When we signed up to be disciples of Yeshua, most of us had a clear goal in mind: We wanted to be good disciples.
We wanted to become what Yeshua had planned for us to be, to accomplish the mission he gave us—to understand and live out his message while we waited for his return. This mission became our purpose in life the moment we agreed to become Yeshua’s followers.
Most of us also ran into a problem: We found many competing interpretations of our rabbi’s teachings. Countless denominations and expressions of faith have settled on different practices and theological formulations. The sayings of Yeshua have even been appropriated to attack the very Judaism he practiced. It turns out that just reading an English translation of a two-thousand-year-old text is not so simple.
Our cultural distance from Yeshua would be hard enough to overcome if we were starting from scratch, but we also have to unlearn centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated at the hands of well-meaning but poorly equipped theologians. This process of reevaluating our preconceptions is full of pitfalls. Finding out that we didn’t understand Yeshua as well as we thought can cause an identity crisis as we realize that we aren’t actually sure what it means to be a disciple or what exactly we are supposed to be doing. Some have even succumbed to apathy as their uncertainty has led to a loss of interest and energy.
I’m writing from my own experience here. I’ve had all these feelings. I grew up thinking that I understood what it meant to be a follower of Yeshua, and I was genuinely committed to him. But I had to spend a long time finding out that I was wrong about a lot of things.
Back on Track
First, I learned that Yeshua hadn’t abolished the Torah or taught anyone to abandon Judaism. This was news to me—but it was good news. I felt as though I had permission to take hold of all Scripture, not just the New Testament. I could embrace my heritage as a Jewish woman through Torah and mitzvot.
However, this was hardly revelatory to Yeshua’s original audience. His disciples were already scrupulously Torah observant. They were already living Jewish lives.
Then I learned that Gentiles have a unique and prophetically significant identity in Yeshua’s kingdom. Not only do Jews remain Jews, but Gentiles can also remain Gentiles and still follow Yeshua as disciples.
Yeshua hardly talked about this at all during his ministry. The apostles had to piece together Yeshua’s plan for Gentile followers after the fact, with a little help from Peter’s vision and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The core of Yeshua’s message was the kingdom of heaven—how to enter it, how to find redemption, how to bring the world back to the way it’s supposed to be. The building blocks of this kingdom work, the real meat of the gospel message, the “How do I do this exactly?”—understanding and accomplishing these goals—is our job as disciples and our message to the world.