By Rev. Cariño Casas
By God’s grace, I’ve known Jesus since I was 4. I have a clear memory of seeing a coloring page depicting Jesus walking out of the tomb and me deciding that I believed it. I’ve walked with Jesus since.
After a spiritually dry time in my late 20s and early 30s, I began to hunger for the Word again. After I encountered a Christology course that highlighted the Jewishness of the Messiah, I needed to know more. Browsing in my local Christian bookstore, a title caught my eye: The Jewish New Testament, a translation by David H. Stern. I bought Stern’s Bible and began reading Mattiyahu (Matthew). The simple act of putting the names of the biblical personalities back into Hebrew reframed the Gospel text I thought I knew well. It felt like I was reading the Gospel for the first time. I went back for Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary. The more I read, the more there was no denying that this Jesus – Yeshua – is a Jew and his message is Jewish!
That Jesus is the Prophet Like Moses, the Son of David, the Messiah is made plain by the Gospel writers. It’s even clearer when the Hebraic context of Jesus’ good news – obscured in many translations – is restored. I wondered, then, why Jesus’ kinsmen, the Sons of Jacob, cannot recognize that he is the long-awaited Redeemer of Israel. This question drove me to prayer. I prayed alone in my room for more than a year that the eyes of the Sons of Jacob would be opened to Yeshua’s identity.
In those prayer times, the LORD ministered to me, spoke deep into my heart and told me he had a job for me in Israel. It was one of the clearest things I’d ever heard from him. So, I sold or gave away most of what I owned, packed up my life in the States, and flew to Israel in May 2009. I would love at some other time to detail how the LORD faithfully guided me and cared for me, taught me and used me.
The short version is that I spent four years in intercession, worship, and service at a house of prayer. There the LORD broadened my heart and deepened my love when he taught me about his Middle East peace plan at the end of Isaiah 19.
It was an Isaiah 19 conference that took me to Christ Church Jerusalem, founded by CMJ in 1849. There I learned the history of CMJ and how Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus had come to the Holy Land in 1823 to proclaim Yeshua to the Jews of Ottoman Palestine. It was the LORD’s hand that put me on the Christ Church staff in 2014 as the media coordinator. It was the LORD who drove me back to the States to prepare me for ordained ministry as a deacon in the Anglican church. It was the LORD who made clear at a providential meeting in North Carolina that he was calling me to write the next CMJ USA chapter.
As the new director, I’ve been telling my story a lot recently as I introduce myself to ministry partners. It has been a sort of meditation, and in it, the Holy Spirit has highlighted a pattern.
- Turn to the God of Israel.
- Feed on his Word.
- Allow the Word to stoke compassion for our neighbors.
- Serve God and neighbor.
- Turn and follow the God of Israel.
God loved the world in this way, that he chose Abraham, he chose Israel to bring forth Salvation – Yeshua – for all the world. Jesus is the Seed of Abraham in whom all the earth will be blessed (Gen 22:18, 26:4, 28:14; Matt 1:1; Rom 4). Our response should be to love God and to love our neighbor, especially Jesus’ DNA brothers and sisters.
We at CMJ USA desire to help you better love God and love your Jewish neighbor. We want to encourage you to connect to the Hebraic foundations of the Gospel and Jesus’ Jewishness so that 1) you would know Jesus better and 2) you would see Jesus in your Jewish neighbor.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46), the King judges the nations based on how they treat his brothers. The church has long seen in these verses a call to see Jesus in the faces of the poor, imprisoned, and downtrodden. This is not wrong, yet we must not forget that the first definition of brother is a blood relative.
When we see our Jewish neighbors – in a yarmulke, in Hassidic dress, wearing the Star of David, going into a synagogue, celebrating the Feasts of the LORD – we must see Yeshua our master in their faces and treat them as we would our King.
Sadly, church history is littered with accounts of how the church didn’t just fail to be kind but was malicious and even murderous. Let us turn again to the God of Israel, feed anew on his Word, and let him teach us how to humbly love our Jewish neighbors with the love of Jesus.
The Rev. Cariño Casas is the Executive Director of CMJ USA. She joined the CMJ family in 2014 as the media coordinator of Christ Church Jerusalem. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Trinity School for Ministry and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Texas A&M University. She is the deacon at Grace Anglican Church in Edgeworth, Pennsylvania.