1st Century Phenomenon
by Leon Mazin, Shavei Tzion Messianic Center, Tents of Mercy Network
Shavei Tzion is a Jewish Messianic congregation. For those who have never heard of such a thing, probably the most fitting way to describe it, would be to draw a parallel with the New Testament's description of the followers of the Messiah, namely an assembly of 1st century Jews who believed in Yeshua. Back then it was called an Ecclesia or the Hebrew equivalent - Kahal - a community of people united by the same belief.
Why not Christian?
Some may ask why we do not call ourselves Christians and prefer to be identified as Messianic Jews. What is the difference between the two? Well, if we look at the New Covenant, the first mention of Christians is in Acts. This is what the local Antiochians called the Gentile followers of Yeshua. The choice of this term is not surprising as the word itself takes its origin from Christ (or Messiah in Hebrew). Moreover, for the Gentiles of that time to believe in a Jewish Messiah and in the God of Israel, was revolutionary. It was a radical transformation, as they had to turn away from their pagan ways of life. On the other hand Jews who accepted their Messiah, didn't stop being Jews. Though their lives were transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they were in fact still following the Law of Moses, namely believing in the prophet like Moses who had been raised from among their brothers (Deuteronomy 18:18). The first Jewish believers were actually called the people of the Way, for their Leader proclaimed that He was "the way the truth and the life".
Two thousand years later, we, the modern Messianic Jewish believers, are seeking the restoration of the faith of our forefathers, the Jews of the 1st century. We practice our faith by participating in all aspects of daily life in Israel - in our work places, in the army, at school. We seek to live our faith out by bringing the light and the goodness of God to all. In our congregation you will see traditional elements of Jewish fellowship and liturgy celebrating and honoring the Lord's feasts and His Sabbaths, which He established for Israel to observe forever. Therefore, our faith in the Messiah and the New Covenant is represented as a natural extension of the Hebrew Scriptures ("Old Testament") and our worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is who we are, and the model of the First Century congregation is the one we aspire to live out here in Israel.
Returning to Zion
The name of our congregation, when translated from Hebrew, means those who Returned to Zion. It reflects the majority of our members whom God has returned to Zion from the exile abroad. There are those among us who came to faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah in the diaspora and were prompted to move to Israel.
However, we also have people in our fellowship who have found God and faith in His Messiah here in Israel, as it has been written: "I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezekiel 36:24-27).
One of our key aims as a congregation is to help those who are returning to Israel and to revive the desire of those who are still living abroad, in the Diaspora, to move to the Promised Land.
Besides meeting in fellowship throughout the week, worshipping and praising God, we also dedicate time and effort to help those who are in need. We study the Word in its original language and context, taking into consideration the traditions of those times. Essentially, by God's grace, we have become one large family that continues to grow, spiritually as well as physically.
After almost two thousand years, God is restoring faith in Yeshua among the Jewish people. Having accepted the call, we reach out to our people with the message of Messiah.
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