Once a theologian was waxing eloquent about Christ’s passion. He spoke of it as a mere story, a symbol of hope for renewal and rebirth. A young reporter from Christianity Today magazine challenged him with a simple question, “Sir, if you were a newspaper reporter standing outside of the tomb on the third day after Christ’s crucifixion, what would you report to your newspaper?” The theologian cleared his throat and answered, “Young man, did you say you were a reporter from Christianity Today or Christianity yesterday?”
Thank God, the cross and empty tomb are not merely symbols! They are historical realities. When we talk about the cross and the tomb we are not reminiscing about yesterday’s Christianity; we are talking about today’s Christianity.
Yes, the world is changing. Cultures shift and change, and we must find new ways to engage people with the gospel. In fact, Jews for Jesus is intentionally learning about our changing culture even as you read this—we want to get a handle on the questions that younger people are asking. The next step will be finding the intersection between those questions and the answers God has provided. Questions may change, and the dynamics of how we interact with people of different generations and varying circumstances may change, but one thing does not change—and that is the gospel.
The Person, power and purpose that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead is alive and vibrant and at work in the church right now. Yes, worldliness and weaknesses afflict us, and dogma and disagreements sometimes conflict us. Yet, as the bride of our crucified and risen Messiah, we beam a message to a desperate world. There is hope. There are answers. God provided a way for us to have a relationship with Him.
That power, that purpose, that message of hope is absent from the synagogues, even though the hope of resurrection is rooted in the Old Testament. (Download the Resurrection Chart here.) In fact, any hope for a literal afterlife is considered irrelevant by the majority of Jewish people today. During my studies at Moody Bible Institute, I took part in door-to-door evangelism in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. One day I called upon an older woman who happened to be married to a local rabbi. I asked, “Where do you suppose you will go when you die?” Without blinking an eye she replied, “Down the street to the cemetery.”
My people, the Jewish people, are without God and without hope in this world. Yet the church, believers in Jesus who gather together around the cross and the empty tomb, has a message of hope and life. Through proclaiming our hope, we can be agents of God’s transforming power when it comes to the destiny of thousands of Jewish people who don’t yet know Him.
I’m so thankful to God for this transformation in my life and that of my family. My father’s family were traditional Jews, strongly affiliated with the Jewish community. One day a Christian couple told them about Jesus. When no one in the family responded, this couple prayed every day for my father and his family—for seven years!
Despite an apparent lack of results, after those seven years my father, his brother and my grandparents became believers—all within a period of weeks. My grandfather’s body was ravaged with cancer when he came to faith, and he died soon after. At the funeral my great-grandmother mourned the loss of her son as she cried out in Yiddish, “O my Nathan, he’s in the ground, he’s in the ground. O my Nathan, he’s in the ground.” My grief-stricken grandmother, who was only weeks old in her new faith, was able to put her arm around her mother-in-law and whisper, “No mamma, Nathan is not in the ground. He’s in heaven with the Lord.” That, my dear friends, is the difference Christ makes—all the difference in the world.
It’s true that you need to be culturally sensitive when witnessing to Jewish people, but truth has a way of cutting through cultural barriers.
We hear testimonies of many Jewish believers in Jesus and, time after time, one of the steps in their path to faith is the bright light of a story from a friend or coworker who is not Jewish. It’s true that you need to be culturally sensitive when witnessing to Jewish people, but truth has a way of cutting through cultural barriers.
For example, the cross has been a symbol of persecution to the Jewish people for centuries because of the atrocities committed in the name of the Crucified One. Some Jewish people have gone so far as to say, “I could never bring myself to walk into a building with a cross in front of it. That would be like spitting on the grave of my ancestors.” And yet, God has moved in the hearts of many Jewish people to the point where they have accepted a friend’s invitation to church, and it’s been a step along the way to salvation. What people say may differ from what they do, once the power of prayer is at work in their lives.
Please, never be afraid or ashamed to invite Jewish friends to your church. They may decline, and you should not feel hurt if they do. Just remember, your pastor and your friends at church have much to offer your unbelieving friends—give them the chance to do so.
Perhaps one of our Jews for Jesus missionaries is going to be at your church or a church in your area presenting “Christ in the Passover.” Was there a “Christ in the Passover” itinerary that came with this newsletter? If so, that means we will be in a church near you. Don’t miss the opportunity to invite a Jewish friend! One of the most common things we hear from Christians who have attended our presentations is, “You know, I just wasn’t sure if I should invite my Jewish friend. Now I really wish I had!” Please don’t be among those to regret a missed opportunity. The worst that can happen (your friend refuses) is far outweighed by the best that can happen. And the best that can happen is summed up by that empty tomb.
There is an empty tomb in Israel’s future. The Lord asked of the prophet Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”* I have abiding confidence that they will. The future of the Jewish people is bright with promise because God has declared the end from the beginning.
God promised a revival, no, a resurrection that will once again shake the world. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15). Life from the dead! That is our hope. That is what God has declared for the future.