More Bagels Vicar?

How a nice Jewish boy became a Bible-believeing, born-again C of E minister.

Joseph Steinberg is not your typical Church of England minister. Hyacinth Bucket would throw a fit if he turned up for tea. He’s big, he’s beefy, he’s American, he’s a born-again Christian and he’s Jewish; a rare combination in an Anglican clergyman. He also happens to be a genuinely nice guy. So what’s a nice Jewish boy doing in the Church of England ministry instead of the rabbinate? We asked

My Jewish upbringing implanted in me two basic beliefs. The first was that one day the Messiah would come to bring peace on earth: the lion would lie down with the lamb, all nations would beat their weapons into farming tools, peace and justice would reign forever. The second belief was that a Jew could never believe in Jesus. These beliefs were what made me a Jew and tied me to my people.

What does God expect of me?

During my teenage years I became friends with a neighbour named Mark and I noticed there was something different about him. Mark, it turned out, was a "born-again Christian", someone who truly believed and practised what Jesus taught.

Mark asked me what I, as a Jew, believed and I proudly responded that I didn'tbelieve in Jesus, to which he replied that he had asked what I didbelieve, not what I didn't believe!

After our conversation, I decided to begin reading the Bible to discover what God expected from me as a Jew. Soon after I started to read I was confronted with the problem of sin and how we can be forgiven for breaking God’s commandments. I found out from the Bible that nothing less than a blood sacrifice can atone for sin. Through the Scriptures I began to understand what God required of me and I began to pray that he would show me how I could please him.

It begins to make sense

Mark continued to tell me about Jesus, but I still refused to believe he was more than a man who had the misfortune to be crucified. Mark was insistent that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jewish people were expecting so I read some of the prophecies of the Old Testament to find out what the Messiah was to be like. According to the prophets Messiah was to bring peace to the earth but, surprisingly enough, according to the prophet Isaiah, he was also to die for the sins of the world. To my Jewish mind it was all so strange — why had I never been told that Messiah was to first bring peace to the earth by his death?

Not until I stumbled upon a prophecy in the book of Jeremiah did it all begin to make sense:

"Behold, the days are coming", says the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ... I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

A shock discovery

I had to find out more about Jesus since all I knew about him was what I had been told by other people, and that really wasn’t much. I began to read the New Testament and was shocked to discover that Jesus was a learned rabbi and that he was not a weak man, as I had imagined. But he was even greater, for he claimed to be the Messiah!

Peace on earth

He was not caught off-guard when facing crucifixion, but willingly gave up his life for the sins of the world. Three days after his death, he rose from the dead and was seen by many. Later he ascended to heaven, and so the promise of the Messiah bringing peace between men, and between God and men, will find its ultimate fulfilment when Jesus returns.

It all makes sense

This account made sense according to all the Messianic prophecies I had read. Either Jesus was the Messiah and personal sin-bearer or he was not. If he wasn’t, then not only should Jews not believe in him, but neither should anyone. On the other hand if he was the Messiah then the most Jewish thing I could do was to accept Jesus and receive him as my Messiah and Lord.

I saw the truth about Jesus and put my trust in him. The Bible now makes sense to me, I know that my sins are forgiven, I have the certainty that I will live eternally with God because of Jesus. I challenge you to look at the evidence about Jesus for yourself and you, too, will find shalom in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

This article has appeared in various publications published by Shalom Ministries

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