Christians were the enemy, as far as faith was concerned. Having been brought up in a Jewish family, this was my perception.
When I was a teenager, a Christian friend risked my anger to share his faith with me. At the time I despised Jesus. I felt he was the weakest man who ever lived and the one in whose name my people have been killed for the past 2,000 years. But my friend was full of love, and that made all the difference. His love, coupled with faith and courage, neutralised my anger.
As I read the Bible and watched my friend experience a loving relationship with God, I became envious of his faith. I came to yearn for the same relationship with God he had – eventually surrendering my own heart to the Lord.
I wouldn’t be writing this today if it wasn’t for my friend’s commitment to telling me, a Jewish person, about Jesus, and as I consider where I would be without Jesus, it causes me to shudder. All of this makes me supremely committed to mission, especially to my people. Today, there are an estimated 15 million Jewish people living around the world but less than 1% of them believe in Jesus as the Messiah. I want them to experience the same liberating freedom in Christ that I have known. As my friend made me envious, so God wants the Church to make Jewish people yearn for Jesus.
What the Bible says
In answer to the question, ‘Why Jewish Mission?’ the Apostle Paul writing in Romans 10 says: "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."
The first answer to the question must be because Jewish people, like all people, need to be saved.
There are Christians who love the Jewish people and idealise Judaism so much that they believe Jewish people have their own way to God. But Judaism doesn’t save. Jesus says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." Note that he uttered these words to a Jewish audience in the land of Israel. Jewish people, like all people, need to be saved.
But how can they hear...?
In Romans 10:13 Paul quotes the prophet Joel stating: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." He then he goes on to say, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?"
Often, people save the most important thing they want to say for last. When I go away on a trip, the last and most important thing I say to my family is, "I love you." That way, if anything bad should happen to me, my family will know and remember my love for them. So what were Jesus’ last, loving words before he went away for a long time?
"Jesus said, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…'" (Matthew 28)
I believe the most important thing Jesus sought to get across to his disciples before he left was that he wanted them to reach the world with the gospel; to share how to be saved with both Jew and Gentile alike.
God will save
Paul gives us a third answer to the question, ‘Why Jewish Mission?’ in Romans 10:19 when he quotes Moses writing: "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." What Paul is saying is that God is still committed to saving Jewish people, and he has chosen to do so by provoking through the faith of Gentile believers!
For almost 200 years, in response to God’s calling, International Mission to Jewish People has been taking the Good News of Jesus to the Jewish people. We believe that the Good News of Jesus is for everyone. In the same way, we long to see a whole Church, thriving, enriched by the faith of Jewish people who have become disciples of Jesus. Just as we have personally been transformed by the love of the Messiah Jesus, so our vision is to see all Jewish people come to know God’s transforming love in Jesus for themselves.
Joseph Steinberg is CEO of International Mission to Jewish People (formerly Christian Witness to Israel)
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