How can a nice Jewish boy from N.Y. believe that Y’shua is the Messiah?
Only God knows the whole story.
I grew up with my parents and two brothers in a happy Jewish home, with grandparents close by. Around the time I entered Hebrew school I began to earnestly question whether God was real. My grandfather told me that he had an orthodox upbringing, but I could not see how it had affected his life in a positive way. Although loving and caring, he did not seem to be any different or any more “godly” than any one else I knew who did not claim to grow up with a religious background. It did not appear that God had deeply impacted his life. At the Hebrew school I attended I did not see anything in the lives of the teachers or rabbis that I desired. Other than their dress, they did not appear to be any different than other teachers I had come in contact with. When I asked questions about the reality of God, I never received any answers that satisfied my search. The teachers seemed impatient with my questions and their answers came across as empty and without practical meaning. I was unhappy with the world around me and with the feelings inside me, and the religious people in my life were not leading me closer to God. I did have a great uncle named Max. I remember him helping my older brother with his bar mitzvah lessons and taking my brothers and me to the store to buy us stuff. Uncle Max was a real mensch (a great guy). Unfortunately, he died while I was still young.
I did not view myself as being particularly bad; but yet, at the same time, I knew there were undesirable habits and traits in my character that I just could not seem to change. I would pray, almost defiantly, to God that if He was real to prove it to me. Over the years I occasionally came in contact with Christians. I enjoyed arguing with them, debating with them, and mocking their beliefs.
When I was in college my mother came in contact with some people at a Community Services Center in NYC operated by Seventh-day Adventists. They helped her through a situation she was going through and they told her that Jesus was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures as the Jewish Messiah. This bothered me, even to the point of determining to prove them wrong. I decided to read through the Torah (the books of Moses) and the rest of the T’nach (Jewish Bible). God impressed me to read at least a little in the morning and a little before I went to sleep. The more I read the more I prayed. The more I prayed and read the more God revealed Himself to me through changes He was making in my life, giving me victory over boredom, discontentment, anger, lust, dishonesty, deceit, and insecurity. For the first time in my life God became real to me. He was no longer just a God of history or Judaism, just a dry religion of books and traditions. God was revealing Himself to me through reading His words and through His created nature all around me. Life was alive with new meaning and purpose. God was real; He cared about this world, about humanity, and about me. He had a purpose for this world and a purpose for me. I was excited about reading God’s word and talking with God. Although I was still disturbed with the things my mother had learned and was sharing with me, I had not yet found anything in the Scriptures to prove her wrong.
As I read through the book of Deuteronomy, written by Moses, I noticed that God made a promise saying, “I will raise up a prophet for them from among their own people, like yourself: I will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him” (Chapter 18, verse 18). Proverbs chapter 30 verse 4 caught my eye, “Who has established all the extremities of the earth? What is his name or his son’s name, if you know it?” I wondered and prayed, “God, what are you saying here. I really want to know. Who is the prophet like Moses? What do you mean about the Creator having a Son?” One time in particular I remember driving down the road and seeing a big billboard that said, “Jesus is the Lord.” This frustrated me to no end. Right them and there I pulled off to the side of the road and cried out to God as I banged on the steering wheel, “God if this is not true, prove it wrong.”
My search continued for several months. Every morning before I went to work and every night when I came home from school I read the Bible and prayed. Page by page I was working my way through the Scriptures. Several times through the day as I went about my routine I would talk to God. When God led me to read what the Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote in the book of Isaiah chapter 53, it was light shining down from Heaven. Right there in the Hebrew Scriptures it said:
“He was maltreated, yet He was submissive, He did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to slaughter... He was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment. And His grave was set among the wicked... Though he had done no injustice... But the LORD chose to crush Him... That, if He made himself an offering for guilt, He might see offspring and have long life, and that through Him the LORD’s purpose might prosper. My Righteous Servant makes the many righteous, it is their punishment that he bears”... verses 7-11.
God’s Righteous Servant had to die as the lamb sacrificed for my sins! Mine! Everything began to make sense. Cain and Abel’s sacrifice made sense. The sacrifices mentioned in the Torah made sense. The sanctuary service described in the Torah made sense.
I rejoiced as the old familiar events that I learned in Hebrew school and that I had read in the Bible came to light. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was not because Abel had a lamb to offer, a substitute, a blood sacrifice. Cain brought only fruit, no blood sacrifice. The fruit could not be slaughtered, could not bear his sins.
God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son. Isaac did not have to be sacrificed because God Himself provided a sacrifice, a ram, which could be slaughtered, could shed blood, and could take his place. The holy days, as outlined by Moses in the book of Leviticus, all fell into place. During the Passover the lambs had to be killed and their blood had to be placed on the doorposts of the Jewish homes to protect the people. Concerning Yom Kippur we are told that “Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering; Thus he shall purge the Holy Place of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins...” Leviticus chapter 16, verses 9 and 16.
This was the answer to my longing, the answer to my questions. Although I thought I was basically good, I was still carrying around guilt for all my shortcomings and mistakes. From these passages I found that I had been forgiven and was released from all the guilt. I understood that God was going to send us a Jewish prophet who would be God’s Son and that He would die as the sacrificial lamb for my sins. I had not known much about Y’shua other than that He was a Jewish person, that He died on a cross, and that Christians said that He died for their sins. It all came together; Y’shua is the lamb of the Jewish sacrificial offerings.
In the Jewish sanctuary services set up during the time of Moses, people had to bring lambs to be sacrificed so that they could receive forgiveness for their sins. They would lay their hands upon the lamb, confess their sins, and symbolically the sins would be transferred to the lamb. The person would then have to kill his lamb. The lamb’s body was burned on the altar and the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. This was the process whereby sins were removed from the people. All of this represented the work of the Messiah, God’s Righteous Servant coming to die for our sins.
After reading through the entire Hebrew Scriptures, called the T’nach, with great misgivings I decided to read the Gospels, the books that record the life of Y’shua. I was happy to find that he lived as a Jew and died as a Jew. He kept the laws of the Torah. It was His regular custom to be at services in the synagogue on Shabbat (the Sabbath), He ate only Biblically kosher foods, observed the holy days, and showed deep respect for His mother. He was a Jew through and through.
I knew in my heart that all my good deeds, all my mitzvahs, could not wipe away my past sins. I needed to have my guilt removed; I needed a substitute, and I needed a blood sacrifice. And Y’shua was the one God gave to do these very things. I needed an experience like King David prayed for in Psalm 51: “Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity, and purify me of my sin… Purge me with hyssop till I am pure; wash me till I am whiter than snow... Fashion a pure heart for me, O God; create in me a steadfast spirit” (Verses 4, 9, 12). Isaiah chapter 53, verse 6 explained it all. “And the LORD visited upon him the guilt of all of us.”
I began to understand how all my sinful thought patterns, all my sinful habits could be taken away from me and laid on the Lamb of God, Y’shua the Messiah. What release, what joy, what freedom! The weight of guilt was removed. The feeling I had cannot be described, only experienced. Not only had Y’shua taken the record of my bad actions, motives, and intentions away, but He also had taken upon Himself all the pain and hurt that I had experienced from other people. This released me to be able to forgive those who had wronged me. As I think of how willingly He has forgiven me for the sins I have committed against Him, it has set me free to forgive those who have sinned against me. This was the biggest breakthrough in my life. Through God’s power I now had the ability to forgive others and to forgive myself. This caused a great healing in my own mind and in my relationships with those around me.
At that time I realized I had forgiveness and freedom from past wrongs, and I also realized I needed a power other than myself to keep me from sinning. I was in full agreement with King David as I prayed for God to “renew in me a right Spirit.” God also revealed this aspect of the Messiah’s role in Isaiah chapter 53, verse10, “if he made himself an offering for guilt, He might see offspring and have long life.” After He died as an offering for my sins He was raised from the dead and had long life. Y’shua is alive, and is working in my behalf in the sanctuary in Heaven. Because He is alive He is able to give me His power to obey. If this was just dry theory it might not mean much, but what I am saying here I have experienced, and it can be experienced by everyone. Y’shua has never let me down when I have asked Him to give me His power to obey, His power to forgive, His power to desire what is good and right and to resist what is wrong. He lived on this earth as a human, so He can relate to my needs. He is now seated at the right hand of God in Heaven making intercession for me. I am not perfect, but God is not done with me yet. He is continuing to change me back into His image, the one that He originally created humanity with.
All of the joy and liberation that I experienced did not come without some sacrifice and pain. Some of my family members and friends thought I was meshugah (crazy). They were alarmed and tried to persuade me not to follow what I had found in the Scriptures. Some just thought it was a phase I was going through and that it would pass. As I drew nearer and nearer to God my desires for a number of the activities, conversations, and past-times that I was involved in changed. These changes did affect some of the friendships I had with the people who I associated with who continued to practice the lifestyle that was no longer appealing to me. In the long run God has worked all things out for good. God has replaced the negative habits and lifestyles with truer, more fulfilling, and more purposeful ones. Over the many years since I accepted the Messiah into my heart my friends and family have seen the positive impact it has had on my life. God has more than abundantly replaced the old friends with truer and closer friendships. I have been able to keep in contact with some of the old friends who were willing to accept the changes God was making in my life.
Am I still a Jew? Most certainly. I am a Jew who has found the Jewish Messiah! Today I feel more Jewish than I ever did before. I am very thankful for the Jewish culture and my Jewish Heritage. Today Judaism has more meaning to me than ever before. It is fuller, deeper, more practical, and more complete. I am able to follow the laws of God associated with Judaism more fully now than ever because it is not me trying to keep God’s laws, it is now God working through me to keep His laws. Walking God’s path is no longer a burden; it is a joy.
If you want to experience the joy of having your sins forgiven, accept Y’shua and His promise of forgiveness. If you want the power that sin has exerted over your life removed, accept Y’shua’s death as your substitute. If you want to gain full victory over wrong habits, thoughts, motives, desires, and actions, accept Y’shua and His power. If you want to be able to forgive those who have hurt you, accept Y’shua and His love. If you want to have freedom from anger or sorrow and want to be filled with joy and peace instead, then accept Y’shua and His plan for your life. You can bow your head and talk to Him about it right now. Your prayer can be something like this: “Lord God, King of the Universe, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I invite You to make Yourself real to me. Reveal Your truth, Your love, and Your plan for me. Reach down and touch my heart. My ears are open to know Your truth regarding the Messiah. I want You to guide me and direct me in Your paths. I need Your peace, Your forgiveness, Your mercy, and Your power. Come into my life and live out Your life in me and through me and for me. For Your honor and Your glory, in Your Holy Name. Amen.”
Why does a nice Jewish boy from N.Y. believe that Y’shua is the Jewish Messiah? Read the Hebrew Scriptures from beginning to end, praying every day for God to lead you to the truth and you will know for yourself!
This lesson is adapted from "Jewish Discoveries," by Jeff Zaremsky, to buy the printed book, click here.