God Gives the Increase
Sarah is almost afraid to believe in Jesus. She is past 70 and has been taught that belief in Jesus would be a denial of her Jewish identity,” I explained to Ellen, who was a new staff member. We had spent the morning together in a training exercise as we visited Jewish people who were interested in knowing more about what the Scriptures teach regarding the Messiah. On our way home, I had noticed the convalescent center and had remembered Sarah. “It would be good for Ellen to meet Sarah,” I thought as I turned into the narrow driveway. “She might be able to learn something, as well as develop a relationship with Sarah.”
As we walked into the building, I began to brief Ellen by pointing out that I had already shared the gospel with Sarah. In earlier months, I had met with Sarah on a regular basis in order to conduct a systematic study of messianic prophecy. In the months prior to our study, I had visited Sarah and had discussed with her several aspects of God’s character. I had, in fact, visited Sarah on a regular basis until recent months, when it had seemed that Sarah was becoming less coherent and more disoriented because of her age. I warned Ellen that at this point Sarah might not recognize me or remember any of the topics we had studied in the course of our relationship. With some emotion I explained we would simply do the best we could to talk to Sarah.
I quickened my pace, and Ellen practically had to run to keep up with me as I anxiously walked down the corridor that led to the room where Sarah had lived almost two months ago. The wheelchair with the familiar afghan was conspicuously absent from the corner of the room where it had always been. I glanced briefly toward the table on which Sarah’s belongings had been placed so meticulously during the two years of our friendship. The words, “what if…” forced themselves to my lips as I ran to the front desk to find out what had happened to Sarah. The nurse recognized me. Immediately she read my thoughts, and smilingly assured, “She’s still here. She’s on the patio.” I sighed in relief, motioning Ellen to follow me.
I practically ran up to Sarah when I spotted her in the shade of a tree not far from the sliding glass door. She wiped tears of joy from her eyes, explaining that she had hoped I would be along soon to see her. I asked questions about her family and her health. She briefly answered my questions and without any promptings, said, “Holly, I wanted to talk with you about something that is more significant.” I watched her and silently marvelled at the lucidity and clarity of her thoughts.
“Let me explain,” she said. “At Easter, which, by the way, was also Passover, a Gentile who believes in the Messiah came to see me. She brought a piece of fruit and handed it to me on this napkin.” I listened to Sarah’s story, which she was explaining with enthusiasm, and I wondered if there was any reason for it all. She interrupted my thoughts when she looked directly into my eyes and said, “At the bottom of the napkin it said ‘He is risen!’ just like you said about Jesus. Imagine that! Holly, what exactly does that mean?”
I smiled and carefully asked, “Are you asking about the ‘He is risen’ part, or are you asking about the ‘was the napkin a significant sign’ part?”
Sarah laughed and said, “Both!”
I opened the Hebrew Scriptures to several passages that discuss the death and resurrection of the Messiah. I then read from the New Testament regarding the life and resurrection of Jesus. I asked Sarah, “Who do you think is the Messiah who fulfilled the Scripture by rising from the dead?”
Without a moment’s passing, she stated, “Jesus, of course.”
I asked Sarah if she would like to express her beliefs to God, thank him for the sacrifice that he made in his Son Jesus and give her life to him. And in the next few moments I watched and listened as God brought Sarah to himself. As I wheeled her back to her new room, she stopped several nurses and patients to inform them that I was there to tell them about Jesus the Messiah. “She wants you to know that you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus,” she explained.
I had to look at Ellen and smile as we left Sarah in her room with promises to return soon. When we got into the car I just sat for a moment in silence. I prayed and thanked God for his gift, and then looked at Ellen, who seemed to be waiting for an explanation. I said simply, “It was not by might, or by power, but by God’s Spirit. Ellen, I planted a seed. I did the right things, but only God could have brought life…and he did! I am as surprised as you!” And we just sat there in the car for a few moments, crying and giggling with joy.
Writing this some time later, I am still able to derive a great deal of encouragement from those moments with Sarah. God is faithful to his Word, in that when we share it, “it does not return unto him void.” I am grateful that in this instance I was able to see the fruit of my labor, and I am encouraged to think that there have been times when fruit was produced although I was not made aware of it. I think all of us as believers can be confident that as we plant, sow and water, God will give the increase.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The above account took place in Los Angeles. Holly is now with the New York Branch of Jews for Jesus, where she continues her work of evangelism and is training new members of our New York staff.