"He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with
you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men,
be crucified and on the third day be raised again." Luke 24:6-7 (NIV)
Many civilizations have disappeared over time. The Jews, however, even though they have been persecuted for centuries, are still here. And unlike other civilizations who have lost their identity through intermarriages, Jewish people were quite faithful to transmit their identity, their culture and their rituals, for they firmly believe God had entrusted them with these institutions. During the time that Jesus was on earth, they would have never abandoned them, as they didn't want to risk losing their very soul.
One day a rabbi showed up, and He was quite different from others. He was compassionate. He healed the sick and maimed. Nothing could stop him. The other rabbis hated him, as he seemed to break the Sabbath laws and made himself equal to God: "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." John 5:18 (NIV) Eventually He was crucified by the Jews. However, this was not the end of the story. Many met the resurrected Jesus face to face, and when this happened, all doubt evaporated into nothingness: "After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 15:6 (NIV) The first Christians were Jews who followed Jesus and claimed He was the Messiah. They believed it so much that they were willing to give up and change the social and religious institutions they had been taught since childhood. They were fearless!
1. The Jews were used to sacrificing animals to atone for their sins. Without it, they believed there would be no forgiveness. After Jesus' resurrection, they no longer offered animal sacrifices, for Jesus was the Lamb who brought forgiveness (See Hebrews 10: 1-18).
2. The law of Moses was important to the Jews. They constantly emphasized these laws and abided by them. After Jesus' resurrection it all changed. The Jewish Christians didn't see the law as the way of salvation any longer. They believed they were saved by the merits of Jesus: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
3. Since the Exodus, Jews kept the Sabbath faithfully. Those who didn't follow the rules were stoned. Now this 1500 years tradition was changed by those who believed in the resurrection of Jesus. These Christians worshipped on Sunday to honor Jesus who was raised from the dead on Sunday: "On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord's day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His universal Church: "In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my name is wonderful among the heathen." (Didache (90 AD), Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book XXX HOW WE OUGHT TO ASSEMBLE TOGETHER, AND TO CELEBRATE THE FESTIVAL DAY OF OUR SAVIOUR'S RESURRECTION).
"If, therefore, they who were under the older dispensation came into a new hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath, but living in observance of the Lord's day, on which day also our life rose through him and through his death, which certain deny, through which mystery we have received faith (and through this abide, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ, our only teacher), 9:2 how shall we be able to live apart from him, of whom even the prophets were disciples, and waited for him in the spirit as their teacher? And on this account, he whom they rightly expected, when he came, raised them from the dead." (Ignatius (107 AD), The Epistle of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians chapter 9:1 and 2.)
4. Jews believed solely in one God. However, the followers of Jesus believed in a form of monotheism, consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one God. Quite different from their former beliefs! To Jews this was blasphemy, but not to the followers of Jesus.
5. These new Jewish Christians believed in the suffering Messiah who died for our sins. However, the Jews believed that the Messiah was supposed to destroy the Roman armies.
How is it possible in such a short time for such a large and devoted group of Jews to become willing to change their tradition that they at one time believed would save them? There is but one reason for this: They had experienced the Risen Messiah, Jesus Himself!
Those who believed in Jesus were persecuted; yet none of them changed their minds. They would have rather died than deny Jesus. No one would want to die for a scam. Jesus became truly their reality.
I used to attend a legalistic church. After all, they were the ones who introduced me to the Bible. I was quite faithful to this religion, but once I encountered the Risen One, it all changed. God's Holy Spirit came into my heart, and instead of religion, I experienced the Risen One in my life. I have never regretted my decision. I now anticipate spending time with my Heavenly Father. He is truly my everything.
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