So often those who doubt the truth of Yeshua and often even the existence of God will dismiss such beliefs as emotional outworkings not based on facts, but rather, on our own fears of immortality, or overactive imaginations. Karl Marx summed up this view with these words: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Marx’s descriptions are perhaps not far from how some of our days may feel, especially given the incredibly trying stories in our daily news. We know there are scores of examples of good as well that are happening simultaneously, and yet, the grand scale, the societal and international scope of the horrors, often overshadow our abilities to remember the good, to remember God.
Not only are these philosophical and societal mindsets in place, but we also are often personally wired with fear of death and uncertainty, and for Jews, in particular, also the actual fear of believing in Yeshua. The historical underpinnings for this fear make it not irrational, not to mention the fear spawned by our own personal experiences. Many of you are already familiar with my journey finding Yeshua. If not, a short summary of my year-and-a-half transformation can be seen at https://www.oneforisrael.org/jewish-testimonies-i-met-messiah/diane-cohen-how-i-met-messiah/ .
Sid and I were watching an Israeli series on Netflix during our recent Covid isolation. It takes place in Israel in the early 20th century during British rule. A particular scene is so illustrative of the role of fear in this conversation. The scene at first just shows the mother making their bed and we can’t see what she sees. We just see her shrieking and running to get help as she has found something horrible on the sheets. We think maybe a rat or worse by her reaction. The suspense builds as other family members enter the room as she slowly lifts the sheet for all of us then to see. . . a good sized crucifix!! She literally is afraid to touch it and tries picking it up with a rag. What’s even funnier (really not) is all the family is shocked and in horror. What to do!!!??? This was a prank of her daughter who had been sent to a Catholic school for disciplinary reasons and she wanted to convince her parents to not send her there by showing what she was being taught.
Now, watching the scene as a Messianic Jew, it was hysterical (from a dark humor point of view). Yet remembering how I felt when I was a mainstream Jew, the mother’s reaction expressed an emotion I remember and understand. I doubt that scene is an exaggeration of the thinking at the time and for some Jewish people even now. I clearly had fear of even saying the word “Jesus” during my childhood.
My cousin Sandy who you know is on a journey to understand more about Yeshua recently recommended a book to me – They Thought for Themselves, edited by Sid Roth. It is a compilation of the stories of ten Jewish people’s coming to faith in Yeshua. It even includes a chapter by one person some of us know very well – Jonathan Bernis! Story after story has a common theme of fear as a Jew to even think about Yeshua.
Perhaps one of the most compelling chapters relates the journey of Holocaust survivor Rose Price, raised Orthodox, who experienced unspeakable cruelty and the death of 100 relatives(!) at the hands of the Nazis. In Nazi Germany, Rose concluded there was no God and stopped praying. After her release, she married, had children, and became the best “social” Jew one could imagine – was active in her synagogue, raised her children Jewish, was even president of the sisterhood, but in her words, dead inside.
After the war, one by one, her immediate family, both daughters and her husband, became believers in Yeshua. (God at work.) She states, “I had lost my first family under Hitler, and now was about to lose my second family, all because of this Jesus. I was ready to meet Jesus and kill Him.” She had even experienced anti-Semitism as a child before the war recounting being hit in the head by a crucifix by a priest in Poland for the “crime” of walking on the sidewalk in front of his church. Her fear associated with Jesus was deeply rooted, in her personal experiences and in history, as it is for many Jewish people.
After multiple discussions with rabbis who would not discuss Yeshua with her and out of desperation for the imminent loss of her family, she prayed the first prayer she was able to pray since her release from Bergen-Belsen and Dachau decades earlier, asking God if Yeshua is really the Messiah. When she did so, she felt as if a large rock rolled off of her back, cried for the first time since the war, and felt clean. She states she knew He was real and accepted Him as her Messiah. Her new spirit gave her the ability to even go back to Berlin and in a large ceremony forgive ex-Nazis, not even remembering how she did it, the power of the Ruach was so strong. After that amazing act of forgiveness, after 27 operations which had occurred previously over the years since the war, after finally giving up the hate/poison, she has been pain free since that day, now with a heart of love, not stone.
The reality is that fear is the opium of the masses. Once we actually thirst for the knowledge of Him, His Truth as our Messiah is indisputable, emotionally and rationally, for He inscribes Himself in our hearts once we allow Him in.
I am so loving my cousin’s journey, and feel blessed to be a part of it. When she told me she couldn’t put the book down, I just smiled.