Stumbling Blocks?

Stumbling blocks

You know what they say: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". When Christians talk about "leading people to Christ" they usually mean that the led person has been saved. But our missionaries are leading Jewish people to the spring of living water all the time. Making them drink is another matter.

Here is a not uncommon scenario: a CWI missionary reads a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures to a Jewish person and asks where they think the passage is from.

"From the New Testament. Probably one of the Gospels."

Why do they think that?

"Because it's about the crucifixion."

In fact, the passage is the 22nd Psalm, which was written by king David a thousand years before Jesus was born.


The person has been led to Jesus. The question now is, Will they respond in faith?

"Well, you see, I'm Jewish. And Jews don't believe in Jesus."

"But you've just seen that Jesus is in your own Hebrew Scriptures."

"I know. But, as I said, I'm Jewish."

"But if Jesus is in the Jewish Bible, how can you not believe in him?

"Well, you see, Jews don't believe in Jesus..."

Can you sense the frustration? "Jewishness" has become one of the greatest stumbling blocks for the Jewish people. They may not be religious, but they're Jewish. They may not believe in God, but they're Jewish.

In December 1988, BBC Radio 3 broadcast three talks by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks, now the Chief Rabbi, under the title "The Jewish People in the Year 2000". In one of the broadcasts Rabbi Sacks lamented that Judaism today could be rewritten "with the word 'God' removed, and in its place, 'the Jewish people'." Jewish religion, he argued, has been "translated into a culture" and Judaism "subtly ... transformed into Jewishness".

What an indictment. The people chosen by God worshipping and serving their cultural identity rather than the Creator. And when that cultural identity is moulded by a perception of the Lord Jesus Christ, the problem of reaching those within the culture is intensified beyond measure.

Leading them to the Messiah is one thing. Getting Jewish people to see beyond culturally imposed taboos is another. The problem is further compounded by the intellectual affliction of the late twentieth century: relativism.

Jewish author Allan Bloom, in his incisive survey of American higher education, The Closing of the American Mind, says, "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative."

"Jesus is your way to God. But he's not mine."

"Christianity is true for Christians but not for Jews."

The bones don't come dryer than that. Across the spectrum of Jewish thinking, from the religious to the secular, their minds have been blinded and their hearts hardened. Such is the dilemma of the missionary. But, as believers in the God of Scripture, we cannot be pessimistic.

Can these dry bones live? Yes, they can, by the power of the Spirit of the living God.

Will these dry bones live? Yes, they will, because God says they will.

Therefore, in the face of what is humanly impossible, we continue to proclaim the word of the Lord, leading the Jewish people to the Messiah, knowing that even if they are unwilling to drink, God is able to pour his living water on them.

This article appeared in Autumn 1997 Herald.

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