Recently I've been reading through the book The Rebbe,
the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference by David Berger,
who is an Orthodox rabbi and professor of History at Brooklyn College.
In this book, Professor Berger documents the extent to which Chassidic
Jews today believe that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson,
is the Messiah and even the Creator of the Universe. These ultra-Orthodox
Jews believe that the Rebbe bore their sins through his suffering and
death in 1994 and will come again to establish the Kingdom of God on
earth. One Chassidic publication that Professor Berger quotes states:
...the Rebbe is the "Essence and Being [of God] enclothed in a body",
that a Rebbe is by nature "omniscient" and "omnipotent", that all material
and spiritual blessings flow from the Rebbe.
...the Rebbe can foresee and control and coordinate
the finest details of someone's personal life effecting his powerful
blessings over many years and many miles removed...there is nothing
shocking about the Rebbe's powers given that his nature is above the
limitations of nature.
So who [is] Elokeinu [our God]? Who Avinu [our Father]?
Who Malkeinu [our King]? Who Moshianu [our Redeemer]? Who Yoshianu V'Yigaleinu
Shaynis B'Karov [will save and redeem us once again shortly]? The Rebbe,
Melech HaMoshiach. That's who. (p. 83).
The Lubavitch Chassidim place a great deal of emphasis
on the exaltation of their Messiah. Pictures of him abound in their
community. His teachings and miracles are the subject of constant discussion.
Even their liturgy has been changed to reflect their belief that the
Messiah has come. One addition to their Siddur is the yehi prayer, a
declaration of praise to their Messiah. It proclaims-"May our Master,
Teacher, and Rabbi [some add here 'Creator'], the King Messiah, live
forever" (p. 81). In some yeshivas, students pray facing a picture of
the Rebbe, their Messiah, their Creator. If this is how ultra-Orthodox
Jews exalt their Messiah, even to the extent of worshiping him in the
synagogue, it begs the question, "How do we as Messianic Jews exalt
Yeshua? Do we exalt Yeshua as high as the ultra-Orthodox exalt their
Rebbe? How high should the bar of our devotion be to Yeshua?"
I. Let's examine a few Scriptures. I'd like to ask
everyone to open a Bible (or Tanakhav):
a. Hebrews 1:1-3. Written by a Messianic Jew to a
community of Torah observant Messianic Jews.
i. V. 2a tells us that Yeshua is the heir of all
things. He owns the heavens and the earth
ii. V. 2b also tells us that Yeshua made the universe
iii. V. 3a tells us that Yeshua is the radiance of
God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He is God in
iv. V. 3b also tells us that Yeshua sustains all
things by his Word. He is the glue that holds the universe together.
See also Colossians 1:14-20
v. Finally, Hebrews 1:6 states, "And again,
when God brings his Firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all
God's angels worship him.'" God desires his angels to worship
Yeshua. (-Aor act
impf 3rd pl) from
in Psalm 97:7. Shacha = bow down/worship, translated "worship"
here because of context: Yeshua is the Creator/God in flesh. God
desires his angels to worship Yeshua. What about us? Should we
b. I would like to put forward for your consideration
this morning the biblical case to worship Yeshua. You are the scholar.
It's up to you to determine if the context warrants the translation
"bow down" or "worship."
i. Matthew 2:11 (-Aor act ind 3p from ). Note that Matthew's gospel was written by a Messianic
Jew to a community of Torah observant Messianic Jews.
ii. Matthew 14:22-33 ()
iii. Matthew 28:16-17 (). Similar to John 20:24-28.
iv. Luke 24:50-52 (-Aor act ptc nom m pl)
v. Revelation 5:13-14 ()
vi. These scriptures make it clear that the first
Jewish believers worshiped Yeshua and that every creature in heaven
and on earth is to worship Yeshua
II. Do we worship Yeshua? It is important to point
out that worshipping Yeshua is distinct from having faith in Yeshua
a. Faith in Yeshua
says-"I believe in Yeshua. He is the Messiah, the Son of God" (Ben
HaElohim). It is heart knowledge that comes by revelation. There
is an element of trust
b. Worship of Yeshua arises out of faith. It is a
next step. It says-"I bow down before you, Yeshua. I praise you, Yeshua.
I worship you with all my heart. I glorify your name." It is an overflow
of love and thankfulness. A falling down before his majestic kavod
c. Both are important.
We should have faith in Yeshua and we worship Yeshua
III. What keeps us many of us from worshipping Yeshua?
a. For some of us, it was not part of our upbringing.
Growing up in a Messianic synagogue, Yeshua was the object of my faith
but not the object of my devotion in worship. I believed in him, I followed
him but I did not worship himÉI had a dream several months ago
where Yeshua appeared to me. I think it was from the Lord because I
still remember it vividly. It really impacted me. His eyes lit up. That's
how I knew it was Yeshua. In that dream, the reality that he was the
Son of God (Ben HaElohim) hit me. I couldn't speak. I just got
b. I think it is harder for us as Messianic Jews
to worship Yeshua because it is our calling to uphold the oneness of
God. We have said a thousand Shemas. It is ingrained in us. We
must uphold the oneness of God. But the Brit Chadashah is the
culmination of the Word of God (Davar HaElohim) and interprets
the Shema for us. It teaches us that worshipping Yeshua does
not violate the Shema. It is simply that we now know more about
God. He has revealed himself in greater detail in the Brit Chadashah.
HaShem is complex, and the more that we know of his complexity,
the more complex our worship becomes. I will say it again, "The more
that we know of HaShem's complexity, the more complex our worship becomes."
c. A related issue to our Jewishness is the difficulty
that most of our people have with Jews who believe in the divinity of
Yeshua, although this may change over time if Chassidic Jews continue
to believe that their Rebbi is the Holy One of Israel. BTW, Lubavitch
Chassidism is probably the fastest growing sector of the Jewish community
today. In other words, their group is growing rapidly, not shrinking,
as they are proclaiming a Messiah who is worthy of worship. Is it possible
that our outreach would be more fruitful if we stood on the truth of
Yeshua's worthiness to be worshiped? Are the floodgates blocked because
of our hesitancy in this area? Dennis Prager recently suggested in Moment
Magazine that if Messianic Jews would simply deny Yeshua's divinity
before a beit din and agree not to proselytize fellow Jews, they should
be accepted as full members in the Jewish community. Worshipping Yeshua
is therefore perceived to be a huge stumbling block to good relations
with many of our people. And yet, at the same time, it may be the truth
that opens the door of more hearts than we realize.
d. Finally, it is not only our Jewishness that makes
it sometimes a challenge to worship Yeshua; it is also our humanity.
We are simple and God is complex. His nature is beyond our human
capacity to grasp fully. We have trouble simultaneously acknowledging
his oneness and his complexity in our worship. But truth is truth.
And the Brit Chadashah is the culmination of the Word of God (Davar
HaElohim). The early Jewish believers acted on their knowledge
of the complexity of God. They directed their adoration to both
the Father and the Son. They worshipped Avinu and Yeshua.
This is clearly expressed in Revelation 5:13: "To him who
sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and
glory and power for ever and ever!" This is the Messianic
"To him who sits on the throne and
to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever
This is our proclamation of praise to the Messiah!
Lets say it together:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the
Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and
IV. Words to consider for a young Messianic Jewish
In some sectors of our movement, the importance
of worshiping Yeshua has become lost in the more of the theological
discussion over how to best understand the complexity of God's nature.
As important is this subject is to study, understand, and articulate
from our unique perspective, we must not miss the forest for the trees.
It would suggest that we must, as a movement, worship Yeshua (as the
first Messianic Jews did, as we are taught in the Brit Chadashah
to do), even as we refine and nuance our theological understanding.
a. In my opinion, there is a direct correspondence
between Jewish tradition and Yeshua's divinity on the devotional level.
Jewish life is devotionally rich and all-encompassing. In order to see
Yeshua through it, and within it, he must be raised above it. Emphasizing
his Messiahship is not enough. He is more than a great teacher and a
prophet of Israel. He is more than the Moshiach. He is the Creator
of the Universe. We must worship him to make sure that he receives his
proper place in our lives and in our community. Then everything else
we do as Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles will fall into its proper
V. I leave you with this thought, "Is Yeshua part
of your devotional life? Do you worship him? Do you bow down before
him?" Let us seek to raise the bar of our devotion to Yeshua. This is
the Derekh HaChaiyim (the way of life) for Messianic Jews and