It happened a year ago. He came in a vision. I have never fully shared this with anyone, except my wife, and at first, she didn’t believe me, but I felt it was time to put my testimony on paper. After all, I am a writer and He chose to send His messenger to me. People must know the truth. Christians must know the truth. And by all means, Jews must know the whole story.
Is this it?
Three words that turned my life upside down. Is-this-it? It wasn’t that I was unfulfilled. On the contrary, I was extremely content. I was five years married and had two amazingly cute little girls. At twenty-eight, with only a bachelor’s degree, I had risen in the ranks and already had a daily column in the Philadelphia Inquirer and well-read blog. Life was perfect.
And yet that was the problem—what if there was something I was missing? Maybe there was a God out there who expected something from me. Maybe not, but the truth is, I had no idea. What keeps my heart ticking day after day? Who makes sure that it continues to pump blood through my veins? I had taken all of this for granted. It suddenly hit me that people will spend an entire lifetime working and planning just to make sure they are comfortable when they retire, a very short period of time, and yet we rarely consider what happens after retirement when we die. Is that it? Six feet under and never another conscious thought? Or is there life beyond the grave? And if so, where would I spend eternity. I had no idea.
I was determined to find God. I was full of questions. I had no clue where to begin. How do you find God? It’s not like I could just Google Him as I had learned to do for everything else. Where to start?
Being Jewish, I began to go to synagogue and even attend afternoon prayers, the Mincha service, when I could. It felt great when nine men were waiting and then I showed up to complete the minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish Bar Mitzvah’d males required to begin the prayer service. As a last resort they might grab some poor just-over-thirteen-year-old out of his studies to reach the required number, but then I would show up—saving the day. While that made me feel good about myself, I didn’t sense any personal connection with the Almighty. It was more a satisfaction that I had performed some religious duty, than actually feeling His presence. I began to study other religions and actually began to pray—not in a formal sense like in the synagogue, but I simply asked God to show me if He was real and what He expected from me.
To be honest, I was drawn to Jesus. His message of salvation was so different from any other religion I had studied. Every single one of them put the emphasis on whatI did. Do this on Friday. Do that in the morning. Be a good person. And by all means, never do this. But the message He preached conceded that my case was hopeless. There was nothing I could do to please God in light of all I had done against Him. That was why He came; in order to give His life as a sacrifice; to take my punishment—or so they say. It was the only philosophy that didn’t stress religious obligation, but instead presented me with the opportunity to accept the fact that 1) I was a sinner; 2) I could not save myself; 3) Jesus had taken my punishment; and 4) through faith in Him, I could have eternal life.
You may be thinking, So what’s the problem? Buy into it! Not quite so easy. You see, being Jewish, I was convinced that to believe in Him would be to deny my faith, my heritage, and my community. Everyone knew that to believe in Yeshua was to betray the Jewish people—a people who had suffered more than any other, and had so often suffered in the name of the very One to Whom I was attracted. And add to that the fact that the whole Jewish community knew my father was the son of Holocaust survivors. Surely they would all turn on me. And it seemed to me that they would be right. What kind of a Jew takes sides with the descendants of the Crusaders? When I went to my rabbi to confide in him, he nearly bit my head off. He told me to drop my pursuit and never bring it up again—“for the sake of your family.” I was completely and utterly confused—immobilized.
And then he came. His name is Ariel. I was at a Starbucks sipping on a double shot espresso. I have never been a Venti, non-fat, no-foam, no-water, six pump, extra-hot, chai tea, latte kind of a guy—just strong espresso. That was all I needed to get my creative juices flowing in order to write. I was sitting there reading the paper,getting ready to start on my column, when suddenly the entire room became white. In fact, it was so bright that white seems like an understatement. Everyone was gone—the girl behind the counter, the tattooed hipster listening to his iPod, the student on his computer, the couple that appeared to be going over a business plan… all gone!
I was terrified. Suddenly a man appeared… an angel. He introduced himself. “I am Ariel, an angel of the Most High.” He was about six feet tall, quite fit, with dark hair, dark skin, and a short beard. He was wearing a white robe, interestingly, just as I would have imagined an angel to be dressed.
I said nothing. “David, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you and the lessons you will learn, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
“I have been sent to give you understanding. You are a confused Jewish young man, but you have found favor in the eyes of Adonai.” I knew Adonai was Hebrew for Lord. Even though I had not been very religious, going to Hebrew school three times a week during much of my teen years had not been a complete waste.
He continued, “I have come to take you on a journey, to show you the past, the present, and even the future. At times you will beg me to stop, but in order for you to understand the truth, and help others to understand, you must experience it—you must experience all of it.”
I found my voice, but could not think of anything to say. Before I knew it the angel grabbed my hand and suddenly we were flying through time. It is very hard to explain on paper, in words, what I was experiencing, which is one reason that it has taken me a year to begin this testimony.
I somehow knew that we were going back in time. It was thrilling and yet petrifying. I could see scenes in time, but from a distance. And then everything suddenly grew bigger, as when a plane lands. Like a timeline, I could see we were in the second century, now the first. Things grew really close, as if I was zooming in on Google maps. The Middle East, Israel, Jerusalem! And then, we passed right through a roof and gently landed inside what seemed like an ancient synagogue from the Second Temple period. Only there were several rows of seats, like in a modern movie theatre, and a massive screen. Torches lit up the room, as it was night.
There were other angels there. Two were above me and there were two at every entrance. They said nothing and Ariel didn’t even acknowledge them. It appeared they were standing guard. Then I thought, am I in some kind of danger? It reminded me of the first time I visited Israel. The armed soldiers at the airport made me feel safe and deeply concerned at the same time. From what and who were they were protecting me?! And now the question that plagued my mind was, What dangerous spiritual force is seeking my demise?
“What is going on? Is this a dream?” Words finally found their way out of my mouth. I knew this couldn’t be really happening and yet I was quite sure I was awake. The only thing missing was Morpheus offering me a blue pill or a red one.
“David, your journey will begin here. You will watch events in the lives of four Jews, all from different time periods during the last 2,000 years. You see David, you are struggling with the idea of being Jewish and believing in Yeshua—you don’t mind if we refer to Him by his Hebrew name, do you?” It was more of a statement than a question. He continued, “You feel that to believe would be a betrayal. But that is only because you do not know that the Yeshua you imagine in your mind is not the Yeshua Who walked the streets not too far from where we are right now.”
“So, we are in Jerusalem?” I asked.
“The Old City, to be exact. The year is 35 CE, a time when the Messiah was understood in the context in which the Jewish prophets described Him. The multitudes who followed Him during this period were all Jews.
“Over the years, that has changed. His message has touched nearly every nation… and that is a good thing. However, in the process, the nature and identity of the Messiah has been tampered with, even altered, by those without the authority to do so. In short, there has been an insidious case of Identity Theft….
“Long before computer hackers and credit cards, the most destructive, most horrendous case of identity theft occurred and the victim was the Messiah Himself! Today, we will uncover it, and then you, young man, will expose it to the world.”
“Sit down. Let’s begin,” instructed Ariel.
Feeling completely confused and utterly intrigued, I sat in what was the most amazingly comfortable chair I had ever sat in, immediately forgetting the burden that he had just placed upon me—“You will expose it to the world”—I waited to see what would come next. Ariel picked up a remote, pointed it towards the screen and pressed a button. The torches in the room faded, until it was completely dark. The film began to play.
Living with Shame
Words emerged on the screen:
27 CE, Capernaum, Galilee
Then a woman appeared and began to talk, as if she were being interviewed:
“I am a Jewess and my claim to fame is that my story, wonderful in and of itself, was recorded—at least the most important part—for posterity, by not just one, but bythree ancient writers!”
As she continued to talk, I watched her story unfold like a movie.
“My name is Chaya. I spent my childhood playing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. And each evening my father would come home after a day of fishing, bringing fresh tilapia with him for dinner. Now I know that the smell of fish isn’t everyone’s favorite, but for me it conjures up precious memories of my hardworking father who loved and provided for his family. My mother worked hard as well, taking care of the home and her children, using all her ingenuity to feed and clothe us. But no matter how hard they worked, there was never enough after paying the crippling taxes imposed by the nation’s Roman overlords.
“Like most Galileans, we longed for the day when the Messiah would come and free us from the tyranny of the Romans. Every Shabbat we would go to the synagogue, in the center of our village, to hear the Torah read and to pray. It was a constant reminder to us all that God had saved our people once before when we were slaves in Egypt—surely He could do it again, and the sooner the better.
“In my late teens, around the age when many of my friends were being given in marriage, I began to bleed heavily. I went to every doctor in the area but none of them could help me. For twelve years I suffered greatly. The deepest pain of all was the social stigma, the loneliness, and the knowledge that no one would take me in marriage with this condition. I had no friends, because everyone I came in contact with would become ritually unclean. I began to realize that even if I lived a long life, I would never know the joy of having children, of holding a baby in my arms, or hearing my children’s laughter at play. It broke my heart.
“Along with being emotionally drained, I was physically weak and, to make matters even worse, I was now destitute. Because I was unclean, I could never enter a synagogue to hear the Scriptures read. Over the years I had spent all I had on doctors and medicines—all to no avail. If it weren’t for the fear of the Almighty, I think I would have taken my own life. Baruch HaShem (Praise the Lord), I didn’t!
“I was in my late twenties when I first heard of the Rabbi from Nazareth. He was trained as a carpenter, they said, but He spoke like an angel—like someone who truly knew God, not just knew about Him. He had recently come to live in Capernaum and was invited to read from the Torah in our synagogue.
“I remember it so clearly. People were truly amazed by His words. He didn’t speak like the other rabbis or the priests. He spoke with such authority!
“He created quite a stir, and several of the young men from our village attached themselves to Him. In fact, a number of them had worked with my father on the fishing boats. Jacob and John, two brothers a few years younger than I, actually became part of His inner circle.
“Before long, stories began to circulate that He could heal the sick. Suddenly, for the first time in many years I felt hope stirring within me. Could He heal me? But how could I, a woman who could hardly walk the short distance to the mar- ket, ever get close to Yeshua?
“For days I thought about nothing else. I was desperate. If He were to heal me, I could live again, maybe get married, even have children—I could have a life! But the more I thought about it, the more impossible it became. How could I, as a woman in my unclean state, ever get anywhere near the Rabbi?
“Then one afternoon, I heard a commotion outside. Because I lived so near the city square, I went out to see what was happening. Quite a crowd had gathered and I was told that Yeshua was coming, that He was on His way to the house of Jairus, one of the leaders in our synagogue. Jairus’s daughter had been very sick and over the past few days had taken a turn for the worse. Earlier that day I’d heard they feared she might die. Jairus, in desperation, had begged Yeshua to come to his house and pray for his daughter.
“When I finally got to the square, I saw the Rabbi surrounded by masses of people. My heart sank. I felt so drained. I had no energy at all. Twelve years of bleeding takes its toll. And then, suddenly, I felt a surge of strength, of determination. I had to try. I knew that if I could just touch the tzitzit, the fringes on His garment, I would be healed. I was sure of it. I had to touch Him.
“Caught up in the crowd, I began to push and fight my way through. I am sure many were surprised that poor, quiet little Chaya was suddenly aggressively pushing her way past them. But if any were offended, I didn’t notice. After more than a decade of weakness and suffering, I really didn’t care. I meant to reach Him at any cost.
“In Jewish culture it is forbidden for a woman to pub- licly touch a man, much less a man she is neither married to nor acquainted with! Moreover, the nature of my problem deemed me perpetually unclean according to biblical law, so that anyone or anything I touched would become unclean. And yet, I was compelled, driven in my soul, to go through with it.
“Finally, I could see Him in front of me. One final charge! And just then, I was flung to the ground. The crowd was so thick that I thought I would be trampled. A foot on my hand, a kick in the back… No! I jumped to my feet and pushed forward until I was within reach of the Rabbi.
“This was it. With all the strength I could muster, I lurched forward, just barely managing to graze the fringe of His tallit with my fingers. And as I did, I felt such power come into me. But it was more than power…it was pure, it was clean, it was life!
“I knew in that moment that I had been healed, but more than that, I had been changed, radically changed. My life would never be the same. No, it wasn’t that I would now be desirable to a man. At that moment, everything else was irrelevant compared to the pure joy that was radiating within me. I had found more than a husband—I had found the God I had only known from stories and traditions. Now, through this Galilean Rabbi, I was in the presence of the Almighty.
“Of course, I had believed in the God of Israel all my life. I had always celebrated the Holy Days of Passover and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Sukkot, and Shavuot. And I had hoped that the Messiah would one day come. But never had I realized that Elohim could be this close—He could be felt and experienced. And without ever realizing that I hadn’t known it before, I now knew that He loved me.
“As all this was happening inside of me, I suddenly realized that the Master had stopped walking. He turned and asked, ‘Who touched Me?’ It seemed like a ridiculous question when dozens of people were touching Him as they pressed in. His puzzled disciples said as much. Yet, ignoring them, He continued to look around.
“I knew He was referring to me and I was terrified. I wanted to run, and yet I wanted to be with Him forever. The way He said, ‘Who touched Me?’ made me feel like I had taken something without permission. I was scared, but still I went forward and fell at His feet and confessed that it was I.
“What had I done? Everyone was looking at me. Barely above a whisper, I told Him about my sickness and how I felt that if I could just touch Him I would be healed. And just like that, a huge smile appeared on His face as He took my hand and said, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’
“Those words changed my life. He called me daughter and despite the fact that I was nearly as old as He, I don’t know that I ever experienced more fatherly love than I did at that moment. In an instant I was transformed from being unclean and undesirable, to being a woman who was healed and highly favored by the Messiah Himself.”
Now I was crying, weeping with joy for this woman. My daughters had always laughed at how easily I can cry during a movie. But this was the most moving thing I had ever seen! Hollywood could never compete with Heaven!
“You might be wondering whatever happened to the daughter of Jairus. Sadly, she died before Yeshua was able to pray for her. Yet, the Master still went to Jairus’s home. When He arrived, everyone was weeping and mourning ‘Why all this commotion and wailing?’ He asked. ‘The child is not dead but asleep.’
“But though they laughed at Him, He was not dissuaded. He threw everyone out of the house and, taking the child by the hand, told her to get up. And she did! She was brought back from death! We could hardly believe it!
“From then on He traveled from village to village throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea preaching the ‘good news of the kingdom,’ healing all who were sick and casting out demons from those who were oppressed. Oh, what an amazing time it was!
“Yet, how abruptly it all ended—or so we thought. On the eve of Passover, just a couple of years later, He was betrayed and handed over to the Romans by some of our religious leaders. Many thought that once the Romans arrested Him, He would then lead a revolt against them. But before we knew it, contrary to all expectation, the Romans crucified Him—they nailed Him to a cruel Cross! Crucifixion was the most excruciating kind of death that existed.
“Along with a number of others, I had followed Him to Jerusalem. We were all devastated. We had had such high hopes. We thought that, like Moses, He would deliver us from our enemies. But instead they killed Him. I don’t have words to describe. With John by her side supporting her, His distraught mother was in agony as she watched her precious son die a torturous death. This was not supposed to happen! He was our hope.
“However, incredibly, after several days, in the midst of our despair, word began to spread that the One we had watched die, was alive. And unbelievably, it was true! He had risen from the dead. Over a period of forty days, His disciples and hundreds of other people saw Him, including me! And then, while His followers watched, He, our Messiah, was taken up into Heaven.
“In accordance with His last instructions, 120 of us stayed in Jerusalem and waited for the promised Holy Spirit. For ten days we prayed and many fasted. Then on Shavuot, while seeking Him in one of the enclaves of the Temple courtyard, without warning, suddenly, there was the sound of a mighty rushing wind and the power of Elohim fell upon us.
“Shimon, from Capernaum, left the enclave, part of Solomon’s Porch, where we had been praying and ventured into the Temple courtyard. Under the power of God’s Spirit he began to speak boldly to the massive crowd of Jews who were at the Temple for Shavuot. They were already wondering what was happening after hearing the sound of the mighty wind. He proclaimed to them that the Messiah of Israel lives. I had never before seen him like that. It was hard to believe that this was the same fisherman who had worked with my father. Suddenly, he had stature and passion. His words were tangible—like arrows piercing the hearts of his hearers. The thousands gathered there in the Temple courts hung on his every word as he spoke with incredible confidence and astounding authority about eternal life and their need to repent. That day our number grew from 120 to several thousand.
“That was all of ten years ago. Tens of thousands of Jews have found peace through Yeshua, their Messiah, since that day. And yes, I did find a husband, and we now have four children, all of whom, except the baby of course, have placed their trust in the Messiah, much to our delight.
“The future is bright. We know that soon Yeshua will return and this time He will set up His kingdom on earth, but first we must spread His message to the rest of Israel and to the Jews scattered farther abroad.
“Oh, and let me tell you the latest development that has everyone talking. We recently heard the strangest news from Shimon. He claimed that Elohim told him to go into the house of a Gentile, a Roman commander named Cornelius, and to preach there. This caused something of a commotion, as we Jews would never normally go into the house of a Gentile.1 They are saying, however, that when Shimon arrived there was a huge crowd gathered. As he began to teach, the Ruach Hakodesh, the Spirit of God, fell upon the people there just as He did upon us at Shavuot, and they began to speak in tongues and praise Elohim!
“Shimon thought, If the Spirit is falling upon them as He did on us, how can we stop them from being immersed in water? Can you believe it? We are all amazed that Gentiles are now following the Jewish Messiah and are even being immersed in water! No one is going to believe this!”
The movie ended and the lights came on. I turned to Ariel and said, “I don’t understand. Why was she surprised that Gentiles were believing in Jesus? Virtually the only people I know today who believe in Him are Gentiles!”
“Let us not run too far ahead. All will be clear soon enough. Now sit down again,” he gently said, “intermission is over.” The lights dimmed and once again, just as before, a date and place appeared on the screen.
1. To be clear, the Torah does not forbid fellowship with non- Jews, but the Pharisees placed a huge emphasis on ritual purity. Because they could never be sure if a Gentile had come into contact with something or someone unclean, it was far easier just to decree that you could not go into the home of a Gentile; that way you would know that you were not ritually unclean.