We just celebrated a very special Shavuot – one unlike any in the history of Jews for Jesus! Before I reveal what was so special about it, some may want a bit of background or a refresher on this holiday. Shavuot is a harvest festival. In fact, it’s one of three pilgrimage festivals that God commanded Israel to celebrate in a very specific location: Jerusalem. According to rabbinic tradition, Shavuot also commemorates the giving of the Torah (Law) at Mount Sinai, and it is a time to emphasize community.
Shavuot in the days of Acts
Many Christians celebrate an event that took place on Shavuot, but most know the holiday by its Greek name: Pentecost. In the days leading up to that historic event, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). Then He made an amazing promise coupled with a command: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Then in Acts 2, we see how the Holy Spirit came on the day of Shavuot in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise.
Previously, the disciples had wrongly concluded that since Jesus had risen from the dead, His earthly kingdom was about to commence. They were all set to rule with Him in Jerusalem. Jesus’ departure, as well as His command to be His witnesses – beginning in Jerusalem and ultimately throughout the entire world – must have come as quite a shock. They thought their job of making Jesus known was done, when in fact it was only just beginning.
Shavuot in 2018
And now I’m going to tell you why this past Shavuot was so very special, and what made it historic for our ministry. Remember the Behold Your God (BYG) Jerusalem campaign I told you about and urged you to pray for? Remember how we could not reveal the dates for security reasons?
Our Jerusalem outreach actually took place this past month, and was in full swing during Shavuot!
And, as with the disciples on that first Shavuot after Jesus’ resurrection, our job is not done – in some ways, it is just beginning. I emphasize that because my first public announcement of our BYG Jerusalem campaign was confusing for some. When people heard that this effort was the grand finale of an eighteen-year program to have saturation evangelistic outreaches in every city with a Jewish population of 25,000 or more, some were very concerned. I received letters and calls asking if that grand finale meant we were shutting down Jews for Jesus. I began to realize that Jews for Jesus had become so identified with our BYG campaigns that some folks may have indeed wondered what, if anything, might remain for us to do.
Behold Your God Jerusalem finale signals a new beginning!
Let me assure you, there is plenty to do! The best is yet ahead. In a sense, Jews for Jesus is beginning again in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth as we bear in mind Messiah’s mandate. We have been learning and innovating all throughout our eighteen-year effort, and especially in preparation for our recent Jerusalem outreach. Because Jerusalem is so different from every other city in the world, we began praying and thinking and experimenting well over a year before the actual outreach. As a result, we have developed all kinds of new and cutting-edge approaches to sharing the message of the gospel with a wide range of people who live in that great city.
We formed teams especially devoted to different groups, including Russian-speaking Israelis as well as English-speaking ex-patriate baby boomers. We formed partnerships to reach those who are caught up in drugs, alcohol, prostitution and homelessness. We developed new ministry projects reaching the arts community, the sports community, university and yeshiva (Jewish education) students, and the Haredi community (ultra-Orthodox Jews). Each team did some exploratory evangelism in Jerusalem well before the actual full-on outreach.
Orthodox Jewish woman pleads with us not to forget her
During one such foray, a member of our Haredi team met a woman who had been drawn to Yeshua (Jesus), but was unable to express her beliefs openly in her community. While one of our men met with her husband, one of our women met with her. Due to the very sensitive nature of life in this community, I won’t give details, but I can tell you that the husband was pleased with the visit and said he looked forward to the next one. Meanwhile, the wife was so hungry to study the Word that she and our staff member have continued to meet for Bible study. Our staff member says, “Every time I leave she says, ‘Don’t forget about me.’”
In many ways, the command to be Messiah’s witnesses beginning “in Jerusalem” has become new marching orders for what is coming next in Jews for Jesus. As you read this, we are still processing all that happened in Jerusalem last month. We intend to leverage many of the new strategies developed in Jerusalem to revolutionize our efforts around the world. We are all feeling great enthusiasm and expectation of what the Lord is about to do. I can’t wait to share some of the details of our plans with you in the coming months.
The key: radical dependence on the Holy Spirit
Of course, the key to success for those first disciples who began in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago was the power of the Holy Spirit. That is still true for Jews for Jesus and anyone else who wants to do God’s work in His way. Please pray for us to receive a fresh anointing and Holy Spirit power. We need and want to remain radically dependent upon Him as we move forward.
I don’t know how much more time we have before the return of Christ, but just like those first Jews for Jesus 2,000 years ago, we cannot just stand gazing up into heaven. The best is yet to come... in every sense of the word. Please join us and partner with us as we relentlessly pursue God’s plan for the salvation of the Jewish people!
David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. Find out more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church at jewsforjesus.org/david-brickner.