"Behold, The Man!"
By Dwight A. Pryor

His apostles and Jewish disciples came to know Yeshua first as a man, and only later as the risen Savior, the "Son of the living God." Second-generation and subsequent believers, however, first encountered the reality of a risen and reigning "Son of Man" and only later (if at all) came to appreciate Yeshua fully as a man.

The centrality and radiance of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection-reinforced in the theological reflection of New Testament letters-often overshadow the life of the Rabbi from Nazareth. We see evidence of this in the classic Church creeds and even in the sermons preached in our churches today, typically drawing upon the Epistles of Paul, Peter and James far more often than upon the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Consider, for example, the early Apostles' Creed. It emphasizes that Jesus Christ, the "Son of God, was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose from the grave . . ." This oft memorized and succinct formulation of faith, which served as a paradigm for all subsequent Christian creeds, skips from Yeshua's supernatural origins all the way to His sacrificial death. What happened to His life?

The consistent witness of the Apostolic Writings to the atoning efficacy of Yeshua's death, burial and resurrection is essential to our saving faith. "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." But what about the three years of His devout life and rabbinic-style teaching ministry prior to Calvary? Are not they equally important?

I suggest they are, and indeed must be, if we are to lead authentically Christ-like lives. The Brit Chadashah bids us to a balanced view in this-to faith in Yeshua as well as to the faithfulness of Yeshua. Neither aspect of our life in Him should be ignored or minimized. Yes, let us gratefully confess that, "in accordance with the Scriptures, Messiah died for our sins." But let us also affirm that prior to His death, Yeshua devoted his life to teaching, illuminating and "fulfilling" those very Scriptures-so that we who follow Him might walk in the light as He is in the light.

We need to behold the man, Yeshua, with new eyes and appreciative hearts. His life was thoroughly Jewish and operated fully within the culture, traditions and world-views of Second Temple Judaism. The Scriptures of Israel defined His identity, chartered the course of His ministry, and served as the inspired source for His teachings. The sages of Israel bequeathed to Him a rich legacy of learning, wisdom and interpretative tools with which to explicate and illuminate the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings.

As a first-century rabbi/teacher, Yeshua devoted Himself to fulfilling the 'Great Commission' of His day to "Raise up many disciples!" He was both the master of many students as well as their model for righteous living. To learn of Him deeply was to imitate Him fully. Not only did He expound the Word, He was the Word. He was the written Word come alive, the Torah incarnate. His life as well as His death disclose to us the character, the passion and the purposes of the God of Israel, our Father in heaven.

What then might it mean for us to behold the man, Yeshua, anew, and to take His redemptive life as seriously as we take His redeeming death? Many things indeed, but at the very least we would take more seriously His teaching and His example. We would prioritize the study of His words in the Gospels and our obedience to His commands. Yeshua wants to be our Rabbi and Mentor as well as our Messiah and Savior.

Imitatio Dei is the basis of all Jewish and Christian ethics. As we grow in the knowledge as well as the grace of our Lord and Savior, more and more we will imitate Him. Increasingly we shall become conformed to His image and likeness, even as He is the expressed image of his Father.

We who are awakening to the Jewish Roots of our faith in Messiah and laying hold of the Scriptures that so informed and inspired Him, of all people should give evidence of Messiah's life in us. The obedience of faith that characterized His conduct should ours as well. The attitude of humility that characterized the mind of Messiah should increasingly be ours as well. His sacrificial love and service of others should compel us to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" of the Body of Messiah. If we find these things not happening in our lives, then we may be falling into the trap of "always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth." That truth is found in the man, Yeshua.

Ours is to be at all points a 'Christocentric' or Messiah-centered faith, in which "Messiah is all, and is in all." Even our love of the written Torah must be secondary to (though inseparable from) our love and service of the Torah-incarnate Yeshua. And God forbid that we should ever diminish or even forsake our faith in Yeshua as we increasingly devote ourselves to emulating the faithfulness of Yeshua. Rather, with one voice let both Jew and non-Jew show forth the praises of Him who is both Messiah and Lord. Together, let us "Behold, the Man" with new and loving eyes, and thereby "glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

©2001 Dwight A. Pryor. All rights reserved. Used by permission from JCS, Dayton

Dwight A. Pryor is founder and president of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies in Dayton, Ohio. This article is copyrighted and reprinted here in its entirety with the author's express written consent. For more teaching and useful information on your Hebraic heritage visit us at www.jcstudies.com.