XX. As noted previously, Rabbi Neusner considers the teaching of Jesus from a Jewish perspective and finds it challenging that Jesus seems to counteract two core teachings of the Torah that are central to Judaism: the primacy of the Sabbath rest and the value of family and community as the core of one’s identity in the Covenant with God. We saw that Jesus does not deny the Sabbath but refers it to Himself: “Come to Me, and I will give you rest.” This claim indirectly but clearly implies that He is the God Who is to be honored by the Sabbath, the completion of God’s creative and saving work.
In a similar way, Jesus orients the commandment to honor one’s father and mother to Himself: “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” How can this be reconciled with the Fourth Commandment?
Again, the key is found in the true purpose of the honoring of one’s ancestors. To do so is to claim one’s rightful place in the inheritance of God’s saving Covenant, to be consciously linked with that history of God’s intervention to set His people free from slavery in Egypt and make them a people of His own possession. But as Isaiah makes clear, Israel was not chosen for its own sake; it does not exist only for itself. It is chosen as a light to the nations, to be the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, but not its only citizens. Their faithfulness was to draw all other nations on earth to God as well (see Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-6).
Thus it is precisely in adherence to Jesus that the universality of God’s Kingdom can come into being. To place Him first in our love is not to deny or uproot our human relationships, but to put them in the right order. Jesus does not compete with, but completes, our link to God and all the people of God, no longer bound by what had been in the past but rather by what God is preparing for the future. To cling only to one’s own heritage is to limit oneself, to close off a larger future; Jesus shows us that from that root, the Tree of Life grows to embrace all.