To understand the nature and mission of the life of Christ, one must first understand the lineage, traditions and the religion into which He was born. History has accurately confirmed His birth, childhood, and adult life in a Jewish society. He honoured Jewish laws, He taught in Jewish synagogues, and eventually became a Jewish Rabbi. His life's mission was dedicated and foreordained to be a part of the Jewish society, and events of His life were ultimately fulfilled according to the prophecies of the ancient Jewish prophets.
Unlike any other nation, the tribe of Judah was distinct in its moral and physical laws. The purpose of cleansing or purifying the body and soul was for a dedication and prepartion for the Messiah, who would be born through that sacred lineage. Eating habits were restricted by spiritual laws to purify the blood, and marraige laws were jealously observed by the Jewish community to prevent introduction or contamination by any "gentile" strain of blood. Every Jewish woman lived with the hope and desire of being honoured to bear the chosen Messiah and Saviour of the world.
From the fall of Adam, a Redeemer became a necessity and an expectation. Prophecy depicted the event, the time, the location, and the events of the life of this blessed Redeemer. It was the grand patriarch, Jacob, who bestowed a patriarchal blessing upon the heads of his twelve sons, and Judah was given the distinction of receiving the promised lineage of this predicted Redeemer. Said Jacob:
So the faith and desire of the House of Judah cherished this coming event. They consecrated with an amiable protective care on this sacred trust, and the noble examples of heroism and valour were scrawled throughout the pages of ecclesiatical antiquity.
The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the nations is His (Genesis 49:16, NIV).
Upon the lips of all Judah was the consolation of the prophetic promise that "His Name shall be called Immanuel -- God with us;" and for nearly 1700 years that promise continued to be repeated. The expected "Immanuel" became a part of every sacrificial rite, prophecy, prayer, and was even fused into their songs and psalms. The promised coming of their Messiah compelled them to a strict observance of all the laws of God.
When Moses led Israel out of bondage, giving them God's revelations and laws, he pointed ahead to the time when a great "Prophet" would come among them, "like unto me (Moses)" (Deuteronomy 18:15). This grand event was to be heralded by heaven itself -- the guiding star, the night as day, and messages delivered by angels; thus confirming and fulfilling these ancient prophecies upon the child Yah'shua (Jesus).
Among the Jews the twelfth year was the time which separated a boy from his childhood. Then a Hewrew boy was called "Bar Mitzvah", which is a "Son of the Law" or "Child of the Commandment". This is a period in which he was to study and be taught by the wisest teachers in Israel, learning and studying the law and the testament. There were annual gatherings, like conferences, in which many of these wise teachers gave instructions. Three special annual feasts were particularly set apart from the instruction of young men. These feasts were the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Passover was the most zealously attended, and worshippers came from all parts of the land to commemorate the deliverence of the Israelites from bondage, by the judgments of God upon the Egyptians (Exodus 12).
At the age of 12 Jesus ventured inside the great Jewish Temple and, perhaps, for the first time, He saw the paschal sacrifice of the lamb, robed men acting in the office of High Priests, while hearing the sacred prayers of His nation and smelling the consecrated Temple incnse. But more important than this, Jesus came into contact with the learned Rabbis of Israel. It is supposed at this time that Jesus spoke with Rabbi Hillil, whose teachings are recorded with high esteem in the Talmud. However, Yah'shua (Jesus) was not taught by any Rabbi -- it was He who was teaching and answering the questions of the councils, and they "were astonished at His understanding and answers" (Luke 2:47, AV).
Jesus spent three days in the Temple conversing with the learned Elders of Zion. After the third day His mother had become aware of His absence and found Him still in the Temple speaking to the priests and teachers. She then proceeded to chastise Him for the way He had "treated" her. In reply, He said: "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49, New King James Version (NKJV)). But "they did not understand what He was saying to them" (Ibid, v.50, NIV). His Father's business was teaching and instructing -- not doing carpenter's work, as modern tradition teaches. His wisdom and understanding superceded all the learning of the councils; but He could not reveal all that he knew, not could He expose all of the existing evils within the empire.
There was another reason which delayed the full ministry of Yah'shua (Jesus). We read that it was not until He was "about thirty years of age" that He began His ministry. This indicates that He was complying with one of the laws required to fulfil the office and calling of a Rabbi or priest.
It was not until Jesus was 30 years of age that He was baptised, fasted for 40 days, and gathered disciples into the ministry. By this time He had complied with all of the requirements of Jewish law as a Rabbi. Compliance to the rules and regulations of Jewish law were essential in the work of the ministry, lest the High Priests and Councils use legitimate reason to condemn or reject Him. Yah'shua (Jesus) knew this, and warned His disciples to obey carefully the requirements of their laws, because "they sit in Moses' seat; therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do" (Matthew 23:2-3, NKJV). The chief priests and councils sought with lawyers to trap Jesus for violating even the most minute laws. Yah'shua (Jesus), however, could recite the law in His own defense, and by the same law condemn the Pharisees for their disobedience. He could condemn the heirarchy of Judah for their hypocrisy by their own law; and also condemn them according to the laws of God.
It should be carefully noted that Yah'shua (Jesus) was often called "Rabbi" which "is to say, being interpreted, Master" (John 1:38). This was an office, title, or position of "teacher", which was highly honoured by the Jews -- so much so, that it became a title of prestige and social respect. If a man was a "Rabbi" he was entitled to the choice seats in social gatherings and praises of the multitudes. Yah'shua (Jesus) warned His disciples to avoid the social prestige, the public honours, and the praiseworthy titles that came with the title "Rabbi" (Matthew 23:5-8).
Yah'shua (Jesus) was often called Rabbi which He did not deny. It was justly applied, both as to office and honour. If Yah'shua (Jesus) was not a Rabbi according to that Jewish office, He would have immediately renounced the title. His chief Apostle, Peter, often called Him "Rabbi" (Mark 9:5; 11:21) but received no word of correction from Jesus, indicating that the title was properly applied. When Yah'shua (Jesus) was called "Rabbi" by Judas (Matthew 26:25,49), and by Nathanael (John 1:49), and the other disciples (John 1:38; 4:31; 9:2; 11:8), He acknowledged the title without dispute. Great masses of the people also called Him "Rabbi" (John 6:25); and when Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews acknowledged Yah'shua (Jesus) as "Rabbi", it was conclusive evidence that Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi (John 3:1-2).
The office of Rabbi required a person to be particularly well versed in the scriptures and the Talmud, whereas the office of Priest required certain sacrificial and temple ordinance ceremonies; yet both were especially commissioned:
With the ordination to this official calling of Rabbi, Yah'shua (Jesus) could teach the gospel principles wherever he was led to do so. As a Rabbi He taught thousands upon the mountainside, in the synagogues, and even resorted to using a whip to teach a special lesson to the money changers in the Temple. The councils, lawyers, Pharisees and Priests of Judah tried by every means to prove Yah'shua (Jesus) unfit for that office, but to no avail. Yah'shua (Jesus) acknowledged the title, office, the position of Rabbi by precept and example. He was destined to be the most honoured of rabbis, priests and even kings!
To be recognised as a Rabbi, however, a talmudic student has to be ordained. The custom of ordination is very old. Joshua was ordained by Moses...The practice of ordination in its Mosaic form ceased in Palestine in the second half of the 4th century (A.D.) when the Judaean academies were closed. In the 16th century an attempt was made in Palestine to revive the ancient ordination, as well as the Sanhedrin, with all the power and authority that it possessed, but this attempt resulted in failure (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.18, p.978).
It was His kingly and priestly powers which brought about the envy of both pagan and Jew. His influence was felt in every domain of social, religious and political life, and soon caused the jealosy and fear of those who felt the sting of His rebuke; for Yah'shua (Jesus) exposed the corruptions of the political tyrants and the religious demigods.
Yah'shua (Jesus) lived through a constant barrage of attacks against His birth, character, authority, law and doctrine. Yet if He had lived a celibate life, that alone would have given His enemies their greatest advantage to dispute His claims, for it was against the traditional and scriptural law for a Rabbi to remain single. Yah'shua (Jesus) could only have avoided this pitfall by obeying the Rabinical Law of Marriage.