Jesus: A Hebrew in a Foreign Land
by Jill Shannon
Q: When is a Jewish person not recognized by his own brothers as a Jew?
A: When he has spent decades, centuries or millennia in a foreign culture, language and people group. In Genesis 37, we read that Joseph's jealous brothers conspired to kill him because of the great favor that was upon this beloved son of Jacob. They ended up selling him as a slave into Egypt where he underwent terrible and unjust persecution. Throughout this time of servitude, suffering and wrongful imprisonment, he maintained his integrity and love of the Lord.
His righteousness was finally rewarded. Due to the supernatural ability given by God to interpret Pharaoh's prophetic dreams, Joseph became the most powerful man in Egypt. Pharaoh's dream prophesied seven years of famine, and the Lord gave to Joseph the authority and wisdom to prepare the entire nation for this coming famine by conducting a comprehensive national program of stockpiling grain.
Jacob and Joseph's eleven brothers experienced famine in the Land of Israel, and ten of the brothers went down to Egypt, seeking to buy food. Jacob had long since mourned the falsely-reported death of Joseph, and his last remaining comfort was Benjamin, the youngest child; this boy was born to his beloved Rachel, who died giving birth to him.
When the ten brothers approached this Egyptian dignitary to request grain, they did not recognize their fully grown, clean-shaven brother. He had been groomed in the customs of Egypt and had matured into an imposing and noble Egyptian, bearing little resemblance to the Hebrew youth whom they had tormented and betrayed. He recognized his brothers immediately, and his tender heart shattered within, but he maintained his outward composure.
Joseph then implemented a series of tricks and traps for the brothers, not in order to harm them, but to cause them to repent of their secret act of treachery. This lengthy ruse proved psychologically damaging to the brothers and agonizing for Joseph, who could barely contain the flood of tears stored up in his tender heart.
In the end, the sight of his younger brother Benjamin caused the years of mental anguish and the fullness of his emotional grief to break open. He revealed his identity to his terrified and guilty brothers and released a heartbreaking torrent of wailing; the pain of betrayal and the joy of restoration finally were permitted their full expression in this gentle soul.
Restoring the Lord's Identity
Joseph proved to be a righteous, merciful and forgiving brother to his sinful family. He was faithful to them despite their grotesque unfaithfulness to him. But why did they not recognize him? Joseph, the suffering servant, was in a foreign land among a foreign people. He spoke a different language and was the master of another nation. He did not look Jewish because of years of absorption into another culture. They did not know he was their brother and when they recognized him, they were ashamed and grieved over their mistreatment of such a noble and generous ruler.
This is exactly how it will be when the Jewish people recognize their Jewish brother, Jesus (Yeshua) as the One they rejected. They will mourn, and He will be faithful to weep with them and restore them into the bond of brotherhood.
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
"In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." (Zech 12:10, 13:1)
The Lord Jesus has, in some sense, spent close to 2,000 years among the nations. His identity, name and image were altered after the death of the Jewish apostles, such that He is virtually unrecognizable as a Jewish Messiah to His own brothers. In the early years of the second and third century, this reshaping of the Lord's image was a deliberate series of theological and political decisions made by several generations of church fathers.
Over many centuries, the church perpetuated this "Gentile" version of Jesus, even an anti-Semitic Jesus at times. The Protestant Reformers brought much praiseworthy restoration to the church, and a tremendous awakening occurred as Christians were able to learn and understand the Scriptures and the message of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus. Even so, one vital restoration did not take place at the time of the Protestant Reformation: the restoration of the Lord's Jewish identity and His fathomless affection for His Jewish people.
Traditions and translations, pride and prejudice, and a lack of Scriptural depth have produced a professing church which is cut off from the roots of the natural Olive Tree. Many fine scholars have addressed this subject in detail.
In these last days, the Lord is restoring all things (Acts 3:21). One of the things He is eager to restore is His original identity as the Son of David, Israel's most beloved king. Truly, He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah from where we derive the word "Jew."
The Lord Jesus will never turn His loving gaze away from His Bride, whom He has gathered under His wings from all the nations on earth. She is ever in His heart, which contains unlimited quantities of love to bestow on His own ones.
Even so, after nearly 2,000 years, He will now turn His gaze back to the land and city in which He has invested His Name and reputation, and to the people from whom He originated. The Lord must complete His redemptive work in the people of Israel as He has promised through His prophets, through Paul and in His own declarations. The Jewish Messiah, like Joseph, must be recognized by his brothers!
May the Lord confirm these written words by His Spirit, and may they bear the fruit of fervent love and intercession for the salvation of the Jewish people!
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.