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His followers claimed He had risen as He said He would, bodily appeared to them and then bodily ascended into Heaven, as Elijah prophesied. This experience emboldened them to come out of hiding and they gathered at the upper room of the Cenacle on the Day of the Pentecost. From then on, they openly preached the radical ethic taught by Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is the origin of Christian worship and prayer and it directly links Jesus to God and Jesus has been called Lord, the Christ, the faithful and true witness. His followers who observed and advocated His teachings of the Good News were called Christians. Christianity was later founded and spread by the Roman soldier, Saul, who persecuted the Christians but was converted into an apostle by a direct encounter with Christ on Saul's way to Damascus. He was later renamed Paul.
Jesus as a Jew demanded nothing less than perfect obedience to the Law of Moses, that is, obedience to the spirit of the Law rather than just the letter or eternal ceremonies and observances. He remained a practicing Jew while condemning materialism and hypocrisy of the priests, declared Himself as their much-awaited Messiah and made a new, unprecedented, urgent and free offer of salvation from sin to those who would follow Him. Those who would become His disciples would be freed from the burdens imposed by the Mosaic Law, as He had come to free them from this bondage. Jesus lived what He taught as a person. He was totally abandoned in full trust and love for the living God Whose will and presence consumed Him and, in so doing, defeated the powers of the evil one. In His unrelenting representation of the infinite compassion and generosity of His Father for His people, Jesus worked miracles by healing the sick, turning water into wine and even raising the dead to life.
In His ardor to exemplify the Good News of reconciliation, Jesus boldly crossed traditional socio-religious barriers and sided with hated tax collectors, prostitutes and thieves. He wanted the Good News to exhilarate the long-oppressed and the abandoned and restore their lost sense of belonging to their God and Father. All the time, He openly expressed disapproval of pretentious Temple worship, challenged customs and freely indulged in the company of public sinners in a way that scandalized Jewish rulers and set them wondering who Jesus could really be. But Jesus was much more intensely interested in sending His Father's message of forgiveness and mercy to those who would accept it than on what guilty hypocrites thought about Him and would eventually do to Him. His unparalleled freedom in preaching about the Good News of the Kingdom drew the enthusiasm of crowds, but not long enough. Jesus took the risk of disseminating an insane kind of love that could not be understood or appreciated then, although it addressed the deepest longing of the human spirit. The more immediate fact was that He preached an opposing ethic at a time of political unrest and factionalism that led leaders to think He was a political rebel of some sort, a blasphemer and a daydreaming troublemaker.
The God of the Jews was the Father of Jesus. He was born, lived, preached and died as a faithful Jew. But He taught and lived more than what the Mosaic Law exacted through outward ceremonies and rules, He perfected these through a transcending love that was large enough to absorb and out-suffer the violence and shame of a ghastly and undeserved death on the cross and the abandonment of His friends. Crucifixion was a type of execution reserved for foreign invaders, traitors and slaves, and only someone ignited with the most unusual kind of love for weak and uncaring humanity would be willing to take it out of love and compassion for them. But Jesus was and Jesus did, because of a mission to which He was faithful until death, a mission of spreading His Father's Good News that, through Him, sinful man can now be freed from the bondage of sin and restored to infinite fellowship. What men could not pay back under the Old Law of Moses, Jesus remitted by suffering and dying in their behalf under the New Law.
Jesus was a Jew and observed everything the Jewish Law commanded and went beyond mere compliance. He put in and highlighted the element of love and sincerity that He Himself exemplified. He did not come to start a new religion to replace Judaism but to add the single and most fundamental element that would fulfill the Law in Him but radically alter it. This was what hurt the egos of the Jewish religious authorities. Their idea of worship involved only external performances, which would not require them to give up cherished advantages, convenience and pettiness. They did not want to think that far, while arrogating their privileged status as God's chosen people. Jesus knew what was in their hearts all along and addressed these hearts directly and conclusively. This direct and conclusive assault upon hypocrisy, greed, and conceit caused His cousin John the Baptist his life and then His own.
Pilate, the priests, the Romans and the crowd knew that Jesus did no wrong, but went about His life doing good and giving hope. That He should be sentenced to the most demeaning kind of death only revealed how out of since human beings have gone from God's original purpose. Jesus came into His own, but His own did not welcome him John 1:11) because they no longer have His Spirit, and without His Spirit, even His own would be misguided. They would follow another kind of law in their members that has kept them bondage from the knowledge between good and evil (Gen 3:5). While committing themselves to what was right, they overpowered the weak and separated outsiders through a claim to authority and moral autonomy and, in reality, observed a rule that repaid evil with evil. It was in this historical context that Jesus was born, grew up and conducted His ministry as a genuine, faithful Jew.
But in gathering His first followers, Jews like Himself, Jesus did not promise them a good time. Instead, He warned them that they would suffer persecution, no less than the persecution He faced, for following Him. But in the same breath, He promised them life everlasting and the right to sit on the throne of Heaven. In the meantime, his initiates should expect to be evicted out of the synagogues, like He was and the fact that He established synagogue worship as a norm among His new recruits opposes the assumption that He was setting up new religion. He was, instead, going deeper into the practice, except that He wanted His followers to be keenly familiar with suffering to a point of overcoming it out of love for His Father.
The Christian religion or Christianity grew out largely from the teachings of Saul, renamed into Paul the Apostle, after his conversion. He wrote the Epistles in the New Testament. Many critics, however, found his writing style complicated, his instructions hard to observe and his saying anti-Semitic and antinomian or anti-law. Almost two centuries have passed and Paul's teachings have remained unacceptable to the Jews. The major difference between Judaism and Christianity lies in the superiority or inferiority of faith over action, no longer Jesus is the Messiah or not. Judaism teaches that God looks and judges His people's action more than their faith and obliges them to follow biblical and rabbinic law to the letter. Christianity, on the other had, emphasized faith over works or acts, whereby faith in Jesus Christ releases one from the burdens of following the law to the letter.
Christian history, however, testifies that this reverse position of faith over works was not the emphasis of either Jesus or His early followers. Jesus Himself said that He had come not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and assured all that not a single dot or stroke would disappear from the Law, the Torah, is completely fulfilled, at the expense of the earth and heaven. He also warned against violating even the least of its commandments (Matt 5:17-19). Evidence also showed that the disciples of Jesus continued to observe Jewish Law or Halakha: their regular praying in the Temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1), Peter's scrupulous observance of Jewish dietary laws or Kashrut (Acts 15:1), and their preaching about circumcision in relation to salvation, according to the Law of Moses (Gal 2:12). James told Paul straightway denied the report against him and that Paul still regularly observed the Law (Acts 21:24).
In the year 70, the Romans destroyed the Jewish community in Jerusalem and a new ideology was formed concerning God's law. Its designer was Paul of Tarsus who set forth that: all the laws of the Torah must be observed and that anyone who did not persevere in their observance would be cursed (Gal…[continue]
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