I’ve found that the hardest part of sharing Christ with someone is getting started.
So here’s an easy way to swing to a gospel-conversation with a Jewish person.
Tonight is the first evening of Chanukah (or Hanukkah, Hannukah, or a bunch of other possible spellings.) Merely go up to a Jewish friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc. and say, “Hey, Happy Hanukah. I hear tonight’s the first night.”
They’ll probably say thank you, and you ask, “So, will you be lighting the menorah tonight?”
They might say yes or no, and you might offer (very kindly), “I just found out that the only place in the whole Bible where Hanukah is mentioned is in the New Testament. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, and verse 22, Jesus celebrated Hanukah. So since I’m a believer in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, and He celebrated Hanukah, I think it’s a great holiday. What are your thoughts?”
And you’re off…
Now here’s why I believe this is powerful:
- Most Jewish people know VERY LITTLE about their own religion. Being Jewish is VERY MEANINGFUL culturally, but most couldn’t tell you the difference between David, Isaiah, or Mickey Mouse.
- Most Jewish people are self-righteous and don’t like it when Gentiles know more about their religion than they do. In fact, God used this in saving me – but that’s another story and very long…
- Most Jewish people feel on some level that Gentiles are at least a little Anti-Semitic, and there is very much an “us versus them” guardedness.
- Most Jewish people think that to believe in Jesus means to give up Judaism.
So this evangelism tip smashes all four of those presuppositions. The goal is not to shatter the person, but to lovingly humble them. Because ultimately what keeps anyone from Christ is pride, the lack of humility.
When you show an interest in a Jewish holiday, you show that #4 is wrong. You’re a Gentile and you’re interested in a Jewish holiday, and you’re probably even more excited about it than they are. It wouldn’t surprise me if most Jewish people didn’t even know that tonight is the first night of Hanukah. When you mention the menorah, many might possibly be ashamed that they don’t own a menorah.
You also smash #3 because you show that you’re not only NOT Anti-Semitic, but you’re PRO-Jewish. I remember when I first got saved I almost didn’t want to tell people at my church that I was Jewish because I feared they wouldn’t like me. I know that’s irrational, but I thought most Gentiles were somewhat Anti-Semitic. Of course I learned quickly that people who love the Bible and believe it will LOVE the Jewish people because Jesus is Jewish! But most un-saved Jewish people don’t see things this way, so your interest will surprise them.
By knowing that tonight is the first night, and bringing up the menorah, and knowing where in the Bible it is mentioned, you smash #1 and #2, because it will become evident that you know more about Hanukah than they do and they won’t like that.
Paul said, “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them” (Romans 11:13-14).
Here Paul boasts that he teaches Gentiles (a horror to the Jewish people at the
time) and magnified the fact that he was teaching Gentiles who were interested in the Hebrew Scriptures (the only Bible available at Paul’s time). And Paul expected the Jewish people to be provoked to jealousy over this, with the end goal that God would use that to save some of them.
That’s one of the ways I got saved. I was so mad that a Gentile knew more about Judaism than I did! So I started to read the New Testament to show him how ridiculous it must be and within a week God saved me. But that’s for another email…
I cannot stress enough that this must be done in humility and love and no hint of self-righteousness or “I know more than you” attitude.
So tonight is Hanukah. Jesus celebrated it, and it’s a great holiday because it celebrates that God yet again supernaturally preserved His people and returned the desecrated Temple back to His people. The Temple was re-dedicated once it was cleaned from the abominations that the Greeks brought in. That’s why Hanukah is also called the “Feast of Dedication.”
So I give you John 10:22: “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter.” So there it is, the only place in the Bible where Hanukah is mentioned. The New Living Translation amplifies it and actually names the holiday, “It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.” And if you read on, this passage is where Jesus clearly states His deity and says that He and the Father are One. Jesus chose Hanukah to make such an amazing declaration!
In our home I remind the children that Jesus is the light of the world, and He commissions us to be lights in this dark world too. There is a candle for each day of Hanukah, and an extra candle. The extra candle is called a “Shamash” and you light that one and then use that candle to light the others. “Shamash” means “servant” and it is the servant candle that provides the light. The other candles could not shine if not for receiving light from the servant. In the same way, because Jesus took on Himself the form of a servant and died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can become light only through Him. It’s a wonderful picture of the Spirit-filled Christian life.
Incidentally, I grew up always knowing the main candle was called the “shamash” but I didn’t know the meaning of it until my wife Shelby told me. This was years ago before we were even dating. This Gentile woman knew more about Judaism than I did!
I’ve learned that she knows more than me in a LOT of areas.
Anyhow, I hope this will be a good tip you can use to start an evangelistic conversation with a Jewish person today, or for the next 8 days.
And remember, in the words of Adam Sandler, it’s “So much fun-a-kah to celebrate Hanukah!” 🙂
P.S. Contact me if you want to know more about this, or check out an article I wrote a while back called Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Jewish People (or… The Gospel According to Fiddler on the Roof.) You can download that at:
P.P.S. If you want even more Jewish Evangelism Resources, I compiled a list called Resources to Help Reach Jewish People with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you can download that at: http://www.luke-15.org/Resources_to_Help_Reach_Jewish_People_with_the_Gospel.pdf.