words in verse 24 state, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”. The simple conditions on passing from death to life and having our name written in the Lamb’s book is hearing with a hearing ear and believing with an open heart. In the Jewish tradition believing not only concerned agreeing with something but through that believing to put those beliefs into practice in our practical life. The word Jesus has spoken will give us eternal life if we allow him to transform our lives and recognize that was for our sins that Jesus died and rose again so that we could be saved. When that becomes the basis of our faith, then we will have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Let me ask you this simple question, have you met the conditions to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? And if you haven’t met those conditions, what’s the holdup? Don’t get caught for eternity with your name outside the Lamb’s Book of Life!
Shalom, Pastor Rich Sivo