As part of my belief that the life and message of Yeshua is relevant for people today, and that he came to make disciples to join in kingdom work, I am blogging each week on loving deeds. In “Life of Loving Deeds #1” we considered some words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about faith as protest. Now we turn to some words of Abraham Joshua Heschel about the moral vision of the prophets . . . which we will find to describe Yeshua perfectly.
A classic example of the kind of ethical writing we expect to find in the prophets is Amos 8:4-6, which preaches against, among other things, trampling the poor, taking holy things like the Sabbath lightly, and cheating in business. Abraham Joshua Heschel (The Prophets) discusses in his very first chapter the possibility that prophets are making much ado about nothing. Is that the case, he asks? Why so much attention to injustices that are so common? He asks what kind of man is a prophet. His profile helps us see Yeshua in light of the Hebrew scriptures and to better understand Yeshua’s ethical teaching.
“They make much ado about paltry things,” says Heschel, “lavishing excessive language upon trifling subjects.” The kinds of things that angered them are ordinary parts of any society on earth. Of course the powerful and wealthy take advantage of the poor. That is the way of life. Everyone is doing it.
Our eyes are witness to the callousness and cruelty of man, but our heart tries to obliterate the memories, to calm the nerves, and to silence our conscience.
The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. . . Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words.
Disciples of Yeshua should take note how this same attitude was found to motivate our teacher and Messiah.
He noted the indifference of the comfortable: “at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20).
He ridiculed and exposed religious egoism: “they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues” (Matt 23:6).
He did not let the mild sinner off the hook: “every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matt 5:22).
Evangelical Christian theologian Scot McKnight wonders why popular Christianity has not made more out of the lifestyle that Yeshua taught:
The belief that I mentioned earlier, that the kingdom has been reduced to an inner experience, messes up Christians every day. Many think Jesus came to earth so you and I can have a special kind of spiritual experience and then go merrily along, as long as we pray and read our Bibles and develop personal intimacy with the unseen God but ignore the others-oriented life of justice and love and peace that Jesus embodied. When I hear Christians describe the Christian life as little more than soul development and personal intimacy with God, and I do hear this often, I have to wonder if Christians even read their Bibles.
-One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, 60.
The way of Yeshua the prophet and Messiah is to expose our unworthy motives and self-centered drives for what they truly are. And instead we are to find the joy of living for and with others, which is the definition of love.