I will never believe in Jesus. I was born a Jew I will die a Jew. How can you expect me to believe in a God whose name my people have been killed. I don’t care if it’s true. I will never believe in Jesus. I grew up in a loving Jewish family. My mom and dad were very actively involved in the local synagogue and we were there pretty much every Friday or Saturday. We celebrated the holidays and we celebrated Passover at home. My Jewish identity meant a lot to me. Growing up, I decided to go to college where I majored in fashion photography and then after I worked in the photo industry for a couple of years, I decided to fulfill my lifelong passion of learning how to ski. I drove myself to Aspen Colorado, where I knew no one, got a season pass and started skiing. Aspen was heaven on earth and that’s where I wanted to live the rest of my life.
It was there during my second ski season that I met a young woman from Kansas City Missouri, perhaps the most curious person I’ve ever met in my life. In fact, she has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She began talking to me about her faith in God. She told me that she was a Christian and I said “That’s nice. I’m Jewish.” She kept asking me questions “Do you believe in God?” “Yes, I believe in God.” She said “What’s he like? Is he righteous and is he holy?” What do you mean “what’s he like?”. I said “He’s “other”. We’re down here, he’s infinite, we’re finite.” She kept asking me questions about God and about what I believed about God and why I believed it. The more questions that she asked me, the more upset I would become with her and I would get angry with her. “How can you expect me to believe in a God whose name my people have been killed for 2,000 years?” She appeared to me as being narrow-mindedly dogmatic. But it was over time as she asked me questions about what I believed and why I believed it, it began to occur to me that maybe I was the one who was narrow-minded and dogmatic. I knew Jews don’t believe in Jesus. I knew you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus but the more she pressed me to explain why those things were true, the more I realized I didn’t know other than “because”.
After she left, I decided I’m gonna start reading the Bible for myself to see what it says. Of course, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the New Testament because I knew for a fact that the New Testament was Gentile grandmother stories and everybody knew it was anti-semitic. I would have nothing to do with that. What I discovered was that the God of this woman was my God, was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That really touched me, that really challenged me inside because it made me realize that I didn’t know my own God or at least I didn’t know much about him. As I read more of the Bible, I began thinking more about my relationship with God and I got to a point where I actually started to pray personally, like talking to God. “God, if Jesus is the Messiah and you want me to put my faith in him, then I’m willing to do that. But only if it’s true because if it’s not true, the last thing I want to do now is to worship a man and be an idol worshiper.” I began to really think about what it meant for me to become a believer in Jesus. What would my parents think and what would my brothers think, what would my aunts and my uncles and my cousins and 90 percent of my friends think? It was like I was thinking about this and it was as if I heard a voice in my head say to me “Danny, that’s right. The choice is between following me and everyone and everything else.” If God is God, he’s boss. You do what he says and if there’s a cost involved, it’s worth it.
This woman came back at the end of the summer. When she came back, she brought with her a book that her best friend had given to her and the title of the book is “What’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in the First Baptist Church”. All of the questions I kind of had floating around in my head that I wasn’t willing to ask directly were addressed in the book. Jesus was Jewish and the apostles were Jewish and all of the New Testament books were written by Jews. To this point I still had never opened the New Testament Scriptures but reading this book, I began to read them for myself for the first time.
I grew up in a neighborhood that was mixed. Mostly Jewish and a lot of Catholic kids. For me, Jesus and the New Testament was associated with those kids and the hatred that I got from them. I was shocked to discover the exact opposite. I discovered a Jewish man addressing Jewish topics in a Jewish way, who taught love for your enemies, love for all people, not the kind of hatred that I saw. This Jesus, who was the God of the Gentiles, who hated the Jews began to evaporate because he didn’t exist. I finished the book and she says to me “What did you think of the book?” I thought for a minute I said “It was good, I liked it. I think it’s gonna help me explain some things to my parents.” She was completely taken off-guard and she said “You believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel?” I said “Yes”. She says “You believe that he died on a Roman cross as a payment for your sin?” I said “Yes.” She said “You believe that by trusting in him and what he did for you on that cross, your sins are forgiven and you have new life with God?” I said “Yes.”
You may be wondering about the identity of this very curious shiksa (“non-Jewish girl) from Kansas City. This journalist who had such a profound impact on my life, I chased her for another year and a half until she caught me and we have been happily married for almost 39 years. After I had come to faith in Jesus, it took me a few months to build the nerve to tell my parents about it because I knew it would be hard for them. My mother’s response was just classic “Don’t talk to me about Jesus, don’t tell me about him. I will never believe in Jesus. I was born a Jew. I will die a Jew. I don’t care if it’s true, I will never believe in Jesus.” You gotta love God’s tenacity with his people. Even as she sent someone into my life to tell me about Messiah, it was people who knew Messiah who helped my mother come to faith at the age of 86. And I had the most awesome awesome privilege of leading my mom to faith in Messiah.