There were seventy people – eighty, tops. And they probably didn’t know what hit them because nobody saw it coming.
In this Messianic congregation in Rome circa 57 A.D., a Gentile audience listens intently as someone reads a letter. The writer who sent it is a Jewish man from Tarsus, and he’s not telling them what they want to hear.
Because what they want to hear is that, since they don’t have to keep the same traditions that Jewish people do to be equal before God, God must love these Gentiles more! But what they hear instead is a call to stop boasting and start sharing the Good News with the very Jews they just tried to devaluate.
But it doesn’t end there. In fact, this is just the beginning. The writer, Paul, even describes the lengths he would go to just to see his fellow Jewish people saved:
I tell the truth in Messiah — I do not lie, my conscience assuring me in the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) 2 that my sorrow is great and the anguish in my heart unending. 3 For I would pray that I myself were cursed, banished from Messiah for the sake of my people — my own flesh and blood”
The – call it – “majestic” language of this Bible version (TLV), may not fully convey the dramatic urgency here. In plain English, what Paul is saying to these Gentiles is, “Would you like to know what I’d be willing to do to see my Jewish brothers and sisters saved? For starters, if I had to give up my life – if that’s what it took in order for a Jewish person to know Yeshua – I’d do it”.
But, like I said, it doesn’t end there; it’s even more than that.
Because Paul says that if he had to go so far as to even give up his gift of salvation – of spending eternity with Yeshua – if he had to throw even that away to see Jewish people come to know Yeshua as their Messiah, he’d be willing to do that, too.
To give you an idea of the gravity of what Paul said, I’m reminded of an instance some 10 years ago in India at one of our Medical Outreaches. Our founder. Jonathan Bernis. was reflecting on the very words you just read. After a brief pause in his message, he said, “Think about this; not only was Paul willing to give up his life now, but also his very eternity. This is huge. Absent from the body, present with the Lord is instant joy, but eternal separation from God? That’s a real long time.”
His point was that if Paul was willing to do this, and the Word of God is the same yesterday, today and always, what are you willing to do to see your Jewish brothers and sisters come to know Jesus today? No one is asking you to give up your life or salvation, but shouldn’t the same passion and urgency be there for us in our day and our time also?
As you may know, part of the mission of Jewish Voice Ministries is to proclaim the Gospel to the Jew first, as this same letter-writer directs us to in Romans 1:16. Yet the irony is that in our day, Jewish people aren’t given the Good News first, or even last. All too often, it’s not at all.
As you look to deepen the roots of your faith, we pray that you’ll stand on the truth of Scripture and work together with us in carrying out this special calling. It is one that God has chosen and blessed us with as we – in accordance with Titus 2:13 – wait for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Messiah Yeshua.
Rabbi Jack Zimmerman
Jewish Voice Ministries International