The elderly, Jewish Los Angelino glared at me with his fiery eyes. This recently past president of the local B’nai B’rith chapter stood trembling with rage before me as sweat beads formed on his reddened bald head and upper lip. The words flew out of his tightly coin shaped mouth, “Look, I believe in Jesus and speak in tongues and all that stuff. But if I get baptized, I’ll be a Christian.”
As prayerful prelude to the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), the modern Jewish religious calendar calls for 10 Days of Awe, a sobering season of spiritual introspection and repentance, in preparation for the new religious year. The Days of Awe officially begin with the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, and conclude 10 days later with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. These Holy Days come in September or October in keeping with the Hebrew Bible’s lunar calendar.
Esther Rosenberg, a New York transplant in California, needed a grand series of miracles. This suicidal Jewess required an immediate remedy for her despairingly difficult second marriage. She craved a cure for her pain ridden back and direction for her three disorientated Jewish teenagers. Esther did not want more religion, professional counseling, the awaited surgical procedures, or sedation for her offspring. Esther yearned for rescue in real life; she hungered after genuine biblical salvation. Immediately prior to committing the act that would end her life, she cried out, “God, is there any hope for me?” God answered her with one word: “Jesus.”
Spending a season of prayer at the Wailing Wall at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount a few years ago, I witnessed the arrival of an enthusiastic group of Koreans for prayer. Focusing on one of their party, they laid hands on him and prayed with old-fashioned Pentecostal exuberance for him to become Spirit-filled. I watched curiously as several rabbis and security guards came around the now sole Korean still ecstatically speaking in tongues with his face against the Wall, as tears of joy and shouting tongues poured forth. The rabbis studied him closely from all angles with looks of complete bewilderment. Finally some turned to me and asked, “Is he Jewish?”
While addressing a national conference in 1973, a young missionary to American Jews complained that there were some guidelines in Assemblies of God Home Missions policy that were not in the best interests of Jewish ministry. Theodore Gannon, then national director of Home Missions, jumped to his feet to address the speaker and entire conference: “You boys go out and do it. Whatever works, we’ll make policy.” Many of us took his challenge to impact the American Jewish community in a bold new way by establishing incarnational Pentecostal corporate models of the Jewish Jesus.