Mindful, that’s what followers of the teachings of Messiah Yeshua are when they contemplate on the events that transpired which led to the end of his life. I admit that I rarely ever speak about those events all because I feel as if though the mass media (e.g., radio, television and internet) is heavily inundated with a lot of information - some are useful and some are simply not. Thus, I make every attempt possible to speak more on the contemporary issues that can benefit Messiah’s body in the here and now. Still, from time to time, I find it necessary for my audience to have messages pertaining to our own Messianic reflections of what Yeshua’s death meant so that people like you may have something to reflect upon, contemplate, and research. Do we as a society discredit the importance of Yeshua’s act in laying down his life? By no means; at least, more than two-thirds of the earth’s approximate 7 billion inhabitants do reason that Yeshua’s death was of great significance.
In this study, I hypothesize on how Yeshua may have perceived his death on the cross and postulate an innovative way of thinking about what Yeshua’s free-willing sacrifice means to us as a society.
Quite often than not, whenever someone listens to a public speaker relay an inspired message about the events that led to the cross, the public speaker usually tends to identify himself in that same predicament. I rarely ever hear about how Yeshua may have perceived those events. Why? It’s quite possible that many of these public speakers do not know how to perceive Yeshua’s frame of thought as he himself may have perceived some 2,000 years ago. I don’t know!
Yet, if we were to consider some of the things that Yeshua said, compare those statements to some of the sages’ commentaries pertaining to the different services performed at the Temple, then we can hypothesize on how Yeshua perceived himself, the self-reflections he may have entertained and postulate the reasons why he was so willing to lay down his life. We can also speculate on what this act may have meant to him in relationship the many available offerings and sacrifices. Maybe even, perhaps, bring light to new discussions since we do have Messiah’s mind (reference 1 Corinthians 2:16b).
Recently, a Torah Observant Orthodox Jew asked me a very important question, “Since when did G-d ever require a human sacrifice?” Most would neither know how to answer this question nor dare to venture an adequate response. Believe it or not, this is a lot more common that what most suspect! In The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, a Christian commentator admits:
“The Old Testament regulations for offerings and sacrifices are renowned for their many and complicated details, and the overall sacrificial system is quite foreign to our Western culture. Yet one could hardly overestimate the significance of the Old Testament sacrificial system for the theology of the Bible. Even before the revelation to Moses at Sinai, offerings and sacrifices were a key part of the practice of relationship with God from Cain and Abel, to Noah, to the patriarchs, to Jethro the priest of Median, to the ratification of the Mosaic covenant by sacrifice before the tabernacle was built. They remained central to the ritual systems of the tabernacle and the first and second temples and, therefore, to the Old Testament theology of God's‘presence’ and his relationship to ancient Israel as his ‘kingdom of priests’” (Web 2013). So, as difficult as it is to refer to Christian resources and make the association simple enough for a practicing Jew to understand, it becomes necessary to find other avenues.
Now, many may reason that G-d demanded a human sacrifice when he required it of Abraham to offer up willingly his son Isaac, Abraham’s first-born child, on Mount Horeb and even make spiritual connections between the two (reference Genesis 22). Yes, Yeshua may have been the first-born male child that came forth from Mary’s womb; he also carried a wooden beam to Golgotha. However, we really do not see Joseph walking together with Yeshua up to Mount Horeb. We also do not see Yeshua carrying the kindling for Joseph to offer up Yeshua as a burnt sacrifice on Mount Horeb either. Thus, the fact remains that Isaac’s descendants continue to ask of us, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” (reference Genesis 22:7). The sad fact is that many of us really do not have an adequate reply. Yes, many do see the correlation between these two biblical instances. Yet, a conflict exists between how two different groups of people perceive two very separate events with two unique perspectives.
In order to establish the point that I’m trying to make, it’s first necessary to take notice what Yeshua does not do.
John the Baptist identified Yeshua as Elohim’s Lamb (reference John 1:29-37). Peter, one of Yeshua’s disciples, identified Yeshua as Elohim’s Lamb (reference 1 Peter 1:18-23). John, one of Yeshua’s disciples, himself identified Yeshua as Elohim’s Lamb and testifies that he saw multitudes and spiritual entities make the same claim (reference Revelation 5:6, Revelation 6:9, Revelation 7:17, Revelation 15:3, Revelation 19:9, Revelation 21:23, Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:3). To this very day, those who follow the teachings of Messiah identify Yeshua as “The Lamb of Elohim who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Even though Messiah’s followers and spiritual beings identify Yeshua as the Lamb of Elohim, Yeshua himself does identify himself as such. Instead, he identified himself as the good shepherd willing to sacrifice his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Does this mean that the New Testament is incorrect in identifying Yeshua as a Lamb? No, it’s not. Why? In the Jewish mindset, it’s appropriate to identify a fellow tribesperson as a lamb because the children of Israel were constantly identified as being Elohim’s flock throughout the entire Tanach: “You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds” (Psalm 77:20, compare with Psalm 78:52, Psalm 80:1, Psalm 95:7). In fact, Israel’s prophets identified the children of Israel as Elohim’s flock with the intent purpose of connecting the personal relationship that Hashem had with the Israeli people as the only true Sovereign Deity (reference Jeremiah 13:17-20, Jeremiah 23:2-3).
Do Jewish scholars have a problem identifying themselves as the very same sacrifices that were placed at the altar? No, they don’t. On the contrary, this is the very general idea that Jewish scholars present – the value does not rely upon the actual sacrifice which is laid upon the altar, the value depends on the worshipper’s intent and their heartfelt attitude. It is the worshipper’s attitude in approaching Elohim that matters, not the sacrifice. (For further information, refer to Parsha VaYikra and the commentaries that the sages provide.)
Amongst the plethora of vital sacrifices that are instructed by the Torah, there is one that is singled out for its importance and uniqueness. In describing the “Mincha” offering, the Torah uses a very unique language. The verse says, “When one’s soul (and not man) desires to offer a Mincha offering […]” (Leviticus 2:1-2). This term of the soul’s desire seems to be reserved specifically for the Mincha offering. Chazal teach us that since a Mincha offering was voluntary, and (the value of that which was being offered) was very cheap as it constituted mainly flour, it was most common for poor people to offer the Mincha sacrifice to God. Rashi explains that when a pauper offers up a Mincha offering, Hashem considers it as if he had offered up his own soul to God and this explains the exclusive terminology used to describe the Mincha sacrifice. Furthermore, the verse in Micha that we recite at the end of Shmone Esrei three times a day says that we are awaiting the coveted Beis Hamikdash specifically so that we can resume the Mincha offering. I would like to try to explain the special significance that the Torah seems to attach to the Mincha offering. (Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah 2013)
What was the primary goal of all the offerings and sacrifices presented? The goal was quite simple. “The Chasam Sofer cites the Ramban in his introduction to the book of Vayikra who asserts that the goal of all sacrifices is to achieve forgiveness for the Jewish people” (Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah 2013).
Thus, the problem doesn’t rest in whether or not Yeshua was Elohim’s Lamb; the conflict that Torah Observant Jews have relies in placing a valuable meaning to Yeshua’s death since the Scriptures say, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19) How, then, could Yeshua lay down his life without committing a sin and violating a Torah principle? Yeshua was able to lay down his life by identifying himself, not as a lamb or a flock, as a mincha.
At this point, I would like to present what Jewish scholars have to say about the mincha.
Rabbi Dov Lizner explains, “[…] a mincha is a completely different sacrifice. While an olah (i.e., an animal sacrifice) can vary in value – it can be a cow, it can be a sheep, it can even be a bird – but it is a life; it is the symbol of devoting one’s life, one’s self, to G-d. A mincha is not that. A mincha is a gift. It is not life; it is just flour and oil. It signifies food and sustenance, or the fruits of a person’s labor, but it is not intrinsically powerful. The word mincha itself means gift – whether to God or to people (cf., Genesis 33:10), and this is different than giving of one’s life, one’s self” (Lizner 2011). He continues to explain that “When one gives of oneself – when one gives ones life-force, there is power in that very gesture, the very reaching of the altar. However, when one gives a gift, a mincha,when one makes a donation of funds, the true significance comes only once that gift is received. Thus, for R. Shimon, the act of placing the kometz on the altar is not what is significant. It is when the smoke rises up and God receives it” (Lizner 2011).
In ancient times, the worshipper's attitude of giving bread was in rememberance that everything that's on this earth belongs to Elohim. Though the intention may be good, the act of presenting this free-willing offering becomes acceptable upon its reception, not with its intention. The acti freely giving up an offering was a complete reflection of a person's soul since the act was not obligatory.
After presenting what Jewish scholars had to say about mincha, I now would like to present what Yeshua said about his self-reflection as expressed among his disciples.
So, if there was an offering wherewith Yeshua identified himself with, which was it? Earlier, we read that Yeshua identified himself as the good shepherd willing to sacrifice his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Though the concept of laying down one’s self is tied with the olah (animal sacrifices) and not with the mincha (grain offerings), the Rabbis teach that there’s a close association between the two and that the mincha actually becomes an olah when the levitical priesthood refuses to eat the offering thereof (reference John 6:31-51). Hence, Yeshua identifies his act of devotion to the Heavenly Father in association with the mincha (grain offering), “The true bread of Elohim is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Even as the worshipper is not obligated to present the mincha, so too Yeshua was not obligated to lay down his life, the reason why The New Testament identifies his act of devotion as a free-willing sacrifice. The mincha is freely given and placed upon the altar and this is how Yeshua perceived himself as: “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18). Once the mincha is placed upon the altar, it’s up to the Heavenly Father to either accept the offering or reject it. Messianic Jews believe that like the mincha which accepted when the smoke arises to the Heavenly Father’s presence, so too Yeshua’s mincha was accepted as such: “Then Yeshua shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last’ (Luke 23:46).
As followers o the teachings of Messiah Yeshua, we understand that everyone will not accept
the bread which nourishes the human soul. We share the Bible’s message out of our own free-will, not because we’re obligated to do so. The instant that our preaching efforts are rejected by our audience, it is then that our mincha becomes an olah, a sacrifice. Yes, we may hurt within ourselves because the message that we preach was rejected; however, we understand that this hurtful feeling that we endure is closely tied with the remorseful attitude that we are to reflect upon when presenting our sacrifices upon the celestial tabernacle. Thus, the sacrifice lies at the rejection of the gospel message and not on its acceptance as a sweet savoring aroma to Elohim by those who oppose us.
1. Elwell, Walter A. "Offerings and Sacrifices." BibleStudyTools.com. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 1997. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
2. Grosman, Yonatan, Rav. "PARASHAT VAYIKRA." Torah on the Web - Virtual Beit Midrash. Www.vbm-torah.org, 1997. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
3. "Vayikra." Www.bircas.org. Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah, 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
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