One evening I was talking on the telephone to an elderly Jewish man named Sam. One of our missionaries had met Sam in Los Angeles, and he had asked that someone call and explain what Jews for Jesus teaches. I found Sam to be very philosophical, with some sophisticated theories of his own about God. He also turned out to be extremely talkative.
I found it very difficult to talk with Sam because everything I said would trigger some thought in his mind, and he would cut me off as he launched into his own discourse. After a while, a thought occurred to me. Perhaps I had been trying to answer questions that Sam was not asking. But then I brought up the subject of Jesus rising from the dead and the fact that he was coming back, and suddenly Sam stopped talking. At last I had his attention.
During the Jesus Movement” of the early 1970s a slogan appeared on banners and bumper stickers that read, “Jesus is the answer.” Eventually someone began making signs that read, “If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?” Yes, Jesus is indeed the answer; but if we want to convince people of that fact, it’s our job to make sure that we are answering the right questions.
In the course of my outreach I notice that most of the Jewish people I contact are not objecting to real issues when they react negatively. Instead, they base their objections on what they think the gospel is about—on ideas they have picked up either from other unbelieving Jewish people who don’t understand, or who misrepresent the message—or from overzealous believers who likewise are not properly informed about their faith. As I try to answer those objections, I find myself feeling like a shadowboxer who punches at the empty space in front of him and never hits anything. I suspect that I am not alone among God’s servants in this feeling of frustration.
I think the solution is to aim for the real target—to ferret it out from among the false or irrelevant issues. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” Another version (NIV) puts it in terms more easily understood: “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” Let’s “make our shots count” as we bring the gospel message to bear on the issues and people of our generation. And let’s pray that the needy ones may be moved to ask the right questions, that they might see that Jesus is indeed, the answer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Brandt is one of our Jews for Jesus missionaries who because of their special qualifications do double duty. He is in charge of our MESSIAHLINE MINISTRY, whereby we reach out on the telephone to Jewish people, and he is also our scholar-in-residence. As scholar-in-residence, Larry researches biblical, theological and rabbinic subjects to insure accuracy and validity in our proclamation of the gospel. Larry and his wife Wanda and their 7-year-old daughter Rachel live in Daly City, California, a suburb of San Francisco.