But What Do the Rabbis Say?
But what do the rabbis say?” Like others on our Jews for Jesus staff, I’m often asked by Gentile Christian friends how the rabbis or Chasidic Jews view certain messianic passages of Scripture. Because to those of us who have known the Lord for years it seems so obvious that Yeshua is the Messiah, we find it hard to believe that someone of reasonable intelligence could not see the same truth. Since rabbis and Orthodox Jews are supposed to study the Scriptures daily, why do they not embrace Yeshua? What arguments do they have to justify their unbelief? Here is some insight I received from a recent firsthand experience.
I needed to buy a piece of computer equipment for our ministry. Here in New York the best price for such equipment can be gotten at a certain store run entirely by Chasidic Jews. Of course I went there. When the time came to write up my purchase, I explained to the salesman that I belonged to a tax-exempt organization, and I gave him the paperwork that identified me as a member of Jews for Jesus.
To say that the salesman was shocked is an understatement. He looked down at the paper I had handed him and gave me an incredulous look before walking away. As he left, he mumbled something about having to check on it and then went over to several of his co-workers. I saw each of them give me a disapproving glance before sending my salesman to ask someone else what to do
Finally a young man named Svi came up to me and asked, “Are you Jewish?”
“Do I get a discount on my modem if I am?” I quipped.
It turned out as we talked that Svi was the “expert” on Christian missionaries. While the rest of the Chasidic salesmen took turns listening in on our conversation, Svi tried to convince me that Christianity was a false religion. I suppose I would not have wasted my time listening to his argument, except that there were other customers who also began to notice and listen, and I thought I might get in a word or two for the gospel.
Svi was adamant that obedience to Torah (the Law of Moses) was the only way to be assured of a place in heaven. He gave me a New Testament verse that was supposed to shipwreck my faith. It was Mark 10:18.
As I looked at the verse later at home, I had to smile. It was in context with the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus with the desire of earning his way into heaven. When the man called him Good Master, Jesus asked, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” I think that Jesus said that for two reasons. First, if only God is good, Jesus wanted the young man to make the connection between him and the Heavenly Father. Also, Jesus wanted the young man to see that because no one is really good except God, the whole thought of earning one’s way into heaven is absurd.
In light of my understanding, I thought about the Chasidic salesman who had given me the verse to look up. Like the rich young ruler, he was also trying to earn his way into heaven. The rich young ruler’s mistake was not necessarily his misunderstanding of the requirements for entering the Kingdom of God. It was his misunderstanding of God’s love that could span the gap between divine standards and human inadequacy. He should have admitted to Yeshua that he couldn’t sell all that he had—that he couldn’t make it to heaven by his own deeds. Instead, he walked away from the Lord.
The rich young ruler and the Chasidic salesman both made the same mistake. They turned their backs on the Lord, not realizing what they were rejecting. They could not understand that with men, salvation is impossible; but with God, all things are possible.