Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days.
I have a burden for people from all walks of life, 'religious' or not. A concern for the state of their souls and their eternal destiny. I must confess, however, that I carry a special burden in my heart for those of the Jewish faith. If you are a genuine Christian, the reasons should be obvious.
Monday past was Yom Kippur.
And as a harbinger of God's Word, I felt I had a responsibility to do something, no matter how small, to bring a reminding awareness of their eternal shortcoming via repentance without faith in the promised Messiah, Jesus. And that, as respectfully as possible. But how?
"The cross!" I thought to myself. "I could stand across the street from one of the local synagogues, stand and silently witness with my questioning cross as the religious observers of Yom Kippur leave their service." No sooner said, Kim and I were on our way with about one hour in our afternoon to do so.
The rain was light to heavy at times, but constant. No matter. We arrived at a nearby synagogue, I got my cross out of the car and stood across from where the devout observers of Yom Kippur were exiting the temple grounds by foot and car.
Ten minutes into my stance, a car pulled up across the street with two well dressed men inside. The driver rolled down his window and took some pictures of me and then they both got out of their car and made their way to the fool with the cross.They were cordial in their greeting and friendly in their demeanor. But they had concerns. I can't say I blame them. If the shoe were on the other foot, I most likely would have shared the same concerns.
One gentleman's name was Mitchell. The other, David. Kim was standing beside me.
The following is an edited transcription of our 10 minute discussion:
David: Hey! (In a friendly tone as they cross the street to confront me)
Paul: Hey, hi there!
Mitchell: Are you actually appealing to people coming out of synogogue, is that your point?
P: Well, this being Yom Kippur, the holy day of the Jewish year...yes, it's where I'm directing it. I carry this cross wherever I go.
D: Oh, you do?
P: Yeah, to various events and things like that, and downtown. It's a ministry that I have going. I'm a Christian, my name is Paul. (extending my hand)
D: I'm David
P: Hi David. Nice to meet you.
M: I'm Mitchell.
P: Hi Mitchell. Nice to meet you.
M: So you carry it (the cross) around with you everywhere, and go to synogogue?
P: I normally do my evangelism work downtown. And what this cross does is draw people to ask the obvious question, "Are you ready for what?" ...I try to get people to think about eternity, all people, including those who have the blood of Abraham flowing through their veins.
M: So are you worried you might offend some people here? On Yom Kippur?
P: Well the Bible says that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing", but the thing is I'm also here to offer good news to those who ask.
M: Right. Are you worried though you might, given the history of the church and Jews and what this Day symbolizes, that you might find some people here offended? I'm just wondering. And what the ministry says about purposely offending people.
P: Well I'm not here to purposely offend. Actually, I'm here because I love you. I'm here with compassion...
M: Yeah, sure, sure, compassion. But is it compassion when you know you're going to be, you know... there are many people here who are going to be saying, "What the heck?Our whole stay here, after our history of prostelitizing and forced conversion, here he comes on our holiest day?"
D: (to Mitchell) The other thing is, he's trying to start a diologue here, you know? I mean, this is the whole idea, it's provocative. It's that 'BUT', there's that 'BUT' there. That's what it's about!
P: Well, the question is, is that even with your repentence, are you really truly ready? If you were to die today, would you be ready to face God on Judgment Day to answer for every thought, word, and deed, according to the10 Commandments?
D: Well that's what we're doing here now.
P: Yeah, I understand Yom Kippur, but the Bible goes on to say in the New Testament that it is only by repentence AND faith in Christ, that we can be saved and go to heaven.
M: Yeah, these people are still working on the old one. (OT)
P: Yeah I know. Except that the promised Messiah in Isaiah Chapter 53, really shows that the Messiah has already come and...
D: You know, I watched "The Last Temptation of Christ" last week, on Rosh Hashanah. I watched it.
D: It was really something, really something.
P: It's not biblical though.
M: Have yourself a great day, but I think that you need to be aware that most people leaving here aren't going to be as charitable as us to come here to talk to you! Most would be very, very upset.
P: Oh I understand that. And for anyone who does come here to talk, I offer hope and...
M: Do you not think, you can carry it around town, and no one will bother you, but to do it outside of synogogue?
K: Oh, wait! You didn't see him at the Gay Pride parade!
M: Yeah! THAT would be another inappropriate place!
K: Oh no, it was very good...
P: My approach is motivated by love.
P: The thing is, I am no better than you, no better than any other sinner, none whatsoever. And I am amazed that God sent his Son to die for ME, a wretched sinner like ME! He was the perfect Lamb, He shed his blood for me. That He was my substitute on that cross. The wrath that God poured out on his own Son should have been poured on me. By grace we are saved, undeserved favor. I don't deserve to go to heaven when I die because of my sins, because I've broken God's 10 Commandments, every one of them a million times over! So then...
D: Every one of them?!
P: Every one.
D: And that often?!
P: I've lied, I've stolen...
M: Have you murdered?
K: Think about it. If you, in your mind, ever hated someone, ever, that's murder (in the eyes of God).
P: In our heart, God looks at the motive.
D: It was nice chatting with you Paul, and I believe what you are doing is...
P: From my heart.
D: My advice to you is by positioning yourself right here is actually an intrusion in a faith, where people have been moving forward. I realize you are not on the property, but I think you may be creating, you may be inadvertantly making people feel uncomfortable even though you didn't intend to, because where they've been. They've been talking about the martyrology and the history of oppression and all those things and they are at a very vulnerable place. So I appreciate that you want to bring your message to everyone and I think that's a good thing, but positioning yourself right here as a kind of a billboard, where people are coming out, it's a bit of an intrusion in their space, I think it may be not the best place. It's an intrusion on their messiah, and basically it's an insult.
P: Well, I have to think of that everywhere I go because, like I said, the message of the cross is offensive. It takes away people's pride. It takes away people's concept that they can make it to heaven based on their good works; the fact that their good works will outweigh their sins. But in the book of Isaiah, it says that "all your righteous acts are like filthy rags". They don't mean a thing, you know?
D: No, I understand, because I understand, that what you do is by nature an intrusion, and an intelligent one. But let's say, pretend you were at the Academy Awards and someone was busy getting their award and you were to go up onstage while they were making their speech, and do your thing, it would be kind of rude?
P: Yes, well, I would see your point if I was on temple property,but the fact is I'm on city property.
D: You have the right.
P: And freedom of speech.
D: You have the right.
D: You know the thing that happened with the Danish cartoons?
P: Sure do.
D: I think that the offense of that was they absolutely had the right to do those cartoons depicting Mohammed, but just because you CAN do something doesn't mean that you SHOULD do it. There's a lot of sensitive wisdom in it.
P: Well, what drives me is what Jesus said...
D: Well if this is a legal issue about where you're standing, of course you're free to do it, but what I'm saying is once you recognize what's possible, once we can do anything, what would we choose to do? That's what I'm asking.
P: My Jewish Messiah, Jesus, said that "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." THAT is what drives me. I want to reach everybody I possibly can to share the good news of Christ.
D: And you figure that the potential of that overweighs the potential...
P: Yes, it trumps it.
D: Okay, fair enough. And you're thinking about it. You're being conscious about it.
P: My obedience is to God.
D: You're being conscious about it and that's all I'm asking, that you think, that you be conscious of it. Okay?
P: Yeah, I am. David, God bless you. Shalom.
D: Okay, bye. Nice to meet you.
Mitchell had already excused himself the conversation due to the fact he was getting soaked from the rain. David stayed a while longer to drive home his point that he had no problem with what I was doing, but it was where I was doing it and when.
I was hoping to launch into a straightforward presentation of the gospel without interruption but the rain was not making this an easy thing. So be it. What was said was said.
After David left, I just bunkered down and stood where I was for a while longer as car after car, temple congregants and other pedestrians continued to pass by, taking into view (and hopefully, consideration) the question on the cross "But Are You Ready?".
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everone who believes: first for the Jew and then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)