A Christian friend asked me, “Why do you have a website called Good News for Jews? Why do you share the gospel of Jesus with Jews? Don’t Jews already have their own religion and pathway to God?” Those are valid questions, but ones I cannot answer in only a few words.
In Genesis 12:3, God promised Abram (later renamed Abraham) that through his seed the families of the world would be blessed. God chose the Children of Israel for just such a purpose. Many centuries later, God revealed to the prophet Isaiah that the promise made to Abram would be fulfilled in the person of one particular Jewish descendant, the seed (singular) of Abraham, saying, “I, the Lord, have called you [the Messiah] in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant with the [Jewish] people, for a light to the Goyim; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison-house” (Isaiah 42:6-7).
Two thousand years after the promise was made by God to Abram, Jesus, the promised descendent who would bring the blessing of God’s salvation to both Jews and non-Jews, confirmed the New Covenant foretold in the Tanakh (Jeremiah 31:31-34) by his sacrificial death and resurrection from death to life. He then commissioned his followers, who at that time in history were all Jewish, to take the message of salvation provided under the New Covenant to all people, saying to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (as recorded in the Book of Acts 1:8 from the Complete Jewish Bible ). The apostle Paul, an early Jewish follower of Jesus formerly named Saul, later added this imperative, “For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Messiah, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jews first, and also for the Gentiles.” Those words of Jesus and Paul have resonated within me and have consistently guided my evangelistic efforts for many years, all because of a providential event that occurred when I was a sophomore in high school. Let me explain.
Back then, all of us males were required to take a year or two of ROTC, which stood for Reserve Officers Training Corp, a program designed to introduce military service to young boys in anticipation of later being drafted. Course content included military history and customs. Cadets wore a surplus WWII uniform once a week and three times a week took part in physical fitness training and marching instruction, the latter a way to help cadets learn discipline and get a taste of how the military operates as a unit.
On one rainy day, we cadets settled in to watch an hour of what we expected would be a tank battle in North Africa or Italy or beach storming in the Pacific. To us, movie day was similar to the John Wayne war movies we saw on Saturday afternoons at the local movie house, but without any story or sound. It was also subliminally unsettling because we knew in the back of our teenage minds that people not much older than us had died on those battlefields.
As the movie projector started clicking away, the background chatter and horseplay began to subside. By mistake, the Army film office had shipped our high school not war scenes, but instead had sent raw and unedited documentary footage of the horrific scenes of human degradation and suffering filmed as American troops entered and liberated the Nazi concentration camps all over Germany. It wasn’t long before the room was filled with 15-year-old boys, stunned into silence as tears welled up in their eyes. I was one of them.
That day changed my life. Never again would I be able to look at the world with the proverbial “rose colored glasses” typical of a post-WWII 1950s teenager raised in a loving Christian home, protected from the trials and tribulations of the greater world. Seeing the effects of the Holocaust was a stark reminder of what evil let loose in the hearts of men could do. It was also my introduction to the tortured saga of the Jewish people under the so-called Christian governments of Europe both in modern times and across the ages, a history I had never heard in church or in school.
On a spiritual level, the whole experience left me troubled and confused. As a believing Protestant Christian, I worshipped a Jew named Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and yet the Holocaust had been carried out while the vast majority of people in Europe calling themselves Christians had stood on the sidelines saying and doing nothing as it happened. How could that be?
It took me years to understand the answer to that question, the answer being that there are two types of Christians, those who believe and try to live by the teachings of Jesus, and those who don’t. The Holocaust came out of the atheistic mind of Adolph Hitler, who was not a Christian. (Can anyone imagine him worshipping a Jewish man as God?) Nor were those who participated in that crime following the teachings of Jesus, even though they might have claimed to be Christians. On the other hand, a small handful of “The Righteous,” mostly evangelical Christians risking their lives, tried to help their Jewish friends and neighbors avoid the horror of the Nazi regime.
And that brings me to why my efforts are focused on taking the Good News of the New Covenant atonement to every person on the planet, and especially to each Jewish person. First of all, note that Jesus commanded his followers to take the good news to all people, and, last time I looked, Jews are included in the phrase “all people.” Second, as Christians, we believe that the Bible teaches that entering eternity after death without a blood atonement acceptable to God means being forever separated from the presence of God, a fate worse than anything that man can devise, including the Holocaust.
Under the Law given by God and written down by Moses, Jewish individuals could achieve atonement only through an offering of blood placed by priests on the altar of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem. That blood requirement hasn’t changed. After all, who in the centuries-long history of Judaism has had the authority to change by adding man made traditions or removing one jot or tittle of the Law of God that Moses wrote down at Sinai? Today, without a Temple, Levitical priesthood, and a consecrated Aaronic high priest available to procure atonement through an offering of blood on Temple altar, how can Jews, or anyone else for that matter, achieve atonement with God according to the Law? (See Exodus 24:4 and notice that Moses says he wrote down all of the words from God, which means that any oral tradition added after Moses wrote down the divine commandments cannot nullify what God revealed to Moses and he wrote as God’s word.)
The Bible teaches that Jewish individuals, like all people alive today, are sinners before God and thus need a blood atonement to achieve salvation. For that reason, they need to hear the good news that the blood of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was shed on the cross to achieve once-for-all-time forgiveness of sin and salvation to eternal life for all who have faith in him. Therefore, telling every person alive today that they can avoid spending an eternity separated from God, and explaining how they can live forever in heaven wrapped in God’s never-ending love, is the greatest expression of love that a person can give to anyone else. That’s why I try to share Jesus with Jews.
For a moment, consider what doing the opposite would mean. Telling everyone else in the world about how to avoid the judgement and wrath of God, while at the same time excluding Jewish people from hearing what the Tanakh and B’rit Hadashah say about how to live an everlasting life in the embrace of God’s love, would make me even worse than the so-called Christians who silently watched as European Jewry was led to the ovens so many years ago.
As a secular American citizen who has seen what anti-Semitism can do if not opposed, I stand with the Jewish people in vowing, “Never again!” And, God forbid, should the need once again arise, loudly and publicly I shall so stand, shoulder to shoulder with my Jewish neighbors and friends. In addition, as a servant of God, I must proclaim to everyone, to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”