Thank you, darling,” Sophie would say as I handed her the can of soda. It had been our usual routine for the past year. Every time I visited with this elderly woman I would bring her an ice-cold 7-Up and she would smile gratefully.
Two years earlier another Jews for Jesus staff worker had visited with Sophie. She had just happened to pick Sophie’s name from a phone book during an evening of cold calling. Then she had begun to visit with her. Sophie’s son and his wife were both Jewish believers in Jesus.
When I took over that worker’s caseload, somehow the tradition developed of my bringing Sophie an ice-cold can of 7-Up. There were other rituals as well, like her constantly changing the subject whenever I brought up the gospel. Despite her advanced age and frail condition, Sophie was intellectually sharp. She knew how to change the subject by talking about my hair or my clothes. I would thank her for the compliment and ask her why she was deliberately changing the course of our conversation. Then she would voice all the usual objections for believing in Jesus, like, “My mother didn’t believe in Jesus, so I shouldn’t either.” I once asked Sophie if she thought everything her mother did was right, and she said yes, her mother was wonderful. Once she said that people who believed in Jesus were stupid. I asked her if she thought her son, who was a believer, was stupid. I knew she considered him brilliant. Sophie couldn’t answer me and changed the subject again.
Then several events in one year shook Sophie up and made her think about God. Very unexpectedly, her daughter-in-law died in her sleep. I tried to comfort Sophie with the realization that because of her faith in the Jewish Messiah, her daughter-in-law was now with God. Her son tried to comfort her as well, but Sophie cried often because of this loss. I believe God began to deal with Sophie’s heart at that time, because a change occurred during our visits. She no longer changed the subject, but began to ask questions. One thing that fascinated her was the empty tomb.
“You mean,” she asked, “the grave was empty? They never found him? He just went to heaven?”
“Yes,” I said, “the grave was empty. Jesus rose from the dead.”
I read her Mark 16, the account of the Resurrection.
“Imagine that,” she remarked. Then she changed the subject, and I knew it was time to leave. I wondered if this Jewish woman would ever receive Yeshua as her Messiah.
But on my next visit Sophie did not change the course of our conversation at all. This time she wanted to talk about Jesus! She was very excited, because an Israeli believer had come to see her the previous week and had spoken to her about the Resurrection.
“He rose from the dead. We know because the grave was empty!” Sophie exclaimed.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” I said, and Sophie laughed.
“And the funny thing is, I think I believe in Jesus, too,” she added.
That afternoon Sophie prayed to receive Jesus as her Messiah, Savior and Lord. Before I left she exclaimed, “Oh, my son will be so happy. Wait till I tell him!”
I knew that Sophie’s son was not the only one who would be happy. I knew that God himself was rejoicing, not to mention a few legions of angels!