Many of us will have Jewish friends and colleagues who will be celebrating Yom Kippur this week. We thought this would be a good opportunity to get us thinking about sharing the gospel with our Jewish friends and to that end, we've asked Ziggy Rogoff to help us think through some of the issues. Ziggy is a Jewish follower of Jesus. Despite holding deep prejudices against Jesus, he became a Christian after attending a Christianity Explored course at St. Helen's 10 years ago. Having worked at both Deutsche Bank and Glencore, Ziggy now works full time for Jews for Jesus.
'My hope is that this blog post will help when praying for and speaking to your Jewish colleagues. As a Jewish believer in Jesus and missionary with Jews for Jesus, I can tell you that the common barrier your Jewish friends have regarding Jesus is that they think Jesus is a ‘Gentile thing' and not a ‘Jewish thing'.
If I told you that Chinese people are taught that they cease being Chinese when they believe in Jesus, you might think it ridiculous. Well, this is exactly what Jewish people are taught; ‘You cannot be Jewish and believe In Jesus.'
The way to address this, is to communicate that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Jewish people need to know the gospel is Jewish; the gospel is really Jewish! Failing to promote a Jewish Jesus allows Jewish friends to dismiss Jesus without a second thought. At the same time as promoting the Jewishness of Jesus we must also drop all Christian jargon. For example, say, 'I have a Jewish friend who believes in Jesus' rather than 'I have a Jewish friend who is a Christian.' Please remember that Jewish people are taught to connect Jesus and the Christian persecution of Jews during events like the Crusades and the Inquisition. So much so that most Jews wouldn't touch the New Testament with a barge pole. I was 30 years old before I dared open the New Testament.
However, I am sure that when you opened the New Testament you didn't naturally think ‘Jewish.' When was the last time you dwelt on the ethnic, religious and national identity of Christ? Even if your Jewish friends know Jesus was a Jewish man, they imagine that the ‘Jesus thing' is a not for them because most Jews don't believe in Jesus. Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew! Our job, therefore, is to help our Jewish friends understand that Jesus is actually a ‘Jewish thing.' Here are some pointers to help you notice and demonstrate the Jewishness of the gospel.
Firstly, his context was Jewish. Remember the 12 disciples? they were all Jewish men! The places Jesus lived and went to - Galilee, Jerusalem, etc - were all in the land of Israel. With names like Matthew, James and John, it's easy to think the New Testament was written by Englishmen! But really their names are Mattityahu, Ya'akov, Yochanan. With the exception of Luke, all New Testament writers are Jewish.
Secondly, what of His message? Jesus proclaimed a very Jewish message. It was exactly the same as all the Jewish prophets who preceded him; a message of repentance. He proclaimed a return to the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! He spoke from the Old Testament; He used Jewish literature.
Thirdly, the bible is one book, not two; the story of the early church is a Jewish story. In Acts 2 at Pentecost (Jewish festival of weeks) 3000 Jewish men were saved; in Acts 4 a Jewish man proclaims to the Jewish leadership, that salvation is found in no other name than in Jesus.
Finally and above all, the Messiah is a Jewish concept! Knowledge of Messiah comes from the Hebrew Scriptures and is confirmed through the Messianic prophecies. Therefore, to believe in the Messiah is to do a very Jewish thing indeed! We could go even further and say that the most Jewish thing anyone can do is believe in Jesus! I hope you can help your friends see that Jesus is most definitely a 'Jewish thing', and perhaps, see them recognise their Messiah as Jesus.'