Linda’s testimony

If someone had told me thirteen years ago that certain Christians pray for Jewish people to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, I would have said “Don’t bother, it never happens!” However, I am proof that it does happen; and I have met others like myself. It is also important not to underestimate the importance of a Christian life well-lived, characterised by Jesus’ love.

My parents sent us to government schools. In the 1950’s and 1960’s that meant singing the Lord’s Prayer, hymns and Psalms every morning. Singing and music were a special joy, though I did feel guilty about enjoying Christmas carols so much! At high school I needed a Bible, but like many twelve year olds I found the King James English a struggle. My school friends were both Jewish and Gentile. At Wits University, a friend took me to a Students’ Christian Association meeting. When challenged, I refused to read Isaiah 53. I don’t think I realised it was in the Jewish Scriptures. Looking back, I can see I fled from Jesus for years.

The Lord used prayer and a chronic illness to bring me to himself. I have M.E. (Chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome.) I lost some of my oldest friends, discovering in the process who our real friends were. The latter were reborn Christians. They offered to shop, said very little, and loved us no matter what. The love of Jesus shone through them. I had never heard of the Holy Spirit or his fruits, yet I described these friends to my husband as having a supernatural love, knowing joy and peace amidst adversity, patient, kind and gentle. They are good people, not in the way the world means by “good”, but in the biblical sense of the word. The illness stripped away my identity, layer by layer. My mind suffered from poor concentration; I had to stop studying. My sons went to school by bus, for I was too ill to drive. In addition, there were several deaths in families close to us. I started praying for my children to come home safely each day.

In 1993, my elder son found my school Bible and told me that we had a “whole” Bible in the house. “Don’t you know that Jews are only supposed to read the Tanach?” A while later, he found the school hymn book, “Songs of Praise”, with asterisks next to hymns frequently sung. He was upset when he asked, “You didn’t sing this one, did you?” The song was “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” It ended with the line: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” Rather red-faced, I confessed that I had indeed sung it because the music was so glorious.

My interest in psychology and the “recovery movement” drew me into a Christian bookshop, where I purchased two books. The Bible made more sense than the psychology! At first, I only read words from the Tanach (Old Testament). The verse I clung to after being bitten by a sac spider in July 1993 was from Zephaniah 3:17:

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. (NIV)

The second time I entered a Christian bookshop, I did not realise what it was, despite the name “Grapevine”. I started to back out. The owner placed her hand gently on my arm, asking what was wrong. I told her I was Jewish and in the wrong place. When she told me she was a gentile Christian, she really had my attention. Jewish people tend to think all gentiles are Christians. This is clearly not true. She also told me that perhaps she was not the best person to help me, but she knew people who could help. She wrote down the phone number of “Jews for Jesus”. This shocked me so much I almost blacked out. In addition, she gave me her shop, home and church numbers. I bought a copy of Stan Telchin’s “Betrayed”, put the phone number into my handbag and fled home. I had no intention of ever phoning missionaries, even though the shop owner had been truly kind.

Three days later, on the way back from acupuncture, I had a bad car accident. Friends of ours had lost an adult son in a single car accident in March. That day in October, when I saw the damage to my car – a huge hole in the bonnet, and nearly all the metal work on the right hand side of the car ripped open – I knew God had pulled me out of the accident for a reason. This gave me something truly weighty to ponder as I stared out over a golf course, waiting for the shaking to stop. After going to the police and arriving home, I called “Jews for Jesus”. I had been very involved in the New Age, and was about to study astrology. Laura Barron asked me to do nothing until she had seen me. On meeting her, I was stunned to realise she was a Jewish woman who believed in Jesus. She loaned me “Testimonies of Jews for Jesus”, giving me Scriptures to look up as well as an “Issues” article on the New Age. Reading these testimonies and “Betrayed” helped me to realise that I was not the only Jewish person on the planet who had wondered about Jesus.

I went back into the “Grapevine” not only to buy an NIV Bible, but also to look at a Bible that contained a reading plan. The reading for the day of the car accident was Matthew 7–9. Because the words of Jesus were in red, I saw I also needed to read chapters 5–6. After reading the whole Sermon on the Mount, the words that really leapt off the page at me were the ones in Matthew 7: 13-14, where Jesus says: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” A shocking thought entered my mind: what if the rabbis had been wrong for almost two thousand years! What if they believed they, and the congregations they led, were on the narrow leading to eternal life; but in fact they were on the broad road leading to destruction? Matthew 5-7 showed me what a sinner I was, in that Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and makes them much harder. Although I had never murdered, I had certainly hated in my thoughts and heart. Such things would incur the wrath of a holy God.

In Matthew 8, the story of Jesus healing the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years really appealed to me. Being Jewish myself, I could really understand her situation and relate to what an outcast she had been. By healing her, Jesus had truly restored her to the community. Having Jesus’ words in red, I paged on in that Bible and read John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” That is a very exclusive statement: if what Jesus says is true, then nothing else is. Judaism, Islam etc. are not the way. In addition, because my sin had alienated me from God, the only way back to the Father is through Jesus the Son.

A friend from the M.E. support group copied Messianic prophecy from the back of “The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible,” 2nd Improved Edition, pages 1703-1706. She told me to read one prophecy about Jesus in the Jewish Scriptures each day, and to look up its fulfilment in the New Testament. I was also to read Isaiah from chapter 52:13 to 53:12 in one sitting. Every day I did this, I would pray that someone other than Jesus would fulfil the prophecy. But only he did! As a child, I had longed to know God with us. Only in Jesus is this possible, because he is our Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). The more I read, the more convinced I became that Jesus is the Messiah. When I read through John’s gospel, it became obvious that Y’shua is also the Son of God and very God. My friend gave me a useful article from the magazine then called “Christianity Today,” about David and Liz Block. In addition, she loaned me a tape of Hymns and Choruses Volume 1, which encouraged me to continue along this path.

About five weeks later, Lawrence Hirsch from Jews for Jesus came to our house to ask if I was ready to ask Jesus into my life as Lord and Saviour. He read and explained John 1:1-18 simply to me. When he asked if I wanted to become God’s child, I could think of nothing I wanted more! Although I raised all the usual Jewish objections about believing in Jesus, he asked me if it was more important to me to obey God or man (Acts 5: 29). When I had prayed, for the first time in my life I had complete assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. This came only then, after years of fasting on the Day of Atonement for such forgiveness. In other words, we can only repent and turn back to God strictly on his terms, and in his way.

We all need to count the cost in coming to a crucified and risen Messiah. My husband asked, “Why not Buddha instead of Jesus?” Not only is there no God in Buddhism, but it is also a religion of works righteousness. In the Christian faith, God has done it all! My elder son feared the repercussions for his Barmitsvah, which was about six months away. “Mom, won’t you stop being Jewish if you believe in Jesus?” was my younger son’s question. I assured him I was still Jewish; but that following Jesus had to come first. The Lord is the “pearl of great price” (Mt. 13: 45-46, KJV), for whom one gives up everything in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. The word “everything” may include family, friends and the community. I believe it is possible to keep one’s culture, where it does not conflict with God’s Word.

Questions and reactions from my family of origin, my dad and two sisters, were much tougher. When my middle sister told me that only the weak and feeble-minded needed a “crutch” like Jesus, I agreed with her. There was a long silence on her end of the phone. Fearing for her health, I asked if she was feeling well. She asked, “What on earth do you mean?” I responded that since only God is omniscient, the finest human mind cannot compare with his mind. It is also true that God alone is omnipotent; thus I can only go forth in his strength. When we met face to face, she asked how any Jew could believe in Jesus after the Holocaust. It is vital to separate Jesus from the atrocities committed against Jews by evil men who used the name of Christ. My younger sister cut me out of her life for a while because I am on the mailing list of Jews for Jesus. My dad asked, “Aren’t these people just finishing off what Hitler didn’t do?” That shocked my nuclear family. When attacked, pray for the answer. When I could finally speak, I said that Hitler was motivated by hatred, and that though he could kill the body, he could not kill the spirit. On the other hand, God had poured out so much love into the hearts of missionaries, they wanted to share this love with everybody. They were like starving beggars who had found bread, telling other beggars where to find it. The missionaries were more interested in the spirit than Hitler was. If you believe in Jesus, you can know eternal life from that moment onwards!

My father asked me why I had not been to see a rabbi. As a believer, the more I looked into Judaism, the more I saw the extent to which it is predicated on a denial of Jesus, in every possible way. For my elder son’s barmitsvah, a Chumash was required. This book contains the first five books of the Bible, and selected readings from the rest of the Jewish Scriptures. I spent hours hunting for certain passages of Messianic prophecy, only to find that they were not there, or they were transliterated into Hebrew. It is a rabbi’s task to lead Jewish people away from Jesus, not towards him.

May anyone reading this who does not know Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, as his/her personal Saviour and Lord, ask for prayer, search the Bible and find people who love, have faith in, and walk daily in close relationship with the Messiah. In the end, there is only one important question in the universe: who is Jesus? If he is who he says he is, how are YOU going to respond?