One of the blessings of retirement is the gift of time to pursue learning. Recently I started attending a biblical precepts class with other Christian women, all seekers in our journey of faith. We’ve been studying the first chapters of the books of Kings and Chronicles. This study has been both revealing and timely, given the serious events taking place in present day Israel and Israel’s portrayal in the media.
As I left class one morning, Rachel, a true Bible scholar, handed me a book written by Messianic rabbi Jonathan Bernis titled, A Rabbi Looks at Jesus of Nazareth. She said, “You may want to read this. It gives the perspective of a rabbi who makes the case for Jesus.”
Full disclosure. What I knew for sure about the Jewish people and faith was only two things. One, they have been the subject of persecution. And, two, they don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah. However, after reading this enlightening book, I gained insight into the Jewish and Christian faiths and feel compelled to share my review.
Jonathan Bernis was born and raised in a traditional Jewish family and taught from a young age that “Jews don’t – and can’t – believe in Jesus.” In the Jewish faith, the belief that Jesus was the Son of God is incompatible with Jewish theology. Traditional Jews believe that Jesus did not satisfy the Messianic predictions that establish proof of the coming of the messiah.
As a typical teenage boy, meeting girls was a priority for Jonathan, and he attended a Young Life meeting to do just that. It was there that he received his first Bible, which he subsequently hid in his room from his parents.
After a period of rebellion, which included drugs and drinking, he ran across an old druggie friend who had cleaned up her life and seemed strikingly different to him. She witnessed to him that she was “born again” and invited him to a Bible study. Although he was reluctant, he attended and that night experienced a transformative event upon reading Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Feeling a change, Jonathan drove hundreds of miles to unearth his buried Bible. He started reading the New Testament and was shocked to see references to Jewish heroes such as Abraham, Moses and David. He never knew such things existed, as they were so contrary to his long-held beliefs!
He shared his epiphany with his parents, and they sent him to psychologists and rabbis. But Jonathan was not dissuaded. He says: “…that if a person reads the Scriptures with an open mind, he or she will come to see that Jesus of Nazareth is, in fact, the promised Messiah of Israel.”
Bernis has since become a leader in the Messianic Jewish movement for more than thirty years. (Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people who number more than 250,000 and believe Yeshua – Jesus’ original Hebrew name -- is the Messiah of Israel and the savior of the world.)
Bernis’ writing style is conversational, allowing the reader to embrace his journey and benefit from his discovery. As a Christian, it gave me pause to consider more thoughtfully the history of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Bernis’ first sections of the book cite scriptures that mention Yeshua and the Messianic prophesies. His chapters on Jewish persecution are sensitively written to provide a historical, fascinating perspective on the two faiths. In his chapter, Resurrection: Fact or Fiction, Bernis explores the work of scholars and provides conclusive evidence in support of the Resurrection. He makes a similar case regarding the virgin birth, which allows us to recognize that we serve a God of miracles, credited for creating Heaven and Earth. Nothing is too hard for Him.
In looking for a graphic for my blog, I located the symbol displayed at the top of this article and the following description of the Messianic Seal:
"The Messianic Seal of Jerusalem is a symbol for Messianic Judaism and Christians. The symbol is seen as a depiction of the Menorah, an ancient Jewish symbol, together with the Ichthys, an ancient depictive representation of Christian faith and the community of Jesus followers, creating a Star of David at the intersection. The Messianic Seal is not the only symbol of Messianic Judaism, which has other graphical representations such as the Menorah and Star of David, the cross in the Star of David, among others." (Source: Wikipedia)
Bernis’ book is one I could not put down. It is a story of God faithfully watering the seeds of faith that others had planted. And it is a testament to living the courage of one's convictions.
How are you living the courage of your convictions?