The recent announcement of Bob Dylan as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for literature shook our sensibilities at many levels, and in good ways, perhaps not the least of which was that a singer/songwriter rather than an author had been chosen. The judges were able to think outside the box and recognize the amazing poetry of his lyrics, thus not limiting the potential for more diverse recipients of this high honor.
Of course I couldn’t help but Google Bob Dylan only to find out he had accepted Yeshua as the Messiah in the late ’70s, early ’80s. He was born Jewish and today supports the Chabad movement through some endeavors though does not publicly self identify with any particular sect of Judaism. Dylan is the epitome of an individual who refuses to be labeled, not even acknowledging the recent honor. Yet, even he experienced viscerally the truth of Yeshua when he had his personal encounter with our Messiah. Label or no label, the experience was real.
The very fact that Bob Dylan won this high honor may cause some, such as I did, to look up his personal life and discover that this nice Jewish boy walked with Yeshua for a time. I can’t call it Messianic Jewish for during those days more often than not it was easier to embrace Yeshua through Christianity than as a denomination of Judaism. Dylan’s passion was and is music, not navigating religious identity, especially this one, in particular, which by its nature poses unique challenges. And not by an individualistic artist who defies labels generally.
Our very own Rob Berkowitz recently won a piano competition in which he will be playing a Felix Mendelssohn piece. Google that famous composer and you will learn of this Jewish composer’s belief in Yeshua at a time when Messianic Judaism was even more undefined in its practices. Just as Dylan’s recent accomplishment may cause some mainstream Jews to be curious how one can be Jewish and believe in Yeshua, I am also excited to think of the media coverage of Rob’s performance vis-à-vis Mendelssohn’s work as well. It is inevitable that through media coverage of and attendance at such events people will become more aware of the phenomenon of Jews believing in Yeshua, and as that happens, sensibilities of what is “normal” change. As that happens, over time, the emotional walls blocking the ability of some to feel His presence are shattered and His light can be felt.
Music breaks all barriers. It is a powerful tool for change. Perhaps those in places of influence are chosen to experience such a life altering revelation as the truth of Yeshua, not only for themselves, but also for the enlightenment of the multitudes they have the capacity to touch. And how mysteriously wonderful that Dylan’s and Mendelssohn’s faith in Yeshua can be in conversation again during these days, for the times, they are a changin’.