We’ve had so many opportunities to talk to Jewish people about Jesus as a result of Mel Gibson’s controversial film. A few of us got to see the pre-screening of The Passion” at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. Among those in the audience was an Israeli who was not a believer. He had very little knowledge of Jesus, having never read the New Testament. His response to the film was to feel overwhelmed by the suffering that Jesus endured. He kept asking the question, “Why did he have to go through all that? Why did he have to suffer so much?” Many of our missionary staff around the country are having that same opportunity in conversations with the Jewish people to whom they minister.
Last month’s “Real Time” provided links to a couple of broadside tracts we wrote in conjunction with “The Passion.” In New York one Jewish woman who took one of those tracts called to meet with one of our missionaries…and prayed to receive the Lord.
You also saw our Open Letter to Mel Gibson, which appeared in “Variety Magazine.” Since then it has appeared as a full page in the “New York Times,” in the “Washington Times,” the “Miami Herald,” the Boston tab papers: Newton, Brookline, Sharon, Marblehead and other key Jewish areas of the greater Boston area, and in a smattering of smaller papers that some of our donors have underwritten. We are so thankful for friends who saw the possibilities of how this ad could speak into their communities and mobilized their local churches to place the ads locally.
The controversy over the film also provided us with the opportunity to share t he gospel with a French TV crew in Los Angeles, with a Spanish-speaking television station in Canada, a secular radio group in Baltimore, on the TV news nationwide through MSNBC, and even in magazines like *People*. If this just gives individuals a taste for what the gospel is about, it will have made a great impact and we’re just hoping and praying that people will want to hear the rest of the story and open up the New Testament for themselves.
One of my favorite experiences concerning this is the following:
I was returning from a missions conference in the midwest and as I was waiting at the gate for my flight I saw a large group of young people obviously returning from a weekend adventure. One or two were wearing kippahs (traditional Jewish skullcaps) and from their animated discussion I gathered they were part of a Jewish youth group. Their leaders, two young women perhaps in their early twenties, were not much older than the rest of the group. I struck up a conversation and they quickly recognized me as being Jewish also. So one guy them told a joke and the punchline of the joke had to do with Jews for Jesus. I smiled and said, “You know, you need to be careful who you make fun of in a joke…you never know who you are talking to.” The guy said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, I’m a Jew for Jesus” which got the attention of the entire group.
We talked about any number of things, but subject of “The Passion” produced by Mel Gibson came up inasmuch as it’s been all over the press. The subject of the open letter to Mel Gibson came up and I pulled out a copy of the New York Times because it had appeared in the paper just two days earlier. I introduced myself as Susan Perlman, the author of the letter and they said, “Oh that’s you?!” Suddenly they were all asking to read it. It just so happened that I had a large handful of reprints in my briefcase, left over from the missions conference. I told them, “Well, I have some extra copies, but I’m not going to give them to you unless your leaders say it’s okay.” To which the two young women said, “They’re free to read what they like.” Many of these young people took copies of the open letter and I found myself imagining them arriving back at their homes, knowing their parents would ask them how their Jewish weekend had gone. I pictured them pulling out the Open Letter to Mel Gibson, which has the gospel so clearly stated, as a jumping off point for some very interesting discussions. How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall!