Torah and Messiah Part 3

TabernacleThe Torah has a lot to say about coming near to God at the Temple and bringing offerings and gifts, including animals for slaughter. A curious question to ask is whether Yeshua ever offered sacrifices in the Temple? It’s a curious question because the Gospels never depict him doing so. Our off-the-cuff answer to the question may reveal a lot about our assumptions concerning Yeshua. Another question might be, “Why don’t the gospels ever depict Yeshua offering a sacrifice or mention that he did so?”

From the point of view of many modern Bible readers, if someone were to ask, “Would Jesus do that?” it would be hard to imagine it. Can we conjure up an image of Jesus (the white, European looking savior) is bringing an animal so its blood can be poured out as a cleansing for sin? Some would immediately object, “But Jesus never sinned.” There are two answers that nullify this objection. First, Yeshua was baptized by John for repentance, which seems a rather parallel case. Second, sacrifices were not only brought because of an offense committed against God, but also for rejoicing and worship.

On the other side of the question, we might note a few things Yeshua said about the sacrifices and the Temple:

  • He believed in the sanctity of the Temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV).
  • He believed in the sanctity of the altar and its offerings: “Which is more important? the sacrifice? or the altar which makes the sacrifice holy?” (Matt 23:19).
  • He spoke as if bringing sacrifices was a normal part of life with God: “Leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother” (Matt 5:24).
  • One of Yeshua’s final actions and the thing that sealed his doom was an act of zeal for the sanctity of the Temple: “Yeshua entered the Temple grounds and drove out those who were doing business there” (Matt 21:12).
  • Earlier in his career, Yeshua engaged in a dispute with some Judean leaders about the sanctity of the Temple and his disciples applied a verse from the Psalm 69 to him: “Zeal for your house [i.e., the Temple] will devour me” (John 2:17).
  • So Yeshua regarded the Temple as God’s house, the altar as sacred, the Temple as a place not to be corrupted with business, and his disciples believed his zeal for the Temple got him killed.

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Given the seriousness with which Yeshua took the authority of Torah and the unfailing obedience he showed toward God, it is impossible to think he did not offer sacrifices. But why then don’t the Gospels show him doing so?

The likely reason is simple. The Gospels assume many things about the Jewish world in which its characters lived and moved and expect their readers will share in these assumptions. In other words, it did not occur to the evangelists that any audience would ever imagine Yeshua as something other than a Torah-keeping, Temple-worshipping Jew. Things like the sacrifices are part of the shared world which did not seem to require any notice in the accounts of Yeshua’s life.

This is a principle which should be applied across the board to the life of Yeshua and the disciples and apostles: their covenantal practices of obedience to Torah should be assumed even where not specifically stated. And Yeshua expected his critics to have as high a view of Torah as he did.

7 Comments

  1. I understand that the Council of Jerusalem established in Acts 15 the main issues that a Gentile in that context should do to demonstrate that their intentions toward the Messiah were truth. They didn’t include “you shall not murder” because in that time (as happens today) everyone (well almost) knew that murder was wrong and already fulfilled that commandment.
    But my question is, where the limits are? What parts of the Torah we, as Gentiles, must follow? What parts are optional and what parts are intended only for Jews?
    For example, I am trying to follow Shabbats, not only the Kiddush in Friday evening, or the Havdalah on Saturday evening, but trying to rest and study the Bible in that day with my family. I understand that for us (Gentiles) there is no obligation, but I feel that is the correct thing to do it and it is a wonderful experience. But this commandment is explicit and was given as a sign between God and Israel.

    1. Ernesto:

      Having only a little time for a reply, here is my suggestion for non-Jews who keep the Sabbath. Use a different blessing over the candles (not “who sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us”). But keeping the Sabbath as a non-Jew is something you can do. If there is a Messianic Jewish community where you are welcome, that is even better. As for the question “which commandments apply to who,” that is something not for a few-sentence answer. I have several blog posts on the topic which you can find via search: “Torah and Non-Jews,” “How to Read the Bible If You’re Not Jewish,” and “Gentiles Who Feel Left Out.” Hope this helps a little.

  2. @Ernesto

    I also am a “gentile” who follows Yeshua. When it comes to the Shabbat read the scriptures and do what you feel/think
    Elohim wants you to do. The Sabbath was made for man(all men). The Rabbis have many good traditions when it comes to Sabbath
    and some my wife and I have adopted. Read and pray

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