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Tradition is Enough

"Our tradition is totally self-sufficient – our prayer books, our commentaries, our law codes, our customs. We don’t need your Jesus!”
The above objection is one that Dr Michael Brown plans to answer in his forthcoming book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume Five. It is also a line of reasoning used by some of my Jewish friends who assume that by keeping kosher, observing Sabbath and following their customs they will be fine with God. Some churchgoers seem to have a similar attitude believing that if they fall into a religious framework they will be safe and secure in the kingdom of God. In Matthew 15:3 our Yeshua HaMashiach (Lord Jesus Christ) responded to a question posed by the scribes and Pharisees in verse 2: “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread”.

Jesus replied, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” Handwashing before meals was not a requirement of the Hebrew Scriptures but had become part of the oral tradition. However, the commandments are the word of God, the greatest being the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) which tells us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. How can we love God without receiving his love first? “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And in 1 John 4:9-10 we read: “In this the love of God was manifested towards us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

What does the Lord want from you?

Recently, I have had some good discussions about spiritual issues with a Jewish lady who tries to be as Orthodox as possible in order to be accepted by the community. She reckons that she does not need to have a personal relationship with God as long as she remains within the Jewish community or, more specifically, the Orthodox community. From her point of view the Mishna and Talmud, not the Hebrew Scriptures, have the last say about knowing God. I mentioned the Shema and presented my reasoning to her as above. Then I asked, “What does the Lord want from you?” She simply pointed me to a chapter entitled ‘What does God want?’ in the book Living a Joyous Life by Rabbi David Aaron. “Here is the answer!” she said.

As I read this I knew it would lead her further away from God and confuse her even more. So when I meet her again I shall point out the following verse to her: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

How can we walk humbly with a holy God? We can’t be holy unless we find atonement in the sacrificial Lamb of God. As blood was sprinkled to make atonement for the uncleanness and transgressions of the children of Israel, so the blood of God’s final sacrifice cleanses us. The Messiah, Yeshua, was offered once to bear the sins of many; he willingly gave himself as a ransom for us (John 10:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:6). Tradition is inadequate because it can provide no answer with regard to the forgiveness of sin.

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