“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures about him.” (Luke 24:13-35)
In Luke’s narrative of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus comes up along-side of them and asks what they are talking about. Not recognizing him after his resurrection, they describe the astonishing events of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and supposed resurrection. They wonder what it all means. Jesus gently chastises them for being slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had said about him.
As Christians, it is tempting for us to focus primarily on the New Testament. Yet even the gospels in describing the life and words of Jesus, make numerous references to Old Testament events and prophesies.
In Genesis, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:6) He tells Moses that he will raise up a prophet like him who will teach people everything God commands. (Deut. 18:18) There are numerous references in Isaiah to the birth of Jesus, along with a description of his character and purpose. (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 40:10-11) In Isaiah 53, the writer speaks of the suffering servant, Israel, which later becomes a description of Jesus, bringing redemption and salvation to a sinful world.
Jesus connects us with the Jewish people and their heritage whether we realize it or not. This heritage, which enriches the understanding of our Christian faith, is not unlike the Christian heritage provided by our parents and grandparents who leave us a legacy of teaching and example.
Since my mother was Catholic and my father Baptist, growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s, I had the benefit of an ecumenical Christian heritage. From my father and grandparents, I saw a steady faith with a focus on scripture. From my mother I saw a special reverence and piety in her prayer and sacramental life. From them flowed a conscience of right and wrong that carried me until the day I had my own personal encounter with Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit in the context of my Catholic faith.
I will never know how the prayers of my parents and grandparents influenced the course of my life, but now having the vantage point of parent and grandparent myself, I suspect there was a considerable impact. My wife would testify to a similar influence from her parents and grandparents.
Heritage is part of God’s plan for his creation — each generation passing on how they have experienced God and what they have learned from the time of Abraham 3800 years ago to the present day. We Christians share so much with the Jewish people – the same God and father, the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament prophets, the wisdom literature, and the dignity of life. May we one day share the same Messiah!
As Christians, do we fully appreciate our Jewish heritage?