When in New Jersey Do As the Pakistani
I had never eaten rice with my fingers—at least not since I had been a toddler. But that day in New Jersey it was proper table behavior to eat rice with one’s fingers. I was sharing a meal with a family as they hosted their patriarchal guest, Mr. Efraim Joseph. The elderly man was one of the three living Jews left in all of Pakistan, and he had come from afar to see his adopted” daughter. Eighty-three-year-old Mr. Joseph had raised this young woman, Zipporah, in Karachi before the partition had made two countries out of India and Pakistan. She had settled in the United States, and now here he was in New Jersey to visit her.
Zipporah’s husband Ben had called me the day before. He thought that perhaps I, a Jewish believer, would be able to answer some of Mr. Joseph’s questions better than he could as a Gentile believer. I had been glad to set up this lunch appointment and had gone to New Jersey from Manhattan to meet Mr. Joseph. As I gave my story and told him how God cared about me and had sent Yeshua to die on my behalf, he seemed to be listening. He asked good questions and seemed to respond well to my answers.
When Ben came in, the interruption was welcome. Ben was wondering if Mr. Joseph had prayed with me yet. He hadn’t, so I asked, “Would you like to pray with me now to become born again through faith in the Messiah?”
“Well…” he hesitated, and then he asked, “Why don’t all the Jews receive him?”
His question represented what may be the main reason that most Jewish people today don’t receive Jesus. It’s not a theological matter; it’s a social matter. Even in Jesus’ day, it was a major issue (read John 7:48 and 9:22).
I explained to Mr. Joseph that all through our history only a remnant of Jewish people had remained true to the covenant; only a few loved Yeshua. Nevertheless, the issue was not how many Jews had made the commitment, but was it a commitment that he ought to be making. Was Yeshua the Messiah as he said? If so, we should believe in him, no matter who else did or did not believe. Then I repeated my invitation to pray with him. This time Mr. Joseph responded with a “yes.”
Ben, Mr. Joseph and I held hands to pray, and the elderly man asked Jesus to be his Messiah and Lord. Then it was lunchtime. There was a new and unseen Guest at Mr. Joseph’s table and in his heart that day—and I joyfully and thankfully ate the rice with my fingers!
Bob Mendelsohn is the leader of Jews for Jesus' work in Sydney, Australia. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Kansas City, but became a college drop-out when he decided to look for the meaning of life in the counterculture of the '60s. He found meaning and relevance in Jesus which caused him much trouble at home. But he says, "it was worth the cost." Bob has worked for Jews for Jesus since 1979, and served as the leader of our work in Washington DC and New York City before moving to Sydney in 1998. Bob and his wife Patty both graduated from the University of Kansas and Fuller Seminary. The Mendelsohns live in Sydney near their son. Their two daughters and two grandsons live in the US. Their son has a son and is expecting another in 2019.