It sounds funny, but I didn’t know I was Jewish until I was in the fifth grade. I was 10 or 11 years old when my father told our little family that we were going to have a Passover seder. We’d never celebrated Passover before, and I’d never heard of this holiday, so I asked him what “Passover” is, and he briefly explained it to me. I asked what a “seder” is, and he explained it to me. Then I asked how he knew how to perform a Passover seder, and he said, “Because I’m Jewish.” I just stared at him in disbelief. “You’re Jewish?” I asked. “Does this mean I’m Jewish? How come this never came up?”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Joel, your name is Joel Rosenberg. How could you not know you’re Jewish? You must have been the dumbest kid in fifth grade!” Guess I was. Nevertheless, I simply didn’t know because up to that point, my father — who was raised Orthodox Jewish in Brooklyn — had never told me. Neither had my mother, a Gentile from an English/German background. There very few Jewish kids in my school or in our community, and the subject just didn’t come up.
Now, when my first novel, The Last Jihad, was published and became a national best-seller in the fall of 2002, radio hosts and reporters noticed that some of my characters in the book were talking about faith in Jesus. They began to ask me, “Joel, are you Jewish or a believer in Jesus?” I said, “Both.” They didn’t understand, so they pressed me, “But how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?” It was a question I’d never expected, but was happy to answer. But what I didn’t realize then was that as I wrote more books and those, too, became successful and as I did more interviews and spoke more often around the country and around the world, this would become one of the questions most frequently asked of me: “Joel, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?”
It actually is a very interesting story — and often funny — and one that is very meaningful to me. I’ve shared it in bits and pieces over the years, but over the past few months, a growing number of people have asked me to record my spiritual journey and put it online. So last month I spoke at a conference in Tucson and gave a 50 minute version of my spiritual journey: how and why my parents came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, how I later did, the initial struggles I had as a young believer, how I discovered I was Jewish in the fifth grade, and one of the key turning points in my life – the night the Lord spoke directly to me and completely transformed my life. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to it, or watch the video version.
>> To listen to my spiritual journey, please click here (it’s the third message down from the top, dated March 7, 2012)
Once you’ve listened to or watched it, I’d be grateful if you’d go to our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook and give me your thoughts and comments. I’d love it if you would share some of your spiritual journey, as well. And I’d also encourage you to share this with others, and get their thoughts and see where they are in their spiritual journey.
This is a good time of year to draw nearer to the Lord than ever before and consider where you are on your spiritual journey. It’s a good time of year…..
- To read the Passover story in Exodus 12.
- To read the prophecies in Isaiah 53 about how the Jewish Messiah would one day suffer as the guilt offering for our sins.
- To read how John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” in John 1:29.
- To read the story of Jesus celebrating Passover with his disciples in Luke 22.
- To read how Rabbi Saul — who became the Apostle Paul — described in I Corinthians 5 Jesus as our Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us.
Do you know Jesus Christ in a real and personal way? Have you received Him as your personal Savior and Lord? My prayer is that today you’ll take time to truly consider what Jesus said, what He did, and His call to you, “Come, follow Me.” (Mark 1:17).