This Jewish professor saw Jesus in a vision yet decided to run away

I remember having a conversation with my mother and she was encouraging me to go to bed early so I can get a good night’s sleep. And I said “Why should I go to bed and get a good night’s sleep?” She said “So you can get up and be refreshed in the morning and do well in school.” I said “Why do I need to do well in school?” “So you can go to a good college.” I said “Why doI need to go to a good college?” “So you can get a good job?” “Why do I need to get a good job?” “So you can have a family and a house and the nice things of life.” I said “Okay, if I have all those things then what?” And she goes “Then nothing, that’s it.” And I said “Is that all there is?”

Being the only son of a Jewish mother, I was made to feel like I was a center of the universe. It was all about me. And then in the world when it wasn’t about me, it was shocking to me. And I wanted it to be about me. I sought their approval and affirmation and the confirmation of these things from other people that in fact it was about me and that I was a center of the universe. 

I went to private school and we had to study the life of Jesus at that private school and we had to study the life of Jesus. I didn’t like Jesus but I wanted to hear from my own Rabbi why we don’t believe in Jesus. And he explained to me that he couldn’t be the Messiah because when the Messiah comes he’ll bring peace and since Jesus has already come and there is no peace, he could not be the Messiah. And that satisfied me for about seven years and I was totally satisfied with that answer. Made sense to me.

In college I became a theoretical Marxist. I believed that what the world needed was radical social change. That instead of people competing against each other in the marketplace, that government would come and would create an equal playing field. Even more than that, create equal outcomes for everyone in the culture. If we could get rid of the competitiveness and the adversarial relationship that I saw in the culture and we can work with cooperation, we could create a better world together. And I really wanted to make a better world. I saw this as a source of significance and purpose in my life, that I could help bring about a better world for mankind. The only problem with my convictions about social change and making a better world was the problem of the brokenness in people. My own personal brokenness, I saw that, my own selfishness, my own pride, my own lust, my own greed. All of those things that my life, and I saw that in other people, I saw in the world around me and if there was something wrong with us, if it was something wrong with people, then changing social systems wouldn’t make any difference. It would just be the same thing over and over again.

So in my freshman year of college here, knock on my door, I opened the door and this young man there. He looks at me and say “Hi my name is Paul and I’d like to come to talk to you about establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” That took me by surprise and I said “I’m sorry, I’m Jewish.” and he goes “That’s okay, so was he.” I said “Come on in.” So I invited some of my Jewish friends from down the hall to come join us and then he began to explain to us why Jesus was a Jewish Messiah. So the questions that I came to college with stayed with me and I realized if there was no God, there was no hope. That led me on a quest, on a search and the process of that search, I came across the prophecy in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. And I remember reading it and thinking to myself “What’s Jesus doing in my Bible?” I was surprised as I read it that this was from the prophet Isaiah and the Jewish prophet. What’s Jesus doing in my Bible?” And I began to think why didn’t the Rabbi tell me about this? Why didn’t you tell me that there was a picture of Messiah. Other than Messiah bringing peace, for the Messiah that was going to suffer and die for us?

After college, in order to make extra money, I worked nights and weekends for a Kosher Catering in Boston. One night, on April 30th 1980, I was at Temple Sinai in Marblehead Massachusetts. I was there for a donor dinner, serving a donor dinner. I was asked if I would pack up the trucks so that everybody else could go home and just I would be left. And I said fine. So everybody else left, the ladies I had their fundraiser inside the shul and I was outside with a cup of coffee and a cigarette and just thinking about life. All of a sudden inside the synagogue, the women started praying. Their prayers begin to remind me of my own searching, my own struggle and my own journey that I was on. And I started thinking about Jewish history and I started thinking about Dave and I started thinking about Jesus. Is Jesus the Messiah? Is it really important who the Messiah is? Is Jesus the Son of God?  Is he God? Did he ever say he was God? Couldn’t he just meant that he was close to God, and intimate with God? What difference does it make what the name of God is as long as we live a good life? And as I’m thinking these things, I’m walking around the temple parking lot and I get to the end of the parking lot and I look up and before me is a gathering of light and the light forms of figure of a man and the man is all in light and he’s in front of a cross – not on the cross, but in front of a cross and its all brightly illuminated in front of me. About twenty yards away from me, as big as life. And I looked up and I saw the figure and I said, “Oh my God, it’s Jesus Christ.” My hands are shaking and I’m shaking my head on the way home, Did I really see this? 

And it scared me so much, I decided to try and put it out of my mind. So I spent the next couple of weeks just partying and going out to bars and just trying to forget about what had happened. And I did this for a couple of weeks, of getting drunk and trying to forget. I woke up one morning, I was living at home at the time and and I woke up in the morning and I was getting my orange juice in the kitchen and my mother looks at me and says, “Rich, what are you running from?” So I came to realize that I wasn’t the center of the universe, that God was. That it wasn’t about me, was about him. And it was about me investing my life in his purposes that he had for me. And that gave me such a feeling of meaning and purpose in my life that it was beyond anything that I could have dreamt for. I never thought I’d get the answers. I never thought that those are the kinds of things that there were answers to. But now I realize that there’s a God and that he loves me and that love sets me free to love and serve others and love and serve him. Today I am married to my beautiful wife Michelle who happens to be Italian. I thought it was more important to marry a girl that shared my faith in Jesus than it was to marry a Jewish girl. We have three wonderful boys Joshua 27, Micah 26 and Zack 23. They all have come in the place in their life where they have asked Jesus to be their Messiah and Lord and they are walking with him. And so we’re very proud of them. I presently am teaching as a professor at a graduate school in New York City and Andrew really enjoy the light and being able to share my experience and my journey of my life with these young people in the context of a learning environment.