Friends sharing Good News with friends
The Apostle John gives a good summary of witnessing in his first epistle: “the life [of Jesus] was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you . . . that which we have seen and heard . . .” (1 John 1:2-3). Effective witnessing is telling what one has seen and/or heard-much as a witness in a legal case gives a testimony. But witnessing to a Jewish person goes far beyond reciting the facts of the Gospel message. Witnessing must become a dialogue between two individuals, each with mutual respect and a genuine interest in the well being of the other. Because the best witness is the witness of a friend or close relation (see John 1:40-45), the first step in sharing the Gospel with a Jewish person is to develop a friendship. Your witness will do best as it grows naturally out of a deepening relationship.
Don’t befriend a Jewish person merely to “get him saved,” however. The person will sense this and feel you are only interested in him as a project or trophy. Let your friendship and love be genuine. It must not rise or fall on your friend’s response to the Gospel.
Witnessing encounters with strangers are certainly wonderful opportunities, but this pamphlet describes a witness that takes place within the context of a growing relationship. (And, for editorial efficiency, this pamphlet uses “him” to refer to the person to whom you may be witnessing about the person of Jesus.)
Try to understand your Jewish friend
It is important to understand your Jewish friend’s mindset towards the Gospel message. What is to you a beautifully clear story of redemption actually presents several deep-rooted obstacles to your Jewish friend. Here are a few simple points that can help you be more sensitive:
Have you noticed that Jewish people are frequently negative towards Christianity? You might be too if your people had been persecuted over the centuries in “Christian countries” and in the name of Christ! Many Jewish person believe that to become a Christian is to side with those who have mistreated his people. This is tantamount to treachery to one’s ancestors.
- Jewish people cannot comprehend how a person can be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. They presume that if they accept Jesus they can no longer be Jewish.
- Jewish people are not especially religious. Most modern Jews value the traditional and cultural elements of their heritage more than the religious. In fact, synagogue attendance in the United States is below 15%!
- Jewish people are taught to reject certain essential teachings of the Bible such as the Trinity, the deity of the Messiah, and the Second Coming of Jesus.
- Jewish people are not especially familiar with the Old Testament. Most would question whether the Bible was even inspired by God. Orthodox Jews do accept the Scriptures, but most modern and secular Jewish people do not accept the divine authority of their own Old Testament.
- Most Jewish people are surprised to hear that Jesus was Jewish and the New Testament was written by Jews. They view the New Testament as a “non-Jewish” book that has spawned another world religion. Some even think Jesus was a nice Jewish boy who converted to Christianity!
- Jewish people intuitively know that if they were to consider Jesus, their families and friends would not understand them, and some might even disown them. We see an example of this in John 9, where the Jewish leaders threatened the parents of the blind man with excommunication if they acknowledged that Jesus had healed their son.
Your Jewish friend might have other objections to the Gospel as well. He might be an agnostic or even an atheist. He might not believe in God or even in the coming of the Messiah. Before you present the Gospel, you might need to begin by establishing evidence about the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible.
Besides these particularly Jewish dynamics in witnessing, don’t forget that Scripture declares that “. . . There is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11). No human being, apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit, seeks to admit his need for salvation before a holy God. So don’t let an initial rejection discourage you. Anticipate the first “no,” but then keep looking for opportunities to extend God’s love and patiently share the Gospel.
Four Biblical precepts for witnessing
While there are no foolproof techniques for reaching your Jewish friend with the Gospel, four fundamental precepts should guide your efforts:
The Scriptures tell us that faith comes through hearing the Word of God (see Romans 10:17). Sometimes, because Jewish people are not familiar with the New Testament or even with the Old, we tend to use reason and logic more than God’s Word. The Bible has self-authenticating authority that can touch hearts: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). The Scriptures should be the key benchmark of truth when we are witnessing.
Don’t be discouraged when your friend rejects Christianity. There is often much historical baggage involved. Just remember: the Gospel is about a Person-Jesus the Messiah. It is about a relationship, not a religion. When you distinguish between Jesus and the Jewish understanding of the Christian religion, many objections dissipate.
Your Jewish friend does not need to feel that by accepting Jesus he is giving up his Jewish identity. You are not asking him to “convert” to another religion, but to become “complete” by receiving the Jewish Messiah.
Certain words may have totally different, even offensive, meanings to your Jewish friend. Often, such words as “cross” and “Christ” bring up collective memories of persecution by so-called “Christians.” Be sensitive in your choice of words. Try using “Messiah” instead of “Christ,” “tree” instead of “cross,” and even “Yeshua” instead of “Jesus.” You want to communicate the Jewishness of the Gospel message.
A witness declares what he or she has seen and heard. Although you have not seen or spoken with Messiah Jesus on this earth (as did the Apostle John), you can still be a credible witness to the life-changing reality of His presence in your life. This is not so much by your verbal witness but by the witness of your life, demonstrating that the Messiah lives in and through you. In other words, witnesses should only testify about what they personally know to be true.
Some icebreakers to help you get started
Some of the best opportunities to talk about the Lord happen during normal, friendly interactions. Don’t be afraid of offending your Jewish friend by bringing up the subject of your faith in Jesus.
Affirm your friend’s Jewish identity
By affirming your friend’s Jewish identity, you will be showing your love for him and making the statement that he can be Jewish and believe in Jesus!
You can do this tactfully by sending greeting cards on the Jewish holidays, showing an interest in current events that concern the Jewish people and especially by showing some sensitivity to what is happening in Israel.
Many of the Jewish holidays, such as Passover and the Fall Feasts, appear in the New Testament and can give you an opportunity to present the Gospel. Your friend will be intrigued that your belief in Jesus gives you an appreciation for Jewish heritage. Chosen People Ministries has materials available to help you be a more effective witness by incorporating a spiritual understanding of the Jewish holidays.
Share your testimony
Tell your Jewish friend that you believe in the Jewish Messiah, and then tell him what Jesus has done for you! This will be especially powerful if you are a Gentile and have accepted the Lord as an adult. Showing how even a Gentile needed to accept Jesus will counter the idea that Christians are simply “born into the religion.” Your friend may realize for the first time that this relationship is entered into by faith and not merely by birth. Go ahead and tell him that God did not make you stop being Italian, Norwegian or Oklahoman, and that he doesn’t have to stop being Jewish!
Look for an area of need
Your Jewish friend might tell you about a problem. This is the time to bring up an appropriate Scripture or even to pray for him. Perhaps you can suggest a Christian book that addresses the problem. Let him know ahead of time that the book is written from a Christian perspective, so that there are no surprises. Follow up later to get his opinion on the book’s contents.
Invite your friend to church
Don’t be afraid of inviting your Jewish friend to a special event at church that might interest him – perhaps a special speaker, video series, or musical event. You can offer to attend synagogue in return. Just the act of inviting him may open up opportunities to share your faith.
Ask direct questions
You might find that jumping in and asking thoughtful questions works for you. Here are some ideas:
- As a Jewish person, how do you practice your religion?
- How often do you read the Bible? What role does it play in your life?
- What do you believe about the Messiah?
Introduce your friend to a Jewish believer
Another way to tell your Jewish friend about Jesus is to introduce him to Jewish believers. There are many ways to do this. You can contact Chosen People Ministries, as we are in touch with a worldwide network of Jewish people who believe in Jesus, many of whom would be more than willing to meet your Jewish friend.
We can also tell you about Messianic meetings in various areas so you can accompany your Jewish friend to a Bible study or service that is Jewish in character, where of course Jesus is lifted up as Messiah and Savior. If you cannot take advantage of these opportunities, you can still introduce your friend to Jewish believers through written testimonies.
You can write to our headquarters and ask for a copy of the Chosen People Ministries catalog of materials, and especially the book, Jesus was a Jew, which includes several wonderful testimonies of Jewish people who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
There are many ways to make it clear to your Jewish friends that your hope for them is to enter into a relationship with the living God through Jesus the Messiah. You are not trying to convert them to another religion! By God’s grace, your Jewish friend will see that belief in Jesus is the most Jewish belief he can have!
Presenting the Gospel from the Hebrew Scriptures
Once you establish a friendship, and are sensitive to your Jewish friend’s special needs, you can present the Gospel in a number of different ways. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. After all, you are not witnessing to “the Jews,” but to an individual Jewish person who has ideas, needs, and personal thoughts and questions about the meaning of life.
Studying the Gospels
It’s always a good idea to encourage your friend to read the Bible on his own. If your friend is interested in studying the Bible with you, a good place to begin is the Gospel of Matthew, which was written especially to the Jewish people. In Matthew, he will not only see Jesus as the Messiah, but will discover many Old Testament passages about the Messiah which Matthew quotes (at least 47 references, most of them Messianic). You might also try the Gospel of John, as it will enable your friend to grapple with the teachings of Jesus.
When you study the Gospels with your Jewish friend, be sure to go slowly, explaining the meaning of unfamiliar theological terms. Go back to the Old Testament when the Gospel writers quote it. Be sensitive to the Jewish issues involved – the controversies with Jewish leaders, the celebration of Jewish holidays. Point out how Jewish the New Testament really is!
Studying Messianic prophecy
Another good way to study is to review Old Testament Messianic prophecy-which paints a picture of the Messiah-and then look to the New Testament for the fulfillment of those prophecies. Remember, your Jewish friend is beginning his study with little background, even in the Old Testament. Begin with some of the major Messianic prophecies.
Try to point out the context of the passages and allow your friend to discover many of the truths for himself. Ask questions as you go over the text. Let your friend read the passage and see if he can answer some questions you ask of the text. “To what does the prophet refer?” “Who fits that description?” These questions will help your Jewish friend grapple with the text and come to his own conclusions.
Encourage your friend to use his own Jewish Bible if he has one. Be aware, though, that the order of the books is different, and some verses are numbered slightly differently as well (we will note it when there is a difference).
We will now briefly outline some major Messianic prophecies. Try not to present too many of them at once. Your Jewish friend will need some time to “digest” the information before you go on!