About six months ago, I shared this story about a couple who are friends with us when we are in Florida:
“In the last couple years we’ve begun to know another Jewish couple who live closeby. We’ve had lovely Shabbat dinners together, enjoyed movies, play regular music jams together, the usual social stuff, never really dealing into the specificities of our Jewish faiths, just having exchanged stories of our similar Jewish backgrounds as the topic has come up. So I was a bit surprised when my friend at a dinner dance started talking to me about Messianic Judaism. And not in a good way. She was sharing the experiences she had had that day with a Messianic couple (who turned out to be Christians embracing their Jewish roots) who had explained our faith to her and how she felt this idea of Messianic Judaism is absolutely ridiculous. How could Jews possibly believe in Jesus! Isn’t that Jews for Jesus! You can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus! Diane, do they actually believe He rose from the dead?? Oh come on!
So I laid down my fork, looked at her with a smile, and said, “Well, you know, I’m a Messianic Jew. And yes, I do believe He rose from the dead. We again started to compare our similar childhoods experiencing anti-Semitism (she, too, had had her head examined for horns and had also withstood the accusations that we killed “their” God). We were so alike, yet how could I believe this craziness?
I gave her an out. I said she’s free to believe what she wants. There’s a lot to talk about. Interestingly, she wants to talk, and talk, being mystified that these could be my beliefs. I foresee many conversations leading to understanding, and another avenue of doing God’s work right where he has placed me. She and her husband are very high profile leaders in the community and can’t wait to have us over now to discuss this topic further. I am hopeful that whatever dispelled stereotypes and corrected misunderstandings they will come to learn through our conversations will be shared with others, Christian and especially Jew alike.”
That was six months ago . . .
When I left Florida for home in May, I asked her if she would like a Bible. She said “yes” and I gave her mine. Since then we have not really exchanged much info other than through “Words with Friends” since I’m not on Facebook, but I did invite her to attend our Florida Bible study group which I still participate in remotely through Zoom and will return to in person there in January.
So I was delighted a few weeks ago when Sandy (my cousin) who initiated the group introduced new members and my friend was in attendance! And what a session it was!! So God orchestrated!
The group is predominantly Christian of many different denominations, including Catholic and Jehovah’s Witness, my cousin, my friend and I being the only Jewish members. Actually the diversity of the group makes it amazing since we are all learning from each other. My Messianic Jewish voice is new to all and I love being involved to share what I can in this way.
Of course a good portion of our group discussion that week centered on the attack on Israel by Hamas which had just occurred three days earlier, before the war had escalated to its status today. I am sure my friend was amazed at the support by the group and its acknowledgment of the importance of Israel to exist. Beautifully, the last several weeks’ sessions have still been a place for respectful, compassionate dialogue on such a complex topic.
Once we moved to the study of that week’s section in Jochanan (John), “somehow” the cross references in the study guide brought us to Isaiah 52 and 53. Most of you know the significance of these passages which allude to Yeshua who will come first as our suffering Messiah before He returns as the conquering King. The fact that our “Jewish” Bible contains these prophetic words, (passages that my cousin, my friend, and I all acknowledged were not part of our Sunday School education, to the surprise of the Christians in our group) is always an eye opener to Jewish readers. As that revelation about these Isaiah passages was so much a part of my own testimony, my story of finding Yeshua became so relatable, so understandable, so mystifying to the newcomer to our group.
How is it that those would be the very passages we would be studying the very first time my friend would attend? Oh so not an accident nor mere coincidence!
The leader of our group is actually a person very knowledgeable about the Bible and she also utilizes a terrific resource book – one co-authored by Amy-Jill Levine. Dr. Levine “happens” to be a professor of Jewish studies who teaches of the Jewishness of Yeshua and has even spoken at our UMJC conference though not herself Messianic Jewish! Oh, and did I mention that this resource book was the one recommended by my cousin’s (non-Messianic Jewish) rabbi??!! More coincidences. . . ? Or beautiful choreography?
How the Holy Spirit is at work in these times when so needed. The spiritual world is very active now intervening now for good for those who know Him to encourage recognition of His Reality. There are so many encouraging outreaches in process at high levels tirelessly working so more will come to know Him. Our work is cut out for us, each and every one of us, for the opposite is true too, forces pulling others to darkness. We read too often of shooters, or know of such suffering, evil inclinations.
Fight to stay encouraged. Seek His Presence always. Thank Him for every blessing, no matter how small. Stay hopeful. Not only keep the faith, deeply share evidences of His amazing grace and power to uplift with others.
Pray more, and more, and more.