The movement which began with Jesus the Jew has grown to include every tribe and nation on earth. The Christian faith has crossed over every cultural line and social barrier. Yet all to often, the Jewishness of Jesus (Yeshua) is lost among believers. Many people, Jews and Christians alike, are astonished when they first realize that Jesus is a Jew.
Jesus was born of a Jewish mother, into a Jewish family. Like all Jewish sons, he was circumcised on the eighth day. In keeping with Jewish tradition, he was given his Hebrew name on the same day he was circumcised. He was named Yeshua. Yeshua means "salvation." He was named Salvation, because he will "save his people." His people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the Jewish people.
Yeshua was raised as a Jew within an Orthodox Jewish community. Nazareth, his hometown, was a thoroughly Jewish village pioneered by descendants of King David. In keeping with ancient Jewish tradition, he had his hair cut when he was three years old. He kept the festivals and the Sabbath. He ate only kosher. He ate matzo on Passover; he fasted on the Day of Atonement.
He dressed as a Jew. He did not wear a mixture of wool and linen. He wore fringes on the corners of his garments. He wore Tefillin (phylacteries).
He had a Jewish education. He learned Hebrew. He learned the Hebrew blessings. At the age of five, he began to learn the Torah. He went to Synagogue every Sabbath.
He became known as a Jewish Teacher. He taught the Torah of the Jews. He taught from the Holy Books of the Jews. He taught about the God of the Jews. His disciples were all Jews. They called him "Rabbi."
Later Christian theology often pares Jesus against Judaism. But the anti-Jewish Jesus is not the Biblical Yeshua. He is a creation of the anti-Semitic and anti-Torah climate of the developing gentile church.
The gospels clearly portray Yeshua as a faithful and deeply committed Jew operating within the context of First Century Judaism. Although his interpretation of the Torah was often at odds with that of his contemporaries, he never abrogated the Law of God. He repeatedly demonstrated his affection for his people. He compared himself to a shepherd and Israel to his sheepfold.
Yeshua is a Jew. The Yeshua of the gospels is not a one-size-fits-all mystic. To remove him from his Jewish context is to misunderstand him. He lived as Jew, he taught as a Jew, he prayed as a Jew and he died as a Jew. His blood was Jewish blood. The sign above his cross said, "Yeshua of Nazareth, King of the Jews."