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Let's examine, though, some of the
myths that surround this most historical of those whoinhabit history's hall of fame.Depending on culture, Jesus has been portrayed by a varietyof physical racial stereotypes. He's `like one of us' - black,or white or yellow or brown. And with 'our features'. Butwhatever our perception of him, Jesus was born of a womanof Judah in Palestine, and there's no Biblical indication thathe differed from those around him. However the Jews of thetime may have physically looked at that moment of history -Jesus was one of them! His physical characteristics areirrelevant to his mission.Much of the story - as peddled in Christian circles - isindeed fiction. He was not, for example, born in December.He did not die on a Friday, nor was he resurrected onSunday. Nor did Jesus introduce a brand-new religion!The Bible does, though, give us arounded picture of an individual borninto a law-abiding religious family. Hegrew up in a Jewish family with several brothers and sisters. He looked like hisfellow countrymen, ate like his fellows,worshipped like them. In general he was part of the local culture.
Take the way Jesusworshipped. Like all his co-religionistshe attended synagogue on the seventh-day Sabbath and observed the divinely-appointed annual festivals passover andUnleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Trumpets, Atonement andTabernacles. The Bible traces his attendance at and supportfor these `holy convocations' or services. Nor did his death change his attitude to these holy days.Even in those tumultuous last days of his life Jesus made provision for the disciples to observe the festival of Unleavened Bread after his death. He rose from the dead asthe `Firstfruits' at the very time when the Jews celebratedthe cutting of the firstfruits grain harvest. He then markedthe beginning of his church by sending his Spirit on thetraditional `Day of Pentecost'. These days, in other words,were shadows - faint images of the reality which wasfulfilled in him.
And what of the first Christians? HadJesus left special instructions secret instructions - that allthis should change? Secret - for nowhere do we find in theentirety of Scripture that his disciples should now abandonthese age-old holy days and substitute Christmas, Easter,All Souls, saints days etc!The New Testament (e.g., Acts 17:2) record clearlyevidences the disciples observing the `Jewish' Sabbath -actually God's Sabbath, the festival of Unleavened Bread (ICorinthians 5), Pentecost (or feast of Firstfruits (I Cor.16:8), Atonement - the `fast' (Acts 27:9).The apostle Paul sums it up this way, speaking to the Jewishleaders in Rome near the end of his life: "I have committednothing against the people or customs of our fathers" (Acts28:17). Earlier he had in a court of law refuted his accuserssaying: "Neither against the law of the Jews, neither againstthe temple nor against Caesar have I offended anything atall" (Acts 25:8).
Old Time Religion.
Paul was simply reflecting the teachingof Jesus. Our Savior did not overturn the `old time religion'the faith of the Scriptures. He built on it. The NewTestament is his final testimony, until his return, to theFather's revelation.Constantly Jesus would refer to the writingsof Moses and the prophets. The divine Law,he said, was now to be `written on the heart'- inward. Jesus magnified the Law of Godinsisting that not only should we submit toit in practice but even in our thoughts(Matthew 5-7). It's not just sin to murder but it is sin to even hate, for example. If weare to be his disciples we must abandon our own humanly devised traditionalobservances.In contrast to modern Christianity, Jesus -and his first disciples positively upheld theteachings of the Old Testament. There is no `immortal soul'.The divine Law is at the heart of true religion. There is noheavenly reward and no fire that will endlessly consume theunrepentant. And, as we have seen, there is in the religion of the Bible no Christmas, no Easter, no 'saints days'.Most, indeed, of modern Christianity's cherished beliefs aretotally absent - often condemned - in the teaching of Jesusand the apostles! Observed objectively the Bible andmodern Christianity appear as
two totally different religions.
The terminology is the same. The lead charactersare the same. But the substance is different with onlyoccasional overlap.Paul warned of 'a different gospel which is not another'(Galatians 1:6-7). It sounded similar, it used the samewords, it included similar concepts - but it was 'another'. Adevilish deception.False prophets abounded then -
'Deceitful workers'Paul called them to the Corinthian brethren. They pretended