We must be doing something right! Otherwise, why would you, our friends and supporters, be getting opposition? Those who oppose us seem to think that if they can get our friends to stop sending us names of Jewish people or stop supporting us, we will shrivel and disappear. They want us to vanish because they think that we are a threat to Jewish survival. We say that they, our opposers, are the ones who would lessen the Jewish population by trying to prevent us from relating to our fellow Jews as Jews. It is not the rabbis’ prerogative to allow or disallow our Jewishness. God made us Jews, and we will continue to be Jews until he tells us otherwise!
Nevertheless, we never think of the rabbis as our opposition. We never decided to oppose them! We always thought of them as family.” They taught us religion as children, presided over services, married us and buried our departed loved ones. More than teachers of religion, they were like parents who told us what was right and wrong, and we believed them. The rabbis usually taught us to be fair, to be patient, to seek truth and, above all, to serve God.
Some of those rabbis became disappointed and angry when we followed the path they showed us and it led to a destination they had not intended. That path of seeking truth and serving God led us to Jesus. The rabbis were unwilling to admit that the Book they taught us to call holy—to kiss if we dropped it—was the very Book that showed Jesus to be the promised Messiah of Israel. They treated us as though we were ignorant and stupid for believing in him, and took offense when we insisted that what we had discovered was true. When we showed that we could sensibly expound and defend the fact that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we were accused of being clever schemers.
When we first became believers in Jesus, many of us naively expected the rabbis to become our allies in telling our Jewish families and friends about our great discovery—that believing in Jesus was truly the Jewish thing to do. Most of us were hurt beyond what we care to tell when we innocently told of the great event in our lives, our encounter with the living God. Those who should have been happy for our spiritual discovery treated us as though we had betrayed them and our families. How could we be traitors when we had found the Messiah of whom Moses and the prophets foretold? We didn’t let ourselves believe in Jesus because we wanted to do wrong. We wanted to honor the God of Israel, and to tell others, that they too might have the experience.
Those rabbis we had come to love and respect treated us with resentment, as though our joyous faith and sense of personal fulfillment were a Bacchanalian rite before some idol. In recent years as we have continued in the faith and have tried to tell it in an organized way to our fellow Jews, that smoldering resentment has erupted into flaming fury. Indeed, we can gauge the success of our efforts to present the gospel in direct relation to the opposition we encounter.
One of the ways our opposition also knows of our success is the questions they are asked that are difficult to answer from their stock of customary replies. More and more, rabbis and Jewish community leaders are being asked the question they could not answer prior to our conversions: “Why can’t Jews believe in Jesus?” They still can’t answer, because the real answer is: “We (the Jewish leaders) won’t allow it!”
The Jewish religious leaders fear a full-fledged debate of the real issue—whether or not Jesus is the Messiah—so they create a smokescreen of controversy. They impugn the witnesses and discredit the messengers. In a barrage of propaganda, they hurl accusations, shout epithets and carefully orchestrate a litany of protest. They dare not say that Jesus is not the Messiah. That would offend too many. Instead, they ignore that issue and respond to any Christian witness with, “You believe your way, and I’ll believe mine. I don’t believe in Jesus because I’m a Jew.” Ordinarily that argument serves to cut off all further discussion of the subject, but with us it carries absolutely no weight. What are we—Eskimos?
After years of strategizing, the Jewish leaders have devised a way to hinder our effectiveness. They accuse us of deceitful and fraudulent practices. One rabbi in Philadelphia, Pa., told an interviewer,
The theology of the Jews for Jesus is Christ as the Savior. Christianity is being brought into the Jewish people in a disguised form. Passover represents the Pascal lamb, the redemption of the Jews from Egypt and from the bondage from suffering. Imagine how we feel when at this most sacred spring festival, the lamb for the Jews for Jesus becomes Jesus. To say distasteful is to say the least. It’s a sacrilege in terms of what the Passover has meant to us for centuries.…We see this movement as a deceptive way of luring Jews out of Judaism.
Our answer is simple. The very name “Jews for Jesus” states precisely that we claim Jesus as Savior, and if quoting from the Gospel of John is deceptive, then the accusation stands. We didn’t concoct the idea of Jesus being the ultimate sacrificial lamb. Isaiah 53 more than hinted at it, and John the Baptist said it plainly: “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In another interview, a San Bernardino, California rabbi said that Jews for Jesus’ “reinterpretation of Passover symbols” in the Christ in the Passover presentation in churches was “like someone redefining what the American flag meant.” To this we can only respond, “We didn’t say it first; Jesus did when he took the Passover bread at the Last Supper, broke it, and said, ‘This is my body given for you,’ and of the ritual wine he said, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant.'”
The rabbis are excoriating us for telling others what Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, taught about himself. If Jesus is the only Savior he claimed to be, and the Creator of all things as the Scriptures say he is, then it’s OK with me if he wants to say that a religious symbol always thought to mean only “this” really means “that.”
Furthermore, even if our opposition were to claim that we misunderstood and incorrectly interpreted what Jesus said, they still could not rightfully label us fraudulent, because to commit fraud or deceit takes the intention to say what one knows is not true. But we do believe what the Jewish prophet John said—that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We do believe that Jesus told the truth when he said that his body was the matzo or bread of life, and that his blood, to be shed for the remission of our sins, was the wine of the Passover. And anyone who knows that and does not say it is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—so help us all, dear God!
We are very forthright in what we believe and teach. Those who oppose us with charges of deception and fraud are the ones who themselves are being false and deceptive. Their charges against us are a ruse—an attempt to prevent people from examining the message by putting the character of the messengers in a false light. Without ever trying to know us as people or dealing with us in dialogue, some rabbis are willing to say awful things about us that have no basis in fact. Presenting themselves as knowing when they have conscientiously avoided taking knowledge makes them fraudulent and deceptive.
Moreover, if the rabbis are correct in believing that Jesus is not the Messiah and that God does not want people to regard him as Savior, they are behaving badly toward their Gentile neighbors. They do them a disservice by allowing them to believe that it is all right for non-Jews to believe in Jesus. If Jesus is the fraud and deceiver the rabbis’ message about us would infer he is, they are obligated to act as the “light to enlighten the nations” and tell them what they “know” to be true. After all, if the rabbis claim so definitely to recognize fraud and deception that they are willing to accuse others of wrongdoing, they also claim by inference to know the truth. In that case, they have a duty to proclaim it to everyone.
Yet the rabbis are not willing to say that Jesus is a fraud. That would be a most unpopular message. It would be bad public relations. And besides, the haunting, tantalizing questions always remain: “What if it’s true? What if some of our ancestors erred when they chose not to believe?”
No, we Jews for Jesus are not the threat to the Jewish community the rabbis think we are. We love our people and our heritage and wish to remain Jews, albeit Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. The threat is that old question, “What if it’s true?” And that isn’t such a threat after all. There are worse things in life than admitting we’ve been wrong—if we care enough to swallow our pride and make it right!