Not Just One of Us— He Is the Best of Us
By Scott Brown
In the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters, Mickey Sachs, played by Woody Allen, is seeking meaning in life through religion. Apparently, Judaism is not working for him, so he decides to try his hand at being a Catholic. To seal the deal, he makes the essential purchases: a jar of mayo, a loaf of Wonder Bread, and a crucifix. There are so many reasons why I love this scene, one being that I get such pleasure out of having to explain to my non-Jewish friends why this is so funny. But even when I explain it, some do not laugh because it takes a lot of familiarity with Jewish culture to understand the humor!
Jewishness is important to Jewish people, despite the fact that Jewishness is hard to define. According to the most recent Pew Research Center report, “U.S. Jews do not have a single, uniform answer to what being Jewish means.”  The report goes on to say that some of us link Jewishness to religion, some to tradition, some to food, locale, or even humor. But one thing is certain: For the vast majority of American Jews, being Jewish matters. If you are Jewish, you are one of the enigmatic, inexplicable us.
“Jesus is not one of us.”
At least, that is what I was taught growing up. We do not talk about him, we do not believe in him, and we certainly do not identify with him. His followers are mayo on white; we are mustard on rye.
I vividly remember the first time I received a piece of literature suggesting that Jewish people could believe in Jesus. I could not wait to show it to my friends so we could laugh together over the absurdity of such a ridiculous notion! The earth is not flat, the pope is not Muslim, and Jesus is most definitely not one of us. Who would believe such a message?
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the very same question being asked by someone who was most definitely one of us—the Jewish prophet Isaiah:
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? . . . He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:1, 3–6)
Throughout this publication, you will read rock-solid evidence of the Jewishness of Jesus straight from the Jewish Bible; evidence that I initially found detestable and terrifying. After all, if Jesus is one of us, what does that mean to me? I wrestled with the question for seven years, but it was not his identity as Messiah that concerned me since the sheer volume of scriptural testimony of Jesus’ messiahship is overwhelming for any reasonable, objective observer. Additionally, modern scholarship, even within Jewish circles, affirms that Jesus was Jewish. But, I was simply not there yet!
To be perfectly honest, I was less concerned with Jesus’ Jewish identity than with my own. Jewishness is important to me! If faith in Jesus were to compromise my Jewish identity for any reason, I was reluctant to embrace it.
Forty-one years have passed since I made the decision to believe Isaiah’s “message” about the Jewish Redeemer whose sacrificial death atoned for my sin. My subsequent experience is not unlike that of tens of thousands of Jewish people who have made the same choice: We have not relinquished our precious Jewish identity; on the contrary, Jesus has given us greater faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and has deepened our Jewish roots to far greater depths. Having acknowledged and received God’s revelation of Israel’s Messiah in the Tanakh, Jewish believers like myself fulfill a special calling reserved for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: to, in a sense, “choose to be chosen.” Twice chosen? Yes, something along that line of thinking!
Mustard on rye is one thing, but as a modern rabbi aptly wrote, “The Jewish soul needs to know God.” You sense that longing, don’t you? The good news is that God has given us a way to know Him intimately and meaningfully, through faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. He not just one of us . . . He is the best of us!
 Pew Research Center, “Jewish Identity and Belief,” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, last
modified May 11, 2021, accessed August 16, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/05/11/jewish-identity-