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!