Synagogue is hardly the scene to begin a story about believing in Jesus, but it was there my questions started.
The somber strains of Kol Nidre still lingered in my mind from the night before. Captured almost mystically in the walls and windows, they reminded me of the fresh opportunity Yom Kippur brought to present myself before my Maker.
I recited the prayers as I had year after year. As I listened to my own voice, I realized it conveyed emotion. Emotion, not sincerity.
The emphasis on sin and forgiveness struck a discordant note. Sin? Forgiveness? I hadn’t killed, murdered or blatantly turned away from God. And most of the other sins listed were so general that they were more in line with ‘human nature’ then actual ‘sinfulness.’
I became almost belligerent, wondering why we even had a Day of Atonement. How can we atone for being human?
I pictured the millenia of worshippers before me. As an American Jew, I credited my ancestors with being “more religious, the way Jews were supposed to be.” But if they were more holy than I, why had they placed more importance on Yom Kippur than I did? If I’m okay and they were better, they should need less atonement. Right?
During one of the silent readings, I asked God to make me the kind of Jew who had understanding and saw miracles. Services ended. Yom Kippur passed. But my prayer neither ended nor passed.
A friend (who didn’t know of my quest) began telling me she had found the “Jewish Messiah, Jesus.” It was a quick way to lose my friendship, but instead of ignoring her, I decided to use my fresh vision of the God of Israel to disprove her. I pulled out my Bible to show her how it repudiated Christianity’s claims. I knew that somewhere God must have said that Jews didn’t need to believe in Jesus.
Instead, I found a mirror of my unworthiness; not in wicked deeds, but in my attitude toward the Holy One of Israel. My attitude was, “not Your way, God, but my way.”
It seemed that my idea of sin was right…something inherent in all men. But to dismiss it on that basis was to be flippant. Any person could accept my answer, but God couldn’t. Instead of finding affirmation of my anti-Jesus arrogance, I found:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
I knew that I could minimize the applications of this passage into oblivion. I couldn’t honestly say that I was willing to pay the price to achieve what God demanded, but I wanted to…even if it meant believing in Jesus. How could He answer such a prayer? I couldn’t trust the Christians, the rabbis, or even my own feelings. God’s written word was the only authority I could trust.
From that point on, the entire Bible opened up. God’s own Word described the One who would come, die, bear the sins of humanity, and be rejected.
I knew that I had found the answer to my prayers in Jesus. I had met the God of Israel.
It was through this Yom Kippur prayer that I came to see myself before God. There is no explaining away of sin. But there is a sin-bearer and “…that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38, 39.)