By Joel C. Rosenberg
At sundown, we begin Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar, and one of great Biblical and historic and cultural importance to my people.
I so wish I was home with Lynn and our sons in Israel tonight. Instead, I am in the U.S. speaking at a number of events, from Dallas to San Luis Obispo to Washington, D.C. to Toronto. I am speaking about the darkness that is falling in our world. But I am also explaining to people about a fascinating phenomenon that I’m observing.
Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun a quest to find the Messiah. For reasons I cannot fully explain, Jews are suddenly searching for answers to the deepest and most important questions concerning life and death and God and atonement and eternity, in numbers unprecedented in history. Some are searching through the Hebrew Scriptures for answers. A stunning number are actually reading the New Testament, most for the first time. They are searching on Google for information about the Messiah. They are even watching a new series of videos by Jews who claim to have found the answers. The videos — some of which have gone viral — were produced and posted on a new website called www.imetmessiah.com.
To me, these are fascinating developments. They certainly aren’t being reported by the media. But they are worth examining. That said, more on all that in a moment.
First, a few thoughts about Yom Kippur itself.
In the Scriptures, the Israelites were commanded by the Lord to fast and pray and bring their sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem, and then to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness for all the sins they and their nation had committed that year. And the Scriptures were clear: only the sacrifice of a perfect animal — a sacrifice performed with a humble, repentant, sincere heart, and with faith in God’s mercy and grace — could bring about forgiveness of sins.
- “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
- “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
But here’s the problem we Jewish people have face since the destruction of the Temple: What does one do to receive atonement in the modern age, without a Temple?
How can one make sacrifices, and thus receive forgiveness of sins — and thus the right to enter the holiness of heaven and live with the Lord in heaven forever and ever — without being able to sacrifice a perfect lamb at the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Lord designated all sacrifices to occur?
The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. was a huge blow to Judaism for many reasons, but chief among them because it deprived us of the one place to receive atonement from God.
The good news was found in Daniel 9:24-26. The Hebrew prophet Daniel explained to us that:
- someday the Messiah (or “Anointed One”) would come to us
- when the Messiah came, his purpose would be “to atone for wickedness” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”
- the Messiah would then be “cut off and will have nothing”
- after the Messiah was “cut off,” then Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed
- Daniel specifically noted that foreign invaders “will come and will destroy the city and the sanctuary”
Think about that. Daniel told us something extraordinary — that a coming Messiah would bring atonement for our sins before the Temple would be destroyed. That, in retrospect, makes sense, right? Why would the God of Israel take away the Temple before providing a new way for atonement?
Now, add in what the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah explained to us that not only was the Messiah coming to the Jewish people, but that He would bring a “new covenant,” a new and exciting and God-ordained way by which we would have a personal relationship with the Lord our God.
The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah gave us still more details about this coming Messiah. He explained that the Messiah would serve as King of the world eventually, but first the Messiah would be our “Suffering Servant.” That is, He would be rejected by the people, would suffer, and then die as our atoning sacrifice.
Consider these extraordinary passages from Isaiah 53:
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
13 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Who does that sound like to you?
When I was younger, I tried to process these and other Hebrew prophecies of the Messiah. Among them:
- the Messiah will born in Judea, near Jerusalem, in Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2)
- the Messiah will live and minister in the Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2)
- the Messiah will teach in parables (Psalm 78:2)
- the Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
- the Messiah will be the Savior of the Jews but also a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:5-6)
These were fascinating, specific, detailed clues as to the identity of the One the Lord was sending to save and rescue our people. Each piece of the puzzle was helpful, but two clues I found especially interesting — first, that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, the city of David; and second that the Messiah absolutely had to come to bring atonement and righteousness to His people before the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 A.D. Why? Because the God of Israel told us so through the Hebrew prophets.
I came to the conclusion that Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth is, in fact, the Messiah that Moses and the prophets spoke of. His death and resurrection were foretold by the prophets, and they prove that He is who He said He is: the “Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6). Jesus’ shed blood provides the only atonement for sins for Jews and Gentiles today. Jesus brought us the “New Covenant” — the new deal, as it were, between God and man — that the Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah told us to wait for.
True, many Jewish people have rejected Jesus over the centuries. But have we really stopped to examine what Moses and the prophets said, and how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled every single one of those prophecies?
By God’s grace and kindness, my eyes were open. I received Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord when I was young. I humbled myself, confessed my sins to God the Father, believed in my heart by faith that Jesus died on the cross, and was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is the Lord. And so, as He promised, Jesus atoned for my sins. He washed them away, all of them, never to be remembered or held against me for all of eternity. He gave me eternal life. He — the King of the Universe — adopted me into His royal family. He gave me peace that passes all understanding. He gave me hope as an anchor for my soul. He gave me a purpose and a meaning for me life.
Why? Because I deserved it? No. Because I earned it? No. Because I could buy it? No. He gave all this to me for free, because He loves me, because He wanted to rescue me. And so I received Him into my heart by faith. For as the Scriptures explain so clearly, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)
When my father, who was raised an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, discovered in 1973 — after a careful study of the Gospel According to Luke — that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, and received the Messiah by faith, my father thought he was one of the first Jews in history who believed this. He had never met a Jewish believer in Jesus. He had never heard of such a person. And in 1973, there were fewer than 2,000 Jewish people on the planet who were followers of Jesus.
But today, some 300,000 Jews around the world are followers of Jesus. And millions of Jews are searching for the Messiah and thus reading the Hebrew prophecies, and comparing them with the writings of the New Testament, and trying to decide whether Jesus really is the Messiah we have desperately longed for over so many centuries.
Today, on Yom Kippur, you can watch short videos of Jewish people explaining how they met the Messiah.
More than 10 million people have watched these videos just in the past few months.
Remarkably, more than 900,000 Hebrew speakers have watched the Hebrew-language versions of these videos in just the past four months. Given that there are only about 7 million Hebrew speakers in the world today, this means that nearly 1 in 7 of them have recently watched videos by Israeli Jews explaining how they came to discover that Yeshua is our Messiah.
The website is www.imetmessiah.com. Please visit, watch the videos, share them with family and friends, think about them and discuss them. And then I encourage you to humbly pray to God and ask Him to show you whether Jesus — Yeshua — is, in fact, the Anointed One who came to rescue and redeem us and atone for our sins and write our names in the Book of Life.
It is my earnest hope you will discover — or rediscover — Jesus for yourself this Yom Kippur and the days that follow. I’m praying for you to find His amazing love, grace and forgiveness, and the hope and joy that only He can give us.
May the God of Israel and His Anointed One bless you and your family beyond what you can hope for, dream of, or imagine.
I could not have written it any better!