Broadman & Holman
Outreach to Jews in Israel can be tricky. Residents are very familiar with what we Christians believe and what the New Testament says about Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. The apostle Paul experienced a burden in his heart for his Jewish brethren. His emotional outpouring about Jewish outreach is detailed masterfully in Romans 9–11. As the apostle began, his heart was breaking for his Jewish kinsmen who are separated from Christ. In Romans 9:3, he said: “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from the
Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my countrymen by physical descent.” He was saying, “If I could take their place and go to hell on their behalf, I would do it.” Powerful words. The height of sacrifice.
So it is with those who labor with Jewish lost people. They are so close, but through their own heart’s hardness, they are missing out on the pinnacle of their spiritual heritage. Paul rolls out their vast spiritual wealth in verse 4 and 5: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The forefathers are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
Jews, God’s chosen people, could not have been more spiritually advantaged. God’s revelation. God’s spokesmen. God’s miracles. All of these are forever contained in their spiritual history. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking. The missing centerpiece of their spiritual puzzle is right before their eyes. Yet now Jewish eyes are beginning to open. Let’s look at a few recent examples of this.
After a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Ben Yehuda Street a few years ago, an American tour group decided to get involved. A pastor and several parishioners went to pray at the site of this attack on innocent Jewish lives. As they were walking through the area, they spotted a Jewish man sitting in his souvenir shop. Since it was close to where the bomb had exploded, the man’s shop was in shambles. He sat in a chair and wept.
The pastor, sensing the man desperately needed an encouraging friend, entered the shop that was now a burned disaster area. He asked, “Could I please buy a Menorah?”
The shopkeeper never looked up, but said, “Fifty percent off.”
The pastor said, “I don’t want to buy it for 50 percent off.”
“Okay, 60 percent off.”
The wise minister then shocked the Jewish merchant by saying, “No, I want to pay full price!” The rest of the group then lined up behind the pastor and likewise each bought a Jewish lampstand at full price. It was an amazing gesture. No one pays full price in Israel! It is the Middle East home for “let’s make a deal!”
Moved by their goodwill, the elderly Jewish man asked, “Who are you?” The pastor told the man that they were Christians from America, and they were visiting to show their solidarity with Israel. The old shop owner went on to tell the group that it was the Christians from America who were keeping the Israeli economy from collapsing. He said Christians were coming to Israel in the midst of the intifada, which amazed him, since Jews were no longer visiting. Hardly any Jewish bar mitzvahs were being done any longer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. But Christians were still arriving daily. The man said to the group, “Tell me about Jesus again. Maybe I need to give Him a second look.”
The apostle Paul would have been smiling. Now that is the way to reach out to Abraham’s descendants! We cannot give them any more information. They have heard it all before. But they can be reached by our love. They resent Christian know-it-alls, but they are moved by humility. They are touched by our friendship. Put yourself in Jewish shoes for a minute. They are surrounded by enemies everywhere they look. Imagine the impact of only one group consistently reaching out to them with genuine love in their hearts. The Christians. I believe Jesus is calling His church to step forward right now and love Israel back to Him. We can do it. We must!
Traditional Orthodox Judaism is struggling to reach today’s generation. Orthodox parents have a battle on their hands with the overt worldliness that is so prevalent in the land. Since Judaism is steeped in legalism, it often is a real turnoff to the young people of Israel. In some ways, the traditionally garbed Jews are seen as outdated and irrelevant. Like the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Orthodox Jews stand out in modern Israel. Many families have lost their young people to the enticements of the world.
At the Dugit Coffee Shop of Tel Aviv, an Orthodox rabbi’s young son was disenchanted with religion. Avi engaged him in a conversation and asked the man why he hadn’t considered Jesus in his life search. The young man was unfamiliar with any evidence from Scripture, so Avi gladly gave him prophetical verses about the Messiah from the Old Testament.
After a week or so, the young man returned for a cup of coffee. Avi was there. They reconnected. The rabbi’s son said he thought Jesus might be the Messiah spoken about by the prophets of Israel. Avi pressed further: “What would Jesus have to do to prove to you that He is the Messiah?” The young man said, without hesitation, “If Jesus could get me a job, I’d believe He was the Messiah. I haven’t had one in about six months.”
Avi never missed a beat. “Let’s pray that He does that for you!” Avi put his arm around the man and prayed a prayer of faith, “Lord Jesus, show this young man that You alone are God and that You want to save him from his sins. Please get him a job, Lord Jesus!”
As they were praying, the man’s cell phone began to ring. He looked at Avi, and his Jewish face turned white. He answered the phone, and he was offered a job right then and there—starting the next day! Avi reminded him of his challenge to Jesus, and how He had more than met that challenge. Now it was up to him. The Orthodox rabbi’s son lowered his head and received Jesus Christ as his Messiah.
As you can imagine, this set a spiritual bomb off at his parents’ house, and they ceased all contact and communication with him. They said their son had died. But his new church family welcomed him with open arms, and he is walking with Jesus Christ, his Savior. God loves to answer prayers of faith like that.
One Israeli couple had a dream to start a different type of ministry in Israel. As the tragedies mounted, they decided to do something. People were being killed throughout Israel by suicide bombers on a regular basis. The numbers of the wounded in the attacks were staggering, and these people were often overlooked. In May 2003, the intifada was thirty months old, and 5,157 people had already been wounded. Almost nightly on the news, the body count was growing, and many of the wounded were being doomed to remain in hospitals or rehabilitation centers for the rest of their lives.
Local believers got involved and now host a weekly event at one of the rehab centers. Patients stream into the cafeteria every Thursday night, some in wheelchairs, others in hospital beds. They are greeted with soft drinks, chips, and lots of desserts. A messianic group sings praise songs, and believers mingle with the patients. The mood is light and happy, and everyone is having a great time.
The best part is definitely the wheelchair dancing. We’ve been there to see it. The people go away knowing they are loved and not forgotten. This is practical outreach at its best. As Jesus reached out to the sick and the hurting and prayed for them, His church is following His lead and doing the same for the neediest people of the land today.
Jewish outreach is being carried out by messianic believers and dynamic churches all throughout Israel. There are several effective parachurch groups, as well. The gospel is moving freely throughout Israel once again.