My sandals were wet as we exited Hezekiah’s Tunnel. [i] Ascending to the southwest corner of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, my wife engaged an Israeli named Issachar* in conversation. I joined as she offered him a copy of Betrayed. We told him it is the testimony of a Jewish father who came to faith in Jesus after reading the New Testament.
Issachar politely declined and said, “My rabbi told me not to read Christian material.”
When I heard his reason for declining the book, I was not surprised. My heart sinks every time I hear it. Sensing the Spirit’s nudge, with kindness I challenged Issachar. “Do you really want your rabbi telling you what to read and not read?”
“I trust him. He is very smart and studies all the time,” Issachar responded.
“What if he is wrong? The rabbis disagree with each other all the time, don’t they?”
“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted, then added, “I have been really curious about the New Testament. But it’s forbidden to read it. I want to, but I am not allowed.”
“But it’s a Jewish book, written by your people.”
“My rabbi told me not to,” Issachar insisted.
I persisted. “I am normally not this direct with people, but I think you are giving too much control to your rabbi. Are you willing to place that much trust in him? Has he ever read the New Testament?”
“I will ask him about this, but I don’t think he will like it.”
Our exchange concluded in the shadow of the Temple Mount with a smile and friendly handshake.
Issachar is not alone in his reason for not reading the New Testament or other Christian material.
Thousands of our religious Jewish friends are taught to never investigate the New Testament for themselves. Their rabbis tell them God will strike them dead if they even enter a church.
Sadly, the broader secular segment of the Jewish population also is often influenced by the religious “authorities.” Many Jewish people are taught that Jesus came to start a new religion. Others believe the New Testament is anti-Semitic.
These lies prevent Jewish people from learning the truth about the Jewish King of Israel, the Messiah.
What can we do to advance the truth about Jesus among our Jewish friends? Here are two truths to remember as you consider ways you can make an impact this very day:
Israel has a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [ii] The knowledge they are lacking is the good news that righteousness is by faith in Messiah, not the works of man. Most Jewish people think they know about Jesus, but most do not. (Some have no idea that Jesus is Jewish!) Few have heard a clear gospel presentation. Most have little to no idea what the New Testament teaches, or that it was largely written by Jewish writers.
In light of these realities, please share the Good News with your Jewish friends and offer them a New Testament. If you are not going to do it, who will?
Paul earnestly prayed for the salvation of Israel. [iii] We should do the same. Pray for Issachar and others like him who desire to investigate but are fearful to do so.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne once traveled abroad to bring the good news to the Jewish people. On November 17, 1839, he preached a sermon titled “Our Duty to Israel” in which he stated:
“All that we plead for is, that, in sending out missionaries to the heathen, we may not forget to begin at Jerusalem. If Paul be sent to the gentile, let Peter be sent to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad; and let not a bye-corner in your hearts be given to this cause—let it not be an appendix to the other doings of our Church, but rather let there be written on the fore front of your hearts, and on the banner of our beloved Church, “To the Jew first,” and “Beginning at Jerusalem.” [iv]
May the beloved Church never forget her beginnings. And may we never cease to bring Messiah’s message to His Jewish people.
Written by Levi, LIFE Staff Member
*Pseudonyms used to protect identities.
[i] Judah’s king constructed the tunnel to protect the water supply from the Assyrian army in the 8th Century BC (2 Kings 20:20).
[iii] Romans 10:1.
[iv] See http://www.mcheyne.info/sermons6.php.