Learning to Witness

When Mike Moore recently visited and spoke to one of our workers, he asked him how he approached the task of telling Jewish people about Jesus. His reply was that he prefers not to “tell” but to encourage people to discover the truth for themselves. What was said is instructive to all of us who are concerned about helping Jewish people come to faith
I believe you have to begin with what is known and accepted rather than with what is unknown or rejected. As Christians, we tend to begin our witness where we feel comfortable; that is, with the New Testament. But that is not where Jewish people feel comfortable. Of course many Jewish people are quite irreligious, but whether they have a high regard for the Jewish Scriptures or not, the Tanakh is their book and I think that that is the place to start. That’s the place where Jesus began, “You have heard that it was said … ”. I always begin with the Old Testament and ask my Jewish friends questions about the Scriptures. It is better to be the student and not to presume you know more than the person you are talking to. We should be prepared to learn and, as we listen, something our friends say may strike a chord. We should aim for a two-way discussion about the Word of God.

Once, when my wife and I were on deputation, someone told us about a Jewish lady they knew who lived nearby so we went to visit her. We didn’t know at the time that she was the daughter of a rabbi, but when we told her of our interest in the Jewish people she gladly welcomed us into her home. “You’re Christians and you want to talk to me about Jesus”, she said. We told her we would be glad to talk to her about Jesus if she wanted us to. “If you can show me Jesus in my Bible I might get interested”, she said.

She had a copy of the Old Testament in English so I asked if she would open it to the book of Genesis. Out of respect for the Bible she stood to read it and I asked if she would read verse 15 of the third chapter, where it speaks about the “seed of the woman” bruising the head of the serpent. I asked the rabbi’s daughter who the “seed of the woman” was. “The seed of the woman is our offspring”, she replied. I then asked who the serpent was. She thought it was the devil, so I asked what the verse meant when it said the seed of the woman would “bruise” the serpent’s head. I can still see her clearly as she stood holding the Bible and pressing her feet up and down as she said, “It means to get on top of”. I responded, “You’ve explained to me exactly how I see Jesus. The seed of the woman was promised to get on top of the devil and crush him under his foot.” The lady looked with amazement and said, “Yes, I can see it! It is in my Bible!” She had found Jesus for herself just by answering our questions about the text; we didn’t “tell” her. She said, “I’m so pleased you came here today. I’ve met so many Christian people and I’ve asked them to show me Jesus in my Bible and they were not able to do that. You are the first people to do so. I want to go on from here; I want to see a whole lot more.” I explained that we were on deputation and were only passing through the town, but that we could link her up with someone else who could help her.

I can think of many other examples of how good contact has been made through this approach, particularly with Orthodox Jews. We do believe the best way of helping Jewish people to come to faith in Jesus is to let them discover him in their own Scriptures. It is also important to establish ongoing contact by putting Jewish people in touch with local Christians who know their Bibles and who can help them.

This article first appeared in the March 2005 edition of the Herald

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