Psychotherapist Dr. Richard Ganz was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in New York City. Here is an excerpt from his story as it appears in chapter 5, “I AM Truth,” from Storm Clouds of Blessings: True Stories of Ordinary People Finding Hope and Strength in Times of Trouble, by Janice M. Cappucci. Reprinted by permission of Christian Focus Publications.
It all started unremarkably enough – a vacation in Europe, a time for Rich and his wife Nancy to celebrate his job offer at the hospital. They had the whole thing mapped out. But day by day, through wild, unexpected twists and turns, they ended up in a village in Holland, being warmly welcomed at a place called L’Abri Fellowship – a house that seemed to operate a lot like a hostel, except room and board were free, and dinner was often followed by scholarly lectures by esteemed professors. A professor from M.I.T. set the stage their first night with a lecture entitled Quantum Mechanics and its Relationship to God. “I had no idea what he was talking about,” Rich said. “One thing I learned from this lecture: At least some Christians were certainly not as stupid as I had thought they were.”
As a man with no sense of God, I saw myself as nothing better than a chance in a meaningless world.
Over the course of the week, Rich and Nancy learned that philosophical and religious insights were standard fare in virtually every discussion at L’Abri. “They were incredibly interesting,” Rich said. “As a man with no sense of God, I saw myself as nothing better than a chance accumulation of molecules in an absurd and meaningless world. I listened and talked to these people, questioning and mocking their beliefs.” Then, one day, the leader at L’Abri, a man named Hans Van Seventer, asked Rich if he could read to him “something from the Bible.”
Well, I guess...
Wary, but willing, Rich consented.
Hans flipped open the Bible and started reading:
See, my Servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness – so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.1
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.2
Where have I heard that before?
I’ve heard that expression before, Rich thought – “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” But where? Then suddenly Rich understood – Hans was reading to him about Jesus. Does he know what he is doing, reading this Christian stuff to a Jew? Rich told himself to be patient as Hans continued.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions.
Images of Renaissance paintings leapt to Rich’s mind, paintings with Jesus hanging on a cross, pierced. What is Hans' agenda here? Rich asked himself, the anger rising in him.
He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
How dare you!
Bristling with indignation, Rich could barely contain himself. This was nothing less than an anti-Semitic assault. But he knew how he would counter. In a moment, he would blast Hans: This easy way out of your guilt – it’s irresponsible! All you have to say is Jesus took away your sins! How convenient – you found a cheap way out of long-term psychoanalysis.
Hans could not know he was unlocking vaults of old memories, frightening memories Rich had from when he was seven and, in an act of daring, snuck into a Catholic church. Looming from on high were images and impressions that seared powerfully into his brain. Jesus was Catholic, obviously. And – judging by his tall, delicate, slightly anorexic frame, his long silken blond hair and piercing blue eyes – Scandinavian.
I ran eight blocks home to get away from what I considered to be an unpardonable sin.
“I had gotten as far as the vestibule of that Catholic church, when I looked at one of the statues and thought that the ground was going to open and swallow me up. I thought that I was damned forever just for looking at that statue. I ran eight blocks home to get away from what I considered to be an unpardonable sin. But these ‘Catholics’ had it all worked out. No long-term therapy. Jesus pays and they go free. What a deal!”
But wait, there's more!
If Hans picked up on Rich’s discomfort, he didn’t comment, but instead read on.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away; and who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but with the rich in his death…
In Rich’s mind, he saw paintings of Jesus on the cross, and the two thieves, one on either side of Him. I’ve seen these things in museums, Rich thought with growing irritation. He’s not telling me anything new.
…though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. Though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
Rich rolled his eyes. This whole scene is absurd. These people never stop. Here they go with that myth about the resurrection. Why can’t they accept the fact that once a person is dead, he is dead? Grow up! Put away your infantile neuroses and realize that when you are dead, you are dead. That is it.
He will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.3
At last, Hans finished reading. He looked at Rich and said, “What do you think?”
That's in my Bible?
By this time, Rich was brimming with choice retorts, absolutely convinced Hans had just read a passage from his Gentile Bible, and that it was a report of someone who had witnessed the crucifixion.
Rich responded without a moment’s hesitation: “Anyone who was there at that cross could have written that stuff! What does that prove?”
Hans had been reading to me from MY Bible, from my Hebrew Scriptures,
Hans handed Rich the Bible. “In that millisecond,” Rich recalls, “my life was shattered. The name that I saw at the top of the page was Isaiah! Hans had been reading to me from MY Bible, from my Hebrew Scriptures, and I felt as though someone had taken a sword and cut me to pieces.”
Rich sat dumbfounded, his eyes transfixed on that name, Isaiah.
“Rich,” Hans said, “Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus was born.”
The psychotherapist goes crazy
“I felt as if I had been stabbed to death,” Rich said. “It hit me like an explosive, it was so beyond my ability to assimilate. I felt myself moaning. I was sitting there practically going crazy. Because I knew it was true. I knew it right then and there. As much as I couldn’t stand it, I believed it. And I thought, I’m being torn to pieces. This is the roughest experience of my life! Why couldn’t it be anyone else? Why couldn't it be Krishna? Why couldn't it be Buddha? Why does it have to be Him?
“Prior to that day, the one thing I had going for me as an unbeliever was that I was always looking for truth. The moment I saw Isaiah printed at the top of that page, I knew instantly, Jesus was Truth. Though I didn’t have the knowledge or the words to express this at the time, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the One who is the Truth was in that room and He was speaking to me.
Read Dr. Ganz’s full account, as well as the story of seven others who weathered personal storms (including Messianic Jewish Holocaust survivor Maria Weinstein Yanyuk), in Janice M. Cappucci’s book, available from Amazon here.
3. Isaiah 53 (NIV)