I came to Avi Synder’s new book, Jews Don’t Need Jesus. . .and Other Misconceptions: Reflections of a Jewish Believer, with a deep desire to say something fresh about this important topic. Now that I have read it, that desire burns even more.
Before I knew this book was being published, I had said to the content team at Desiring God, “I want us to do more for the cause of Jewish evangelism.” I had been stirred again with this burden. And now all the more.
Only a Jewish person with a deep love for his people could have written this book. I say that not only because of the personal empathy that abounds in its pages, but also because only a Jewish person could see so clearly the objections raised against sharing the message of Jesus Christ. This means that the book is emotionally and intellectually tuned in to the post-Holocaust, pluralistic world — especially in the West.
Eighteen Objections Answered
“The God who saved us through our faith in Jesus is the God who deepens Jewish identity through that same faith.”
Avi Snyder has experienced at least eighteen objections to Jewish and Gentile efforts to win Jewish people to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. I say “experienced,” rather than merely “heard,” because he speaks from inside real relationships, where these objections are deeply felt. He writes insightful, biblical, personal answers to each objection.
Nothing is merely theoretical. For example, if you say, “It is impossible for a Jewish person to believe on Jesus after the horrors of the Holocaust,” he will say,
I wish I could invite you to ask Manfred and Laura Wertheim whether or not the Holocaust made it impossible for Jewish people to come to faith. I wish I could invite you to ask Rachmiel Frydland, or Vera Schlamm, or Eleazer Erbach, or Rose Price, or Carl Flesch. These are just a handful — less than a handful — of the many Jewish people who went through the inferno of the Holocaust but came to faith in Yeshua.
If you say, “You just don’t realize the unspeakable history of the way the Christian church has treated Jewish people throughout the last two thousand years,” he pours out his lament:
From charges of deicide by church fathers; to legal writs against us during the Dark Ages; to the slaughter of European Jewish communities by Crusaders on their way to “liberate” the Holy Land; to the expulsions, tortures, deaths-by-burning, and forced baptisms of the Inquisition; to the blood libels and pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia; to the systematic liquidation of one third of our total population during the Holocaust — the story of the hostility of “Christendom” toward us Jews should leave little doubt about why we find it so hard to give Yeshua a fair and impartial hearing.
If you say, “Faith in Jesus as the Messiah will be the end of my Jewish existence,” he says,
Faith in Yeshua is not a threat to our Jewish existence. Rather, faith in Yeshua is an affirmation of our identity as Jews. The God who saved us through our faith in Jesus is the very God who deepens our Jewish identity through that very same faith. More often than not, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua experience a heightened commitment to their Jewish heritage and roots. By coming to Jesus, we discover that we’ve come home.
“It is not hate or ignorance or presumption that motivates us to plead with people to turn to Jesus. It is love.”
And if you say, as one man did, “I feel we Germans have forfeited the right to talk with Jews about the Lord,” he gently disagrees:
“You not only have the right,” I offered. “You have the responsibility.” I went on to tell him how I believed that God was bringing the Jewish people back to Germany for at least three reasons: because of His love for the Jewish people, because of His love for the German church, and because of His love for the German people. God wants my people to hear the gospel and be saved. He wants German believers to know the joy of being used by God to bring His people to Himself. He wants Germans to hear the gospel from Jewish lips. And I think He wants the world to see Jews and Germans, proclaiming the gospel together. What a testimony of the love of the Lord. What a testimony of the reconciling power of the cross.
We’ve needed to hear a perspective like this for a long time, not only because of the misunderstandings and legitimate fears of Jewish people, but also because of the failures and fears of Christians. But today — a day when whole Christian denominations are renouncing (and denouncing) all efforts to win Jewish people to faith in Jesus — this book is more needed than ever.
Don’t Follow Your Heart
The note Snyder strikes is crystal clear. It is not loving to “follow your heart,” if your heart builds a theology that contradicts the truth.
Eighty years ago, that tendency of following the heart, then constructing the theology, led to the abandonment, betrayal, and destruction of one third of my people. Today, that same tendency is placing the Jewish people’s spiritual well-being in the gravest peril. Ironically, the first instance occurred as a result of undisguised hate. Today, the “sequel” is occurring in the name of love.
“Silence about the gospel is not love. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of any people.”
Those are strong words. But Jewish people who know their Scriptures are used to strong words. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). It is not hate or ignorance or naiveté or presumption that motivates Snyder to plead with his people to turn to Jesus and to plead with us to join him. It is love.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. (Isaiah 62:1)
As a Gentile, I have felt moved by Snyder to love Jesus and to love Jewish people better. Surely Snyder is right:
Silence about the gospel is not love. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of my people. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of any people.