Sometimes our New York and Washington, D.C. branches join up to do holiday outreaches. We enjoy being together and we also enjoy the change of scenery as we travel to five different cities to do evangelism. I recall one such Decapolis” in which many package-laden passers-by were delighted to see us. After all, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” some Christians called to me, as I handed them a pamphlet. Others, however, weren’t so pleased.
For example, one afternoon in Harvard Square was particularly difficult. Harvard Square is an upper class area of Boston populated by intellectuals, many of whom are connected with the famous university for which the area is named. As I stood there offering shoppers my gospel pamphlets, most walked past without even an acknowledgement. It was as though I was completely invisible. As I began to pray that I would become visible to these people, my co-worker, Michelle, walked towards me. “Please,” she said, “could we pray together one more time?” She, too, felt the spiritual oppression surrounding us.
We prayed together and, before we even looked up from our prayer, a woman approached wanting to know more about what we believed. She gave us her name and address so we could send her more information and we marveled at God’s immediate answer to prayer. As Michelle walked away, another woman approached me, explaining that she had been considering the claims of Christ since several Christian friends had been telling her about Him. She was excited to meet me and grateful to receive more information.
Most people still ignored me and several others tossed out insults as they walked past. One man was so angry that he tore the tract into teeny weeny pieces and turned a nice shade of red that matched the package in his hands.
“I am a Jew,” he proclaimed, “and I’m insulted to see you here!”
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked, before he had gone too far. “What?” he yelled, “What could you possibly want to ask me?”
“How would you feel if that beautiful gift in your hands was refused? How would that make you feel?” The man replied,
“I guess I wouldn’t like it, but what does that have to do with Jesus?”
“God gave us the gift of Messiah and here you are refusing to even consider Him. How do you think that makes God feel?”
“Messiah? What makes you think I even need a messiah? You have nothing that I want ….” He hurled a few more insults at me and walked away.
Would it surprise you that I was as glad for my encounter with that man as I was for the two women who were open to the gospel? It isn’t that I like being insulted or seeing people reject God’s gift. But I know that the reason I was not invisible to that man was because he saw something that God wanted him to see. He heard something God wanted him to hear—not merely my words, but his own reply, “What makes you think I even need a messiah?” My visibility brought this man’s anger to the surface, and perhaps his own words gave him more to think about than anything I could have said. He had taken a moment to consider how he would feel about having his gift rejected, and I have to believe that God will use that encounter. To tell you the truth, I was more like that angry man than I was like the two open women on my own first encounter with a Jew for Jesus. And here I am!
I prayed for that man as he left, that God would give him a glimpse of this great gift, for “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).