Jews and Gentiles Together: Living in Unity
In Acts 2, we get our first glimpse of Shavuot in the New Testament, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). There were Jewish people from almost every region in the Diaspora (Greek for “dispersion”). They became part of the first spiritual harvest on Pentecost because of their obedience to the command to celebrate this holiday in Jerusalem! These Jewish believers seemed to decide as a group that they did not want to return home immediately after the festival, but chose instead to spend time with one another. Luke describes their joy and fellowship in Acts chapter 2:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44–47)
This first “band of brothers” (and sisters) were all Messianic Jews—there were no known Gentile believers at this point. The Lord taught these early Jewish believers how to live in unity and work through their differences to prepare them for the Gentile harvest that would come a short time later.
We find unity when the Holy Spirit directs our attention and focus on Jesus. The Spirit of God seals us, baptizes us, and connects us to the Messiah and to one another in a way that is supernatural, miraculous, and without parallel in this world of division and conflict. It is clear from the text that the impact of Shavuot was a season of incredible unity by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul describes this unity in greater depth: But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:13–16)
The Lord makes us His by the power of the Holy Spirit. This same power enables us to work together in unity. So much more can be done together than apart as we proclaim the good news of Yeshua to a broken and needy world.
Preaching with Power
The Holy Spirit eternally exists in perfect fellowship with the Father and the Son. We see His presence from the very beginning, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Yet, His ministry in the New Covenant is further revealed. His role in the world today is well described by Yeshua in the Gospel of John:
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7–11)
The Greek term “parakletos,” which is translated as “Helper,” literally means “one who is called alongside” to help, strengthen, and partner with each child of God in their life and ministry. The Holy Spirit regenerates us, then He indwells us, fills us, and empowers us to preach. We see this power of the Holy Spirit unleashed in the early sermons of the book of Acts, especially through Peter’s preaching,
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:37–39)
The Holy Spirit also convicts those who hear the preaching to repent of their sin and be saved. It is God’s job, through His Holy Spirit, to convince others that Yeshua is the Messiah and, by believing in Him, we receive the gift of everlasting life.
The Global Harvest
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The festival of Shavuot/Pentecost reminds us of God’s plan to bring the good news of salvation through the Messiah to the world. When God told Abram that He would bless the world through his descendants, it was clear that God chose the Jewish people not for the sake of the Jewish people alone but to be a blessing to the entire world.
He said to Abram, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
His blessing through the Jewish people is the gospel—the good news of Messiah Jesus, who died and rose for our sins. Perhaps this is why many view Pentecost as the birth of the church—the mysterious new-covenant community made up of Jews and Gentiles. In his letter to Ephesus, Paul calls this union the mystery that was revealed to him: “…that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
This mystery Paul is describing is the joining together of Jews and Gentiles in God’s family, set apart through the sacrifice of the Messiah Jesus and united together by His Holy Spirit.
During Shavuot, two loaves of bread are baked and presented as an offering. The two cakes made with leaven remind us that Jews and Gentiles, sinners redeemed by God’s grace through faith in Yeshua, are made acceptable to God. It is now our joy to work in the Lord’s harvest field until He returns!
Through the miracle of Pentecost, Jews and Gentiles are unified, sharing a common Lord, life, and calling to reach the world for Jesus by the power of His Spirit. Together, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have a common mission—to spread the good news of Jesus the Messiah to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles! (Romans 1:16).
ISRAELI CAB DRIVER READS ISAIAH 53
Recently, Robin, one of our Israel staff members, took a taxi home after a staff meeting. Usually she walks, but since it was raining hard, and she and her intern Rebecca were carrying a large tray of food, it made sense to call a cab. Daniel (not his real name) was their driver. It was a pleasant drive, with easy conversation, and a lot of laughter and fun. However, the tone shifted when Robin shared what she does for work. Daniel firmly told Robin that she should not read the New Testament and went on for some time about why she should not believe in Jesus. The conversation continued when they arrived at their destination.
Daniel began to speak about Moses and the laws Jewish people must obey. Robin said that she believes Moses and the prophets spoke of the Messiah and that things they told us point to Jesus. Daniel responded by bringing up the history of the Crusades and other terrible things done in the name of Jesus. They spoke at length about religion and politics. Robin encouraged him to look at the Torah (Pentateuch) and the Prophets and see what they say about Messiah and how the specifics point only to Jesus. She showed him Isaiah 53 on her phone. He read and then stopped and said, “Well, yes, this is Jesus—it is the New Testament.” When Robin shared that it is from the Tanakh’s (Old Testament) book of Isaiah, Daniel did not know what to say. This same realization is what brought Robin to faith. Robin and Rebecca encouraged him to read Isaiah 53 again and pointed him to the Chosen People Ministries website.
JEWISH MAN COMES TO FAITH IN BROOKLYN
Anna and Jake (not their real names) are a Jewish couple from Massachusetts who reached out to our Brooklyn congregation, Beth Sar Shalom, in order to meet with a Jewish staff member. Rich, our staff member, responded immediately and set up a meeting. Anna and Jake have been married for about eleven years. Anna is a believer in Jesus, but Jake, while spiritually searching, is not; together they have a small martial arts business. They began to share their life and spiritual journeys with Rich. Jake was confused and tormented by his sin. He had tried to be a religious Jew but, in his mind, he failed miserably. He experimented with eastern religions but was left feeling empty and unsatisfied.
In his despair, Jake turned to drugs, alcohol, and partying—his guilt and shame increased. Jake looked at Rich with tears in his eyes and asked, “How do I get rid of my sin?” Rich smiled and said, “Jake, you have come to the right place. I just happen to know a sin-bearing Messiah that came to rescue broken people like you and me.” Rich then proceeded to explain the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24) to him in a Jewish way. As Rich shared, the Spirit’s presence was evident, moving both him and Jake. It was hard to speak through the emotions of the moment, but Jake indicated that he understood and wanted to repent of his sin and receive Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world. Praise God!
JEWISH BUDDHIST PRIESTESS HEARS THE GOSPEL
A few weeks ago, the Lord orchestrated a divine encounter for our Canadian director, Jorge. On a flight home from Vancouver, Jorge met Joni (not her real name), who was sitting next to him. She tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the snowy mountain peaks. Joni commented on the beauty of nature, and Jorge replied that God’s creation is really magnificent. He told her about his work, and Joni shared that she found out a few months earlier that her family was Jewish. When Jorge asked her about her spiritual life, Joni said her parents were Christian and she had even sung gospel music with her dad, but she had left the church—and the faith—and was now a Buddhist priestess! Jorge thought to himself, “This is going to be an interesting flight!”
They talked for the rest of the trip and read Isaiah 53, verse by verse, with Jorge explaining how the prophet described the events in Jesus’ life seven hundred years before they happened! Joni was really intrigued and wanted to know more; she even emailed her mother right then from the plane to share some of the Scriptures that were read. They exchanged contact information, Jorge promised to send her a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained, and as they were getting off the plane, Joni promised she would read the Bible her mother had given her as well as the Isaiah 53 Explained book.