It is not a common occurrence for an Orthodox Jewish person to visit the First Fruits of Zion booth when we are exhibiting at Christian or Messianic Jewish conferences.
Just a few weeks ago, that happened. And the conversation that I had with this young man reminded me of the importance of a fundamental question: “Why do I believe in Yeshua?”
This year, the UMJC Conference (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) was in Chicago. As usual, FFOZ had a booth set up, and we also had several speaking opportunities at this gathering. We had a wonderful time. Being at the UMJC Conference is a great time for the FFOZ team to connect with other Messianic Jewish leaders and congregants. We also get to meet new friends and introduce folks to the important work in which FFOZ is engaged.
At this past conference, as usual, we closed our booth for Shabbat and then opened it up once Shabbat was over on Saturday night before packing up our display and heading home. As we were finishing up the packing process, a young Orthodox man suddenly appeared at our booth. We learned that he was at the conference hotel to meet with someone. Out of curiosity, he made his way into our conference area and apparently we were the first booth that he encountered.
Boaz and I began talking to him, and it was immediately clear that this young man had some sincere questions for us about Messianic Judaism. We shared with him a bit about FFOZ and then this young man, mildly and respectfully, asked us “So why do you believe in Jesus as the Messiah?” This is a simple question, yet so profound. I had about ten minutes to share with this young Orthodox man why I believe in Yeshua. Part of my response made no sense to him. But I believe that he felt the weight of some of what I had to say. I don’t think that he was personally considering who Yeshua is on any personal or convictional level. My take was that this young man saw us there, was curious, and wanted to know what would lead Jewish people to see Jesus the way that we do.
The conversation was short but meaningful, and I am praying that it had an impact on this young man. I trust that HaShem can use what I shared in some way for good in his life. An additional result of this conversation was that it reminded me to continue to grow in my sense of trust in Yeshua as the Messiah and my ability to communicate why I have such trust. Here are some reasons why I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, some of which I was able to share with this young Orthodox Jewish man.
- I believe that Yeshua’s message was consistent with the Torah and the prophets and that he was calling Israel to “do teshuvah” (repent/return) to avert the soon-to-come judgment and exile and instead experience the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth. That is a very Messianic message, and it defined the good news that Yeshua sought to spread.
- I believe that Yeshua rose from the dead. Most movements lose their energy and momentum when the leader dies. The Yeshua movement was the very opposite.
- I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah because his movement and message have introduced the God of Israel to the nations of the world. It is through Yeshua that countless millions have come to know, love, and worship the God of Israel. At one point, I said to this young Orthodox man the following: “Jesus is the most famous rabbi ever. He is the most influential Jew to walk the planet. And in fact, he is the most significant person that history has ever known. If he is not the real Messiah, then the real Messiah is going to have to top that. This would not be easy to do.”
There are other reasons why I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah such as his atoning work, the prophecies and themes in the Tanach/Old Testament that point to him, as well as the real and personal way that Yeshua has transformed my life. I also think that it is very powerful that following Yeshua has strengthened me as a Jew and has strongly increased my desire to keep the Torah. I know that there are others who would say that Yeshua has led the world away from the Torah. However, for me and many others, the real, historical, and Jewish Jesus has led us toward loving God by keeping his commandments (1 John 5:3).
I was disappointed that this conversation at the FFOZ booth ended abruptly. We were going pretty deep when out of the corner of his eye, the young man saw the person for whom he was waiting. And being that it was a young lady (presumably this was someone that he was considering for marriage and thus the meeting in a public place) he politely and quickly disengaged as soon as she arrived. May HaShem use our time together for His good purposes.
I am grateful for this time also because this conversation served as a reminder for me to reflect upon why I believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah. That is important for all of us to consider. It is important that when we are asked, that we can answer this question with clarity and conviction.