Jesus and Jewishness in London
*Names have been altered
Imagine a huge billboard in Golders Green, London with the quotation “Salvation is from the Jews – Jesus of Nazareth.” This is how Nathan, a young Jewish believer in Yeshua (Jesus), began his lecture at a very special event in January dubbed “Jesus and Jewishness.” The evangelistic meeting, organised by Nathan and fellow Jewish believer in Yeshua, Joel, was designed specifically for Jewish guests.
Despite the cold weather, the meeting hall was packed with over 130 people. Great care was taken to be sensitive to the Jewish seekers. The venue itself was part of a church building that had no obvious Christian symbols, which often have very negative connotations for Jewish people. The event featured kosher refreshments: hummus, smoked salmon, pretzels and olives. There was also klezmer music playing in the background, and a slideshow of paintings of scenes of Jewish life.
Joel and Nathan began the event by telling their favourite Jewish jokes. They then shared their testimonies, each explaining how he had come to believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Since Joel’s background was Orthodox and Nathan grew up attending a Liberal synagogue, their testimonies complemented each other and could be understood by guests from different sides of the spectrum of Jewish observance.
After the testimonies, Nathan spoke regarding the subject of Jesus and Jewishness, using a striking quotation from Jesus as his starting point: “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Nathan highlighted the wonderfully Jewish nature of Jesus’ statement and pointed out that it was exactly the kind of thing we might expect a rabbi like Jesus to say. He went on to explain Jesus’ words, saying, “Salvation is from the Jews because God’s promised Messiah is Jewish.” Nathan commented further that “when we ask the Tanakh (Old Testament) for a reason for hope in a weary and troubled world, the Tanakh shouts back at us ‘Mashiach!’ (Messiah).” We then examined the extraordinary exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, which comes shortly after Jesus’ statement in verse 22:
“I know that Messiah is coming… when he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
“I, who speak to you, am He.”
The message clearly presented that evening was that Jesus claims to be the promised Messiah who brings salvation, as is confirmed by His fulfilment of all the Hebrew prophecies. Nathan argued that the Tanakh does not say that the Messiah will carry out all of His work at once. He explained how, since Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah’s disappearance before the destruction of Jerusalem, we ought to expect the Messiah’s work to be carried out in two stages. Nathan encouraged the guests to continue considering Jesus, demonstrating that there is no contradiction between being Jewish and believing in Jesus. He specifically challenged the misguided image of Jesus as a model in a Scandinavian shampoo TV commercial – that He is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Anglo. Nathan instead painted the more accurate picture of Yeshua as the first-century Jewish rabbi that He was.
For the Jewish seekers, it was a highly significant evening – almost definitely the first time that many have heard the Gospel presented in a Jewish way. The format of the evening seemed to work very well, and I would encourage other churches in areas with a significant Jewish population to consider holding similar outreaches.
Contributed by Jacqui K.