A Biblical Basis for Mission Agencies (2nd of 4). Jesus Christ and His Missionary Band as a Type of Jewish Hevrah.
What Jews have taught me about the New Testament
I learned a lot by asking Jews to teach me about the Jewish parts of the four New Testament gospels. They looked at me as though I had brought a ham to a bar mitzvah. “What part of the four gospels is not Jewish?”, they wanted to know. I learned that Jews in the first century formed themselves into voluntary associations called hevrah (havurot is the plural). A hevrah was a brotherhood of Jews who pledge themselves to follow a spiritual leader and do some good work for God. With this background, we may see the familiar story of Jesus and His twelve disciples in new light. Any first century Jew who saw twelve men and their leader coming into, for example, Capernaum, would say, “Here comes a rabbi with his hevrah.”
The Bible says Jesus “went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). Yet our Lord and his disciples traveled much of the time to non-Jewish regions outside of Israel, where there were no synagogues, as this map shows.
Therefore, our Lord made use of both kinds of Jewish structures for his mission on earth. He regularly attended the synagogue, but He also chose twelve men to form a Jewish mission, that is, a hevrah. Jesus took his chosen twelve northward to non-Jewish Tyre and Sidon, east to Gergesa, and into Samaria where, the Bible says, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” Jesus made his base of operations in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). Therefore, much of what Jesus did was “so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:10). The Bible says that the Jews were to be “a light to the Gentiles.” The synagogue was a kind of lighthouse. But Jesus organized a hevrah, a holy brotherhood of men to carry the flint that would start the fires of the kingdom of God and the message of Jesus Christ far away, where there were no synagogues.
Some have said that the only New Testament organization for Christians today is what we normally think of as “church.” But by listening to the Jews, we discover two kinds of Jewish organizations, the synagogue and the hevrah, prototypes for churches and mission agencies. The place where Jews and God-fearers gather to worship was the synagogue The hevrah is a holy brotherhood of Jews who pledged to change the world beyond the synagogue. These two–the synagogue and the hevrah–are the Jewish prototypes of churches and missionary bands. How do you feel about that?
Here are links to the four blogs on the topic “A Biblical Basis for Mission Agencies.”