Joel of Jerusalem Apr/May 1983
IT HAPPENED ON A BUS
Here in Israel, one of the most important places for communication is often a public bus. Many times you meet people you know as they are getting on or off, and sometimes you are very surprised at the people you meet.
One recent day I met on the bus a rabbi whom I know and who knows me very well – that is, he knows that I believe in the Lord Jesus. The rabbi was having a bad day, and I proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but of course I didn’t know that, and I greeted him with a pleasant “Shalom, rabbi. How are you feeling?” The rabbi didn’t answer but stared at me for a long time, and then he asked, “Is that your business?” He said this so loudly that many people on the bus looked up to see what was happening. I quickly said, “I am sorry if I offended you.” He responded, “Don’t talk to me at all, I don’t want to have anything to do with an apostate like you.”
“Now I am really sorry,” I told him, “because I see how pure you are. Why, we can all see in your eyes your great purity.” “I am a rabbi and a good Jew,” he said, “but just what are you?” I replied, “I am a Jew who believes in the living God and all that He has done for us.” “For us?” the rabbi asked. “What has He done for all of us?” I answered, “The Lord has done the same for you and me alike. The big difference is that those who have not accepted what He has done for them are full of hatred and jealousy. Your doctrine is that anyone who is not for you is against you and must therefore be destroyed. It was not for this reason that God gave His own Son to be crucified – so that everyone would continue to hate as before. No, He came to teach us to forgive even our enemies and to love them.”
“No! That is impossible,” said the rabbi. “For people like you it is impossible,” I told him, “but for those of us who believe, it is very simple. We cannot believe in the Lord and hate people. Even you I can consider to be my very good friend.” “No! No! No!” he shouted. “Many people like you have said that to me, and now they come to my home as the best of friends,” I said. “And do they believe the same as you?” he asked. I replied, “You can come to my home and ask them yourself.” “Do I know any of these people?” he questioned. “I don’t know.” I answered. He then warned, “You can be sure that you will see me in your home soon, but be ready for trouble if I learn that there are people who believe because of you.” “It is not because of me that people believe,” I told him, “it is because of the Bible. To someone who really understands what he is reading, he must come to the conclusion that there is only one way to the truth and that is through the Savior. Whether you want to believe it or not, the time will come when you will acknowledge Him and praise His holy name.”
The bus was full of people and they all had ears to hear what was being said, but of course they believe that a rabbi knows what he is saying. They were all very quiet, but they were surprised when the rabbi asked me, “Where is it written in the Bible about the Lord? And please show me in our Bible, in our own language?” Who could have been happier than I to give them the facts, living facts in black and white. At this time the great rabbi became quiet and the people on the bus began asking, “Rabbi, where are you now?” “I am still here,” he answered, “but I am so sorry that I do not have with me my books which would explain what he is trying to push on you. Then I could show you that he is wrong.” I then said, “I have no need for such books. The only Book I need to explain what I am saying is the Bible. All other books have no value. The Book which has been inspired by the Holy Spirit is the one which I have accepted with all my heart.” At this the rabbi said to all those who were listening, “Aha! You see, he is against all of our great books, our great volumes of wisdom written by the sages of old!” “You speak about wisdom, but you really know nothing at all,” I told him. “It is written, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . . [Prov.1:7]. True wisdom is given by God, but you don’t know anything about this. Instead, you spend all of your time studying superstitions and false beliefs. As a rabbi, you must have received a good education, and I am sure you display exemplary conduct, but you can do nothing at all with your great wisdom, and this you have proven to us today. Instead, you try to make your point through hatred and physical power. Is this any kind of an example for your followers? Do you not know of some other way to deal with people?” He replied, “With apostates like you there is no other way, only the use of power and force can stop you!”
Then one of the people on the bus spoke up and said, “We can see how the Lord is working on this bus, rabbi. You are wrong, and you cannot be a good representative of our people when you don’t even have answers to questions in your own profession, as we have just seen.” Then many others on the bus said, “Amen!” Of course, the rabbi was not happy to hear this, so he said, “I can see that this apostate has had a great influence on you, and this is what I call danger!” From the other side of the bus someone said, “Rabbi, can we go against the law of our Torah?” “No, of course not,” he replied. The other man went on, “If that is so, then there is no danger, because what this man is saying is all written in the Torah.” The rabbi then demanded, “And just who are you to say this?” The man replied, “I am who I am! Do you want to fight with me now?” At this time I felt that I was not alone anymore. There were many who had received the truth about the Lord, and they asked for my address and received it without fear. Then the rabbi said, “Now I know where you live, and I even know your telephone number.” “That is fine,” I told him, “and you are welcome to visit or call me anytime you wish.”
It didn’t take long for the rabbi to take me up on my invitation. The very next day he came to my home and, of course, I received him with courtesy, even though I knew he hated me with all his soul and power. But I showed him what it means to be a Jew who has received his Savior and is saved by His blood. He viewed the situation in my home with great interest, but it was all very hard for him to understand. He said, “If I hate someone, I will never open my door to him.” “You can see then,” I said, “that those of us who have received the Lord are very special people, but not by our own power or strength. The Lord has told us to pray for those who hate us and to open our homes to them. It is possible that through such a visit the Lord can take away your stony heart and give you a heart of flesh [Ezek. 36:26].” The rabbi then said, “We are friends, I don’t hate you anymore.”
Please pray with me that the Lord would truly open the eyes of this rabbi, so steeped in tradition, and show him the way to salvation and peace through His Son, our Savior.