Jesus was a Jew. He came to fulfill the promises God had made to the Jewish people. The Jews had been anticipating Jesus’ arrival for centuries and Jesus lived among them, fulfilling the Jewish prophecies. It’s my understanding that Jesus’ original twelve disciples were probably Jewish as well, possibly corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel.
There are some who assert that Jesus did not come to share His message with non-Jews (“Gentiles”). They often use the following story to support their argument:
“A woman from Canaan who was living there came to him (Jesus), pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, King David’s Son! For my daughter has a demon within her, and it torments her constantly.’ But Jesus gave her no reply — not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. ‘Tell her to get going,’ they said, ‘for she is bothering us with all her begging.’ Then he said to the woman, ‘I was sent to help the Jews — the lost sheep of Israel — not the Gentiles.’ But she came and worshiped him and pled again, ‘Sir, help me!’ ‘It doesn’t seem right to take bread from the children and throw it to the dogs,’ he said. ‘Yes, it is! she replied, ‘for even the puppies beneath the table are permitted to eat the crumbs that fall.’ ‘Woman,’ Jesus told her, ‘your faith is large, and your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed right then.” (Matthew 15:22-28)
What is important to me about this story is not that Jesus initially ignored the Gentile woman. What is important to me about this story is that Jesus ultimately answered her prayer. When she persisted in her faith, Jesus focused on her faith, not her “pedigree.” Hers is not the only New Testament story where that happened.
The New Testament teaches that Jesus’ love and authority extends to all people — not only God’s Chosen People of the Old Testament.
“Before anything else existed, there was Christ (literally, ‘the Word’, meaning Christ, the wisdom and power of God and the first cause of all things; God’s personal expression of himself to men), with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is — nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind.” (John 1:1-4)
But that does not answer the question whether Jesus came to earth for the sake of the Jews or for everyone? I do not know know Jesus’ mind. I am not a religious scholar. I cannot say whether Jesus came to earth only for the Jews for whom His coming had been promised by God and foretold by the prophets — or whether Jesus came to benefit non-Jews also. What my heart tells me is this: I believe that Jesus came in service to both, even though His primary focus may have been to fulfill God’s promise to the Jews and the prophecies of the Old Testament. Only by doing so could there be no doubt as to His identity. Only by fulfilling God’s promise to the Jews could Jesus enter into a new covenant with everyone. I believe that what Jesus did for the Jews was for the benefit of all.
Jesus told his disciples, “I am the Good Shepherd and know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, in another fold. I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice; and there will be one flock with one Shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)
The Apostle Paul later wrote, “…our acquittal is not based on our good deeds; it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in him. So it is that we are saved by faith in Christ and not by the good things we do. And does God save only the Jews in this way? No, the Gentiles, too, may come to him in this manner. God treats us all the same; all, whether Jews or Gentiles, are acquitted if they have faith.” (Romans 3:27-30)
I am a sheep in Jesus’ flock. It matters not to me whether I have been been gathered into another flock or another flock has been gathered into mine. Either way the Lord is my Good Shepherd Who loves me and Who died for me.
The rest is just noise.
Photo: By Annette Rppl