Jewish group celebrates Christ's rising

Today a local congregation celebrates Resurrection Sunday. No Easter Bunny. No Easter egg hunt. In fact, the word Easter, of pagan origin, isn't even mentioned. This congregation, Hope of David, led by Derek Leman, will simply sit and discuss what the Resurrection means to them.

Leman, a Snellville resident, grew up unchurched, but became a follower of Jesus in 1987 while he was a student at Georgia Tech. He then left Tech to attend seminary and became an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist Church. But somehow, Leman felt called to minister not to fellow Baptists but to Jewish people. In 1995, he founded Hope of David, a Messianic Jewish Synagogue that meets in Dunwoody and welcomes anyone who believes in Jesus.

Messianic Judaism is a modern movement of Jewish people who believe in Jesus, whom they refer to by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. Their worship style includes traditional Jewish rituals and teachings from the Bible, including the New Testament. Leman says this style of worship goes back 2,000 years to the original followers of Yeshua.

"Yeshua was a Jewish teacher and a faithful keeper of Judaism as it existed in his day. All his early followers were Jewish. Anti-Semitism stemming from Roman culture quickly obscured the Jewish origins of Christianity. Messianic Judaism brings back the original Jewish ways of practicing faith in Yeshua," said Leman, whose congregation is 80 percent non-Jewish.

Their beliefs and practices are strictly biblical, so they do not recognize Lent or any other observance not mentioned in the Bible.

They do observe Passover with the traditional meal that Christians call the Last Supper. As for Good Friday, Leman said, "We talk about the cross all year. We don't need a special Friday to remember it."

Since every aspect of Messianic Judaism is strictly scriptural, there is no confusion about any of their practices. If there is ever any confusion, it is only in deciding whether to call Leman a "rabster" or a "pabbi."

Leman is soon to be ordained as a Messianic rabbi. Even though he was well-versed in the Bible, he said of his rabbinical studies, "The Jewish community is very educated and I needed education in Jewish history and literature. As one who was not born a Jew, I need to feel qualified to teach Jewish people."

His teachings are not limited to Jews. Leman speaks at 50 to 60 churches a year and has authored six books, including "Jesus Didn't Have Blue Eyes" (Mount Olive Press, $14), which clarifies that Jesus was Jewish, and not European as many artists have depicted him.

Today, the believers at Hope of David celebrate one thing over which they experience no confusion: "He has risen!" Matthew 28:6.

For more information, call 770-378-4673 or visit www.hopeofdavid.org or www.derekleman.com.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.