I am a Jew. As far as my family can tell, our ancestry goes back all the way to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
My entire childhood, my parents drummed it into my head that I could believe whatever I wanted and still stay Jewish. With one exception. If I believed in Jesus, I would no longer be a Jew.
When I was 17 years old, I heard for the first time in my life about the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), whom I was told was born of a virgin, was both fully God and fully man, died on a cross for my sins, and rose again after three days. Through fascinating circumstances, I embraced this Truth into my life, and believed in the Messiah that was prophesied about and promised to my people throughout the Old Testament.
Seeing this decision as a great betrayal to our people, my father sent rabbis after my mother, sisters and I, to try to ‘talk some sense’ into us. When he realized that we weren’t going to back away from our faith in Yeshua, he comforted himself by saying, “It’s just a phase – it was either drugs, alcohol or Jesus, so Jesus is the better of the three. They’ll get over it.”
But we never did and we never will …
You see, how could we ever go back. Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only hope for mankind, and no one who lives on this earth is exempt from needing the perfect sacrifice that He made. No one is without sin. All have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).The Jews included.
God is the only one who can reveal His Truth to people. And each time His Spirit does, and a person turns from their wicked ways (repents) and places their trust in the person of Yeshua, it is nothing short of a miracle. It is rare for a Jew to believe. It is only by the grace and mercy of Almighty God that the veil is removed from our eyes.
Why do Jews not believe in Jesus?
Born into a Jewish family, active in our local synagogue, and even having been on the path to becoming a Rabbi, there was both a spoken and an unspoken understanding about Jesus. These were engrained, taught, and assumed until they seeped into the very fibre of our being. Much of the ideas and perceptions of who Yeshua was, is sadly based on ignorance. Ignorance simply borne out of fear, disdain, misunderstanding, and apathy.
The conviction of Jews is that ‘Jesus isn’t for us, it’s for ‘them.’’ Them, referring to the Christians.
I, myself, was guilty before I came to know Him personally, of the following thought patterns.
A Mistaken Understanding of Who Jesus Is
Firstly, in the eyes of Jewish people, Jesus was the guy who started the Christian religion. Most Jews have never given Jesus much thought, but the vague view they’d have of Him is that He is Catholic. Jesus is someone who is ‘not Jewish’. In other words, to the common Jew out there, if one is not Jewish, they are a ‘Christian.’
My people do not differentiate between a True Believer, one who follows the Lord Jesus and is His disciple, and someone who is nominal in his Christianity yet still identifies himself as a ‘Christian’. The acceptable view is that whoever is not a Jew in the western world, is a non-Jew, and all non-Jews are considered Christians.
This leads to a mistaken conclusion that if I now believe in Jesus, I am no longer Jewish. It is as if I have converted to another religion; to Christianity. To a Jew, this is the unforgivable sin. Since our race is so small, and has survived against all odds by our rich history, time-tested traditions and united faith in the one true God, ‘converting’ to the other side, namely Christianity, and thereby leaving Judaism, is a heinous sin.
Having grown up with this reality, in my heart I completely understand and can even identify with this sad response. The fact is though, that nothing could be further from the truth. You see, when a Jew’s eyes have been opened to believe in Yeshua, he is in reality fulfilling the very calling of God and of His ancient plan; to believe in the promised Jewish Messiah who was to come. Incidentally, the Jews are still waiting for the promised Messiah, tragically not realising that He came 2,000 years ago.
The following video powerfully exemplifies the strong emotional reaction of Jews when they hear of someone who has ‘left Judaism.’ In this clip from the classic film, Fiddler on the Roof, the father, Tevye, has just heard that his daughter, Chava, will marry a non-Jew. It is a good illustration of a represented Jew (Tevye) and his heart-wrenching response of pain associated with one who is a traitor to Judaism (represented by his daughter here).
If anything, for a Jew to believe in Yeshua, makes that Jew even more Jewish. I often hear testimonies of Jews who began to read the New Testament out of curiosity, and almost without fail the comment follows, “I couldn’t believe what a Jewish book the New Testament is!”
The New Testament is indeed a book that proclaims
A Jewish Messiah
Amongst a Jewish nation
Fulfilling the Jewish Scriptures.
It speaks of Jewish feasts,
With a Jewish mentality.
Here is a good example of a testimony of a Jew who came to the clear conclusion that Jesus was a Jew simply because of the Jewish-flavoured New Testament:
A Mistaken Understanding of What Jesus Did
Secondly, so many atrocities were committed over the centuries ‘in the name of Jesus’ that when a Jew is confronted with that Name, walls and bolted gates shoot up in his mind against this so-called Messiah.
They’re thinking Crusades.
They’re recalling the Pogroms
And fresh in their minds is
during which an unfathomable six million Jews
lost their lives in the most cruel deaths imagineable.
As Jews, we’re hurt, we’re defensive, and anger often rises high in our hearts when we hear of a Jew believing in the very person who was supposedly responsible for continual, vehement persecution against our race.
My father, who passed away as a proud Jew against Jesus three years ago, was verbally and physically persecuted for being Jewish in communist Romania in the 1940’s. He was one of countless Jews over the centuries who endured being called “Christ-killer.” This term came about largely because teaching in nominal churches claimed that Jesus was crucified at the hand of the Jews, not realizing that he was in actual fact executed by the Roman government because of being viewed as a political threat to their regime.
The thing is, that Jews use historical persecution in the name of Jesus, and many other reasons as excuses not to believe in His Messiahship. It was only after coming to faith in Yeshua that I understood the personal nature of faith in Him. The issue wasn’t the millions out there who were unjustly killed.
The issue was that I am a sinner in need of a Saviour.
Whether I liked it or not, despite the fact that I had been raised to believe the very opposite, I could not deny that Isaiah 53 and hundreds of other Old Testament prophecies pointed crystal-clearly to Yeshua being the sinless lamb that died in my place. He carried the unbearable load of my own transgressions against a Holy God.
As Ray Comfort puts it, it was a ‘legal transaction’. My fine was paid, and I could now walk out of the courtroom, free.
Should a Jew Believe in Jesus or Not? That’s like asking should a seriously ill patient take medicine or not? Just like a person who knows that she is sick will admit herself to the care of a physician, so one who is not morally perfect and who is aware of her wrongdoings will commit herself to the care of the one who offers forgiveness and freely grants it.
How Does This Relate To You?
When I lived in Israel, as part of one of our congregation’s meetings, our pastor asked for a show of hands of Jews who had come to know the Lord through a Gentile. My friend, almost every hand in the room went up! God’s plan all along has been for the Gospel to go out to the Gentiles, so that they may be used to provoke the Jews to jealousy, (Romans 11:11-14), that is, to see the truth that belief in Jesus leads to forgiveness of sins, communion with God the Father, and everlasting life.
So, you have a purpose!
To be a light to the Jewish people that God brings into your life. To live a life worthy of the calling before them, and as God leads you to share your faith with them. It is your duty to provoke the Jews to jealousy by the blessed, abundant life you have in Him.
You may enjoy the following testimonies of Jews who came to believe in the one true Messiah, Yeshua! The first one, specifically, will be an encouragement to you that you, as a Gentile, can be used of God to lead a Jew to their Messiah!
I would love to hear from you with any questions or comments you may have. Do you know anyone Jewish? What has been your experience in witnessing to them? Or if you haven’t yet, what has held you back?