The Unusual Suspects

By Richard Gibson

At the beginning of the nineteen-nineties, Rabbi Tovia Singer, the founder and director of the anti-missionary organisation Outreach Judaism asked, “Why have more Jews become Christians in the last nineteen years than in the last nineteen hundred?”
The standard answer is that “the missionaries” prey on the weak, the vulnerable, the very young, the very old, the infirm, the needy and those who are ignorant of Judaism. An Orthodox Jewish man once told me that no Jew who knew one line of Gemara – the rabbinic commentary that together with the Mishna comprises the Talmud – would ever convert to Christianity. Well there have been many Jewish men, including rabbis, who were familiar with more than a line or two of the rabbinic writings and who came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

The Unusual Suspects, however, is not about great Jewish scholars who have found the Messiah. Richard Gibson has brought together the stories of 25 ordinary Jewish men and women who made the great discovery that Jesus is the One of whom Moses and the prophets spoke. Here we have a solicitor, a university lecturer, a Holocaust survivor, a New Age seeker after truth, a kibbutznik, a TM practitioner and nineteen others who tell their stories. Some were young when they found Jesus, some were older; some were religious, others were atheists; some were members of the synagogue, others attended church. Some found faith easily while others put up a long hard fight before they surrendered to the claims of the Messiah. But there are no stereotypes in these pages. Here are stories of joy and pain, reconciliation and rejection, and love and abuse. The writers have two things in common: they are Jewish and they believe in Jesus. Unlike some collections of testimonies that you feel could end with “…and they all lived happily ever after”, there is a gritty honesty and realism to the stories of some of these unusual suspects; admissions of failure, of wavering in faith and marriage breakdown. But throughout there is a confident declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of their lives.

The Unusual Suspects is primarily an evangelistic book that can be given with confidence to Jewish friends. The stories are not formulaic in the sense that the contributors were presented with a set of messianic proof-texts and they saw the light. There is a rough edge to the chapters and an apparent transparency that is disarming.

In 1985, one of my predecessors, Murdo MacLeod, returned from a visit to Israel and told us of a young Jewish hippie who had come to faith in Eilat. In the eighties we were seeing very few Jewish people become believers and Murdo told us that, as the young man shared his story, it restored his confidence in the gospel. If your confidence in the power of the gospel is not what it used to be, this little volume will serve as a shot in the arm.

The Unusual Suspects
Richard Gibson
Christian Focus Publications, 192 pages £8.99 (including UK p&p)
Available from Shalom Ministries

Article written in 2008.

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