Hurdles to Faith
Stewart and Susan Weinisch encountered a number of obstacles on their way to believing in Yeshua (Jesus). Here are some of the ideas they had to confront:
“Christians hate Jews.”
This is what Stewart’s father told him, and many people do point to “Christian anti-Semitism” as a reason to dismiss Jesus. When our people start wondering whether Jesus might be the Messiah, thoughts of the Crusades and the Holocaust quickly rush to mind, setting off a warning signal—Jews who believe in Jesus join the same league as those who hate our people.
Many people have used the name of Jesus as a justification for their anti-Semitic crimes. But Jesus never taught hatred of Jewish people.
Jesus and his teachings have no connection to crimes committed in his name. How can we blame Jesus for those who claim to follow his teachings but do not? If (as some have done) we blame all believers in Jesus for killing people they never knew, we become guilty of the same thing our persecutors do when they wrongly blame all Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.
“Yeshu is cursed.”
This is what Stewart’s father told him as well. Yeshu is a corruption of the name Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name). In medieval Judaism, Jesus was portrayed as a deceiver, even a sorcerer, and when Jesus was mentioned, his real name was not used. A letter was knocked off to form a Hebrew acronym for the remaining letters: Yimmach Shemo Ve-zikro, which means, “May his name and memory be blotted out.”
Yet if Jesus was not a deceiver, but the Messiah of Israel as he claimed, then his name, which means “the Lord saves,” should not only be remembered, it should be honored.
The New Testament is cursed; I should never read it.
Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein (1824-1909) shunned the New Testament for years. He describes his experience when he finally dared to read it:
I had thought the New Testament to be impure, a source of pride, of overweening selfishness, of hatred, of the worst kind of violence, but as I opened it, I felt myself peculiarly and wonderfully taken possession of. A sudden glory, a light, flashed through my soul. I looked for thorns and gathered roses; I discovered pearls instead of pebbles; instead of hatred, love; instead of vengeance, forgiveness; instead of bondage, freedom; instead of pride, humility; instead of enmity, conciliation; instead of death, life, salvation, resurrection, heavenly treasure.1
The New Testament narratives of Jesus’ life (the Gospels) are centered in the land of Israel. The writers, with the possible exception of Luke, were all Jews. The early followers of Jesus were also Jewish. In the New Testament, there is one primary literary treasure that is invested with supreme authority: the Hebrew Scriptures. The initial New Testament proclamations are laced with passages from Moses and the prophets, indicating that what is taking place is the fulfillment of the Jewish hope.
No other Jews believe in Jesus.
This publication, ISSUES, has been sent to the homes of tens of thousands of Jews who believe in Jesus. While most Jews do not believe in Jesus, a significant minority does. Jewish scholar Dr. Michael Brown, a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and literature from New York University, writes:
All of Jesus’ original followers were Jews, and within a few years after his death and resurrection, thousands of Jews believed in him. . . . Since then, in every generation there has been a faithful remnant of Jews who have followed Jesus the Messiah, numbering from the thousands into the tens of thousands, and they have maintained their faith in spite of often difficult circumstances.2
You can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus.
It all depends on how you define a Jew. If a Jew is a person who belongs to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with whom he made covenants through Abraham, Moses and David, then Jews who follow Jesus qualify. Some rabbis might say that such a belief is misguided or wrong. But if one can be an atheist and be a Jew, why is being Jewish and believing in Jesus such a stretch?
Michael Brown adds: “The fact is . . . that belief in the real Jesus (i.e. the Yeshua of the Bible and not the one of later, man-made tradition) and true Jewishness (which does not always equate with traditional Jewishness) are compatible, and when a Jew embraces Yeshua the Messiah, he becomes more Jewish than ever before.”3
If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then my relatives are in hell.
Brown, responding to a question from someone concerned about the eternal destiny of their Jewish grandmother, said this:
These are not questions to be answered lightly, as if heaven and hell were figures of speech. And, to be perfectly frank, we’re not just talking about your grandmother; we’re talking about my grandmother too. Still, the bottom line is this: While I don’t know your grandmother and I am certainly not her judge, I do know that countless millions of Jews and Gentiles have lived lives that have displeased God (and this includes at least some of our grandmothers) . . . It wouldn’t be fair to you if I failed to warn you in advance. . . . God is both a compassionate and righteous Judge, there are consequences to breaking his commandments, his standards are high, and if we reject his ordained means of atonement, we are in trouble.4
As Brown notes, God is the final judge. The gospel—that Yeshua came, died for our sins, and rose from the dead—is good news and offers hope to those who repent and turn to him.
God will judge me if I enter a church.
Since the first believers in Yeshua were all Jews, the first Christian congregation (or “church”) was an all-Jewish assembly. Rather than God judging this group of Jesus-believing Jews, the New Testament records that God greatly blessed them: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).
The word “church” in the New Testament refers to the body of believers in Jesus rather than to an edifice. Yeshua said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Worship is a matter of the heart, not what kind of building we meet in.
My family won’t understand.
They probably won’t. Many Jews have risked alienation from family and friends to follow Jesus. Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, tells this story:
Then I came to the tenth chapter of Matthew, and was startled when Jesus said, “He who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me . . . and he who will not take up the cross is not worthy of me” (verses 37, 38). At that point, I set the Bible down, and decided, “This is not for me. I don’t want to go any further.” I knew that I would be headed for a family crisis if I were to allow myself to believe.
Years later my Jewish wife was persuaded of the gospel, and I began rereading the New Testament to show her how silly it was. But in fact, it wasn’t silly, and I couldn’t fault it. When at last I did realize that I believed . . . it was simply that despite my intention to disbelieve, I’d been drawn to Jesus, and I could no longer deny that he was true.
However, there are others like Steve Wertheim, who, not long after coming to faith in Jesus, saw his father, a Holocaust survivor, come to believe. His mother soon followed because she too could no longer deny what she knew to be true.5
- The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal (Philadelphia: Wm. H. Pile’s Sons, 1911), Volume 84, No. 20, November 17, 1910, p. 155.
- Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume One: General and Historical Objections (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), p. 3.
- Ibid., p. 9.
- Ibid., p. 28.
- You can read Steve Wertheim’s story here.