Fourteenth Street subway station in Manhattan is not a pretty place. Yet as always, the Lord was sovereign even there as I passed out tracts one morning to the rush-hour crowd. Near the end of my allotted time, a young man approached me with sincere interest.
Jews for Jesus?” he puzzled.
“Why not?” I responded.
“How can you be Jewish and be for Jesus? I don’t understand.”
“Well,” I said, “if he really is the Jewish Messiah, then the Jewish thing is to believe in him, right?”
“I guess so,” he conceded, then asked, “if I believe, will I have to stop being Jewish?”
“I certainly haven’t,” I assured him.
I saw a sparkle in David’s eye as I spoke to him. David was 23 years old and a student at a Manhattan business school. He told me that he was disappointed in some of the superficiality he saw in contemporary Judaism. I wrote down his address and telephone number and called him a week later.
By then, David had become hesitant. He had done what so many of our Jewish brothers and sisters who do not know the Messiah do. Before thinking any more about it, he had consulted first with his parents, and then with his rabbi.
“David,” I told him, “you have to understand that the Jewish community has already made up its mind that Yeshua is not the Messiah. But you ought to hear all about him for yourself, and then you can make up your own mind.”
That made sense to him. He said, “You know, you’re right! I would like to talk some more. Will you call me later?”
I did call David again. This time, however, his mother answered the phone and asked, “Aren’t you the one who called last week?”
“Why, yes, I am,” I answered.
“And you’re with Jews for Jesus?”
“Uh…yes…I am,” I said.
Her tone was sharp and her message was terse. “I don’t know who you are, but I don’t want you calling ever again!” She hung up the phone, raising a wall between David and me.
Unfortunately, David’s case is far from unique. We meet many Jewish people who seem interested in the gospel message but are barred from hearing more by those who are closest to them. In raising those barriers to communication, their loved ones truly believe that they are “performing a mitzvah” (doing a service for God). They feel they are doing their relatives a favor by saving them from making a terrible mistake, when in reality they are hurting them.
It’s extremely frustrating for a missionary to encounter this kind of family interference in the life of an inquirer who is of age and ought to have the privilege of making his or her own decision. Nevertheless, we can rejoice because God is still sovereign in every situation. His purpose will not be thwarted. We can take comfort as the Apostle Paul did, when he wrote that though he himself was imprisoned, the Word of God was not bound (II Timothy 2:9).
Despite his well-meaning mother’s attempt to “shield” him from considering the truth of the gospel, God is well able to rekindle David’s interest. I am praying that the Lord will keep a sense of dissatisfaction in David’s heart so he will remain curious and actually hunger to know the truth. Many of our staff will be out on the streets of Manhattan this summer. They will be handing out our broadside gospel literature and will be making themselves available to talk to interested people. As David works, studies and travels about town, he is bound to encounter someone who will be ready and more than willing to talk to him about Yeshua.