Barriers to a Jewish Witness Part II

Note:  Please refer to Part I

We see in the New Testament that the apostles used many of the Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.  In the book of Acts, from beginning to end, we witness the apostles again and again quoting the Old Testament scriptures to a Jewish audience to affirm Jesus was the Messiah.  (Reference Acts 2:25-34, 3:21-23, 4:25-26, 8:32-35, 13:27, 17:1-3, 18:28, 24:14, 26:6-22 and 28:23).  So here is something essential; we need to believe in the POWER of the WORD and remember how JESUS witnessed to the Jewish people.  He showed them in the WORD where the law and the prophets of the Old Testament foretold His coming and His purpose here.  Three powerful examples are in Luke 4:16-21, Luke 24:27, and Luke 24:44-45.  We should consider using the same method.  Every Jew will have an interest in the Old Testament (even secular Jews) because they regard this scripture as theirs; it shows that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

A common response from young Jewish people is “show me in the Old Testament where the Son of God is mentioned and I will believe it”.  I have in the past shown just one verse to the amazement of a young Jewish person.  Look at all these verses for more power in sharing:

  • Proverbs 30:4
  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7
  • Psalm 2:7
  • Zachariah 12:9-10

In additional let me speak about some verses which provide a clear view in the Old Testament of Jesus as the Messiah:

In Psalm 2:7, it clearly says that all the nations of the world will be subject to this Son.  This was never true of David’s son Solomon, so it cannot be referring to him.  In addition the classical interpretation of this verse is of the Messiah also.

In Daniel 9:25-26, we read the TIME OF THE MESSIAH’S COMING; verse 26 reads that the Messiah had to come before the second temple was destroyed.  Note that Titus and the Roman soldiers destroyed it in 70 A.D.   I have heard or read of several prominent Jewish men who have accepted Jesus as Messiah just through this prophecy.  Some Hebrew scholars have suggested that King Agrippa was the one referred to by the Hebrew word “Mashiach” (Messiah).  Note that King Agrippa died before 70 A.D.  Although Hebrew scholars were correct about requiring this to be fulfilled before the second temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Messiah spoken about could not be King Agrippa since Agrippa was not even from David’s seed nor was he a benevolent ruler.  It could never be considered that Agrippa would be the Messiah.

Micah 5:2 speaks about the birthplace of the Messiah.  This is weighty evidence to present to a Jewish person.  Most Jewish people, as I said in Part I, have no idea that this verse and other prophecies like it exist.

Isaiah 35:1,5-6 speaks about the messiah healing the sick. Jesus truly fulfilled this.  See Luke 4:16-21.

Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 speak about the Messiah as “a light to the gentiles”.  This is such an important fact to present to Jewish people.  What was it that made millions of gentiles come to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  This was predicted of the Messiah, that He would be “a light to the Gentiles”.

Zachariah 9:9 speaks about the Messiah coming as a lowly king, yet bringing salvation.  The ancient rabbis say, “if the people are worthy when Messiah comes, he will come riding a white horse.  If they are not worthy, he will come riding on a donkey”.

Isaiah 53 contains the wonderful prophecy of Jesus.  More Jewish people have come to faith reading this prophecy than any other in the Old Testament.  It could be called the “John 3:16 of Messianic prophesy”.  Often I ask Jewish people to read it carefully, and then I ask them who is it speaking about.  The reply most of the time is “Jesus”.  I have heard from scholars who say it was the sufferings of Israel spoken of and not the Messiah.  This is a modern day rabbinical answer.  The idea or application that this refers to the suffering of Israel is unfounded.  Israel, it is true, is called the “servant of the Lord” in places like Isaiah 49:3, but NEVER the “righteous servant” as spoken about in Isaiah 53:11.   Contrary, Isaiah speaks of the people of Israel as a people of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) and that their sins have “made a separation between you and God.”  (Isaiah 59:2).

Another very strong point worth mentioning comes from Isaiah 52:4 and Isaiah 53:8. In Isaiah 52:4, “my people” is without a doubt referring to Israel in the phrase “my people went down at first into Egypt to reside there.”  In Isaiah 53:8, the “my people” term appears again with reference to Israel, alongside of the promised “He”.  Jewish scholars attempt to define the term “He” as Israel.  If this is the case, the question can be asked (as it has been asked of me on numerous occasions):  “If the “MY people” in verse 8 is Israel, who is the “He” in the same verse?”  Both cannot refer to Israel. It would be impossible to say  “for the sins of my people (Israel), was He (Israel) stricken” This would make “my people” (Israel) stricken for “my people” (He).  The term “He” must refer to the Messiah.

It is interesting to also note that the three main Hebrew words for sin are used in this famous chapter.  “Iniquity” (Hebrew = “Avone”) “transgression” (Hebrew – “Pesha”), and sin (Hebrew – “Het”, which means missing the mark’).  In each instance, this righteous servant takes our sins.  “He was pierced through (wounded) for our transgressions”.  (Verse 5).  “The Lord has caused the inequity of us all to fall upon Him”.  (Verse 6),  “He bore the sin on many” (Verse 12).  If we try to put the word “Israel” instead of the pronoun “He” and “Him” in each instance, we will see that it just doesn’t work.

Also notable is the fact that all ancient rabbinic authorities apply Isaiah 53 to Messiah.  You can see many of these comments in a booklet entitled “Challenge of the Ages” which is available at the AEBM office.

Psalm 22:1, 6-18 gives us a description of the Messiah’s death in our behalf.  I have heard of many secular and even atheistic Jewish people becoming believers after reading this prophecy.

Psalm 16:10: This verse clearly defines the Messiah’s Resurrection.

Zechariah 12:9-10:  Here, Messiah’s first and second comings are alluded to in one verse.  (This passage is very valuable because it does just that!)  Verse 9 sets the time for verse 10, that is, when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies and God will “seek to destroy all the nations that come up against Jerusalem”.  This is a future day.  When this occurs then “they will look upon Me whom they have pierced.”

Finally,  Hosea 3:5  shows that Israel would remain many days without a ruler, then be restored in the last days.  (“David their King” in verse 5 refers to Messiah, the seed of David.)

In closing, let me share a few words about the current Jewish mentality, which can range anywhere from the practicing Orthodox Jewish person wearing his skull cap (yarmulke) to the person who says he is an atheist.   Do not be surprised if most Jewish people you talk with do not believe the Bible.  He or she has never been taught to consider it as the inspired Word of God.  In question are all Messianic passages from the Old Testament; we must always let them know that it is in THEIR Old Testament that we find these passages.  Most Jewish people do not know that Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah are in the Old Testament or even that they are Biblical books.  When asking a Jewish person to read an Old Testament prophecy, for instance Isaiah 53, I will emphasize three things in introducing it; this is from Isaiah in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures written 750 B.C. Hence, they will know for sure that it is from their scriptures and certainly written before Jesus was born.  Our Old Testament differs from theirs only in that some of the prophets are in a little different order, a minor variation to be sure.  If you give them a tract and a book with the abbreviations for different books such as Isa. Or Jer. etc. make sure you explain what they stand for; I can assure you most would never have a clue.

It is essential that we show any Jewish person the fulfilled prophecy in Jesus the Messiah.  This of course is our goal, to show that Jesus is their Messiah and Savior.  He is the same Messiah that thousands of Jewish people embraced in the early church and through the last twenty centuries.  This goal is reached primarily through developing relationships. I have so many friends who have wonderful relationships with Jewish people but don’t have a clue how to go to the next step.   This two-part article hopefully offers a beginning, just a beginning, in taking these relationships further.   I can assure you that the most skeptical Jew has been won to the Savior through considering Jesus in Old Testament prophecy.  And I think it is so important to point out the impeccable life of Jesus and how he lived as convincing evidence for his being the Messiah and the Son of God.  We will find no other man who has lived a life comparable  to that of Jesus in recorded history.

Next month I will talk about the different Jewish translations, Jewish cults and Jewish sects.  Please feel free to call me anytime for more information and materials.


Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.

Barriers To Jewish Witness

During the forty centuries of its existence, the Jewish nation has been repeatedly exposed to complete annihilation.  The history of Israel is a living “message” of GOD to the nations to “behold the goodness and severity of God.”

Many Gentile Christians say “How can I witness to Jewish people, I am not Jewish?”  However, more Jewish people have been brought into the kingdom, receiving Jesus as their Messiah, through Gentile believers than through Jewish believers.  So many people respond, “I don’t know the Old Testament well enough to witness to Jewish people.”  It might amaze you to know that Jews know very little about the Old Testament.  The average believer knows more about the Old Testament than 99% of the Jewish people you meet.  Most Jewish young people, and even older Jewish people, I have spoken with have never heard of Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth of Jesus predicted), Isaiah 9:6 or Isaiah 53 (which predict Jesus’ death), or, as a matter of fact, any Old Testament prophecy predicting Jesus as the Messiah.  Many are not even aware that Isaiah is even in the Old Testament.

In addition to this lack of knowledge of the prophetic scriptures, the gentile persecution against the Jews in the name of Christianity have formed a further veil over their eyes.  They do not get a true picture of who Jesus is.  They have heard tales from their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, who have passed them on from generation to generation.  The words “CHRISTIAN – CHRIST & CROSS” can cause very negative reactions to most Jewish people.  These words to the Jewish mind often are personally connected to family histories and bring up images of PERSECTION, INTOLERANCE, HATRED, TORTURE, and MASS KILLING.  Why is this the case?  Because of a real Gentile persecution against them in the name of Christianity.  Consider the following, so you understand the Jewish view of Christianity.  A short history tour:

Saint John Chrysotrom (344-407 AD), often referred to as the bishop with the golden tongue, stated  “The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ, and for killing God, there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon.  Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever.  God has always hated the Jews, and whoever has intercourse with the Jews will be rejected on Judgment day.  It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate Jews.”

Saint Zeno (380 AD), Bishop of Verona, Italy, bewailed the fact that when inspired monks invaded Jewish homes to save Holy Scripture and in this process killed resisting Jews, only the bones of the dead ones were burned to ashes while there were still many Jews living who could have been burned for the glory of the Lord.

Saint Augustine (354 – 430 AD) said that the Jews called upon themselves for all eternity the divine malediction and must serve in no other capacity than as slaves.

Saint Athanasius (296 -373 AD), the Bishop of Alexandria, insisted that Rome deal with the Jews by use of the sword, tolerance was no better than treason against Christ.

Martin Luther (1483 – 1586 AD), once favorable toward the Jewish people, later said, “set the Synagogues on fire… in order that God can see that we are Christians… their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed.”

In 1096, the first of four crusades was instigated by the established Church of Rome.  Thousands of Jewish people were drowned, butchered and killed under the banner of the cross.

In 1099, the first crusaders finally reached Jerusalem, they assembled all the Jews in the great Synagogue and burned them alive while marching around the burning structure singing, “O Christ We Adore Thee.”  (From the book, “The Jew and the Cross” page 59).

In the year 1262, in London, 1500 Jewish people were killed by enraged mobs led by cross-bearing clergy.  From 1290-1659 AD, no Jew was allowed to live in England.

In 1550,  Pope Paul IV said Jews must be servants, wear yellow badges, and be restricted to their ghetto without permission to speak to a Christian.

In the 15th Century, the Spanish Inquisition swept across Spain.  It was designed to do away with any Jewish religious allegiance on the part of the Spanish Jewish converts to Catholicism  (these converts were called “Marranos”). Fifty thousand Jewish people died in a three-month period under the sign of the cross.

In 1654, Peter Stuvyscent requested permission to expel the Jews from New Amsterdam (New York), saying the Jewish people are “the deceitful race – such hateful enemies and blasphemers of Christ – they should not be allowed  to further infect and trouble this new colony.”

In 1881, the Pogroms (a Russian word meaning “devastation”) began to be carried out in Russia and Poland.  A head clergyman devised a plan to destroy the Jewish people.  One-third would be starved to death, one-third would be forced to emigrate and one-third would be converted by force if necessary.  The Russian Orthodox priests would come out in the village squares during these pogroms and “bless” the Russian Cossacks and peasants who would carry out these pogroms “In the name of the blessed Jesus and the holy Madonna.”  They would then proceed to murder hundreds of Jewish people by torture, fire and sword.

Note the above quotes on Jewish persecutions were taken from the book “The Jew and the Cross”.

All of these persecutions continued into the 19th century, and we are all familiar with our recent history.  All of these named in this article attempted to annihilate Jewish people in the name of Christianity.  It is no wonder one Jewish writer wrote, “To some, the Roman cross is a symbol of charity, and supreme devotion.   To the Jew, it is a reminder of perennial persecution.  The cross to the Jew is a symbol of pogrom (devastation).”

Jewish people need to know the difference between a Gentile who is not a believer and a Christian.  We must tell them the difference.  As one person has said “to them Hitler, the Pope, Mary Baker Eddy, Billy Graham are all Christians.”

A well-known Jewish Christian professor said that his former understanding was that all Gentiles were Christians; this kept him from accepting Jesus for a long time.  He would see a drunk stumble out of a bar and often think, “if that is Christianity, I don’t want it.”  I am so convinced, and often say while explaining the difference between Gentile and Christian, that to be a Christian, one must have a SPIRITUAL BIRTH FROM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB.  That’s what the founder of Christianity, Jesus, said (John 3:3).  To show Jews the difference between Christians and Gentiles, we must show them that we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

So what response can you give a Jewish person to whom the above persecutions are a stumbling block?  The Word is the ultimate response, as it truly is a light for our feet and creates a very delicate path.

In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus said that many would claim His name, and therefore claim to be Christians, who weren’t.  They would even say they had done many wonderful works in His name… and yet had never known Him.  Likewise, Jeremiah in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 23:14, 15, 25, 34, 39), states that false Jewish prophets from Jerusalem would come in the name of the God of Israel and presume to speak in His name, yet they would be speaking lies.  It is interesting that in Jeremiah 23:39 and in Matthew 23:7, a similar fate awaits both false teachers and/or prophets “being cast away from His presence”.

Because of these persecutions against Jewish people in the name of Christianity for eighteen centuries, we might understand why some common terms should be avoided and others considered in their place.  A few suggestions:





[one_half_last]Messiah – After they use the name “Jesus” in the conversation, then feel free to use it.[/one_half_last]


[one_half]Convert or Converted Jew[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Completed Jew or Jewish Believer in Messiah.[/one_half_last]



[one_half_last]Messiah’s death for us.[/one_half_last]



[one_half_last]Jewish, Jewish person, or Jewish People. The word “Jew” by itself is harsh to Jewish ears because Gentiles have used it as a curse for centuries.[/one_half_last]



[one_half_last]Always use this term in connection with Lev. 17:11 or a related verse.   Do not use just the word by itself because the word “blood” is again a reminder of the blood shed by their people as a result of Gentile persecutions.[/one_half_last]

Some additional ideas:

Never, never argue, even if you know you are right.  It will only serve to turn the other person off.  The Holy Spirit does not argue.

Never become angry or take offense if a Jewish person uses the name of “Jesus” in a derogatory manner.  They don’t think it’s wrong because they have been taught all their lives that “Jesus” was only a man.  It is interesting that most Jewish people will admit that He was a good man- one of the best men who ever lived.

Do not laugh at “Jewish jokes”. They might assume you are ridiculing them and are anti-Semitic.  Remember, Jewish people are highly sensitive to the slightest hint of anti-Semitism and rightfully so.

Don’t make the common mistake of saying “some of my best friends are Jewish.”  They will immediately think, “what about the rest of us.”

Be led by the Spirit.  Always ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, depending upon on the Spirit to direct your words .  Jesus said in Matthew 10:19-20 “…it shall be given to you in that hour what you are to speak.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

Be in an attitude of prayer.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what the person’s need is and what He wants to tell them.

Know your Messianic prophecies. “Study to show yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Listen to your friend’s point of view.  This will help you to know where he stands and also help you in dealing with any future Jewish contacts.

Substitute words that they will understand, especially for terms such as ‘saved’, ‘born again’ etc.

Speak with a Jewish frame of reference.  For instance, you might consider saying  “All I learned about God, I learned through reading a Jewish book- the Bible” or the statement “The Old and New Testaments were written by Jewish people.”  (Note:  Luke was the only possible exception.)  The fact that the New Testament was written by Jewish people will be startling to them.  They naturally assume it was written by Gentiles.

These are my thoughts on how to approach Jewish people with the Gospel, considering their history and their unique perspective on Christianity.  In part two of this article, I will address how to more specifically minister to Jewish people.


End Part 1 – Continued June 2012

Part 2 “Ministering To Jewish People”

Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.