From Jesus-hater to Jesus-sharer
From Jesus-hater to Jesus-sharer, Ziggy Rogoff, a former City risk analyst, tells how he became convinced that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah – God’s chosen one – and how he talks with people about Jesus on the streets in the City.
I was negative about Jesus: not only because I grew up believing that Christians had perpetrated centuries of persecution against us Jews; nor solely because my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor; but because I was taught it was impossible for Jesus to be the Messiah. Why impossible? Because we were taught Jesus failed to meet the rabbinic expectation of the Messiah. We were taught that the Messiah brings world peace, and since there clearly was no peace, Jesus could not be the Messiah.
I went to a guest event at St Helen’s in 2000 and soon after I was doing Christianity Explored – a course that looked at Jesus as shown us by Mark, one of the Gospel writers. My thinking was challenged as we began to read this eye-witness account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
I discovered a Jesus I never could have imagined. I did not expect him to speak with authority and do such amazing signs and wonders. I remembered the Messiah I had been told about as a child and wondered, ‘Could Jesus be the Messiah?’
But how could Jesus be the Messiah if Rabbis have been rejecting him for the last 2,000 years? But as I considered Jesus’ supernatural power over nature, calming a storm with a word – and his power even over death - I saw what he came to do for me: forgiving my sin.
I began searching the Hebrew Scriptures and soon found the fifty-third chapter of the Jewish prophet Isaiah, where it explained the solution to the problem of sin and the servant who would die taking our punishment. At last I was sure Jesus was the Jewish Messiah! He had come!
I was working for Glencore, a commodity trading and mining company, but I left so I could work with Jews for Jesus – an organisation which is committed to making Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people worldwide. For the last six years I have been telling all people about the Jewish message of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) – both to Jews and non-Jews –and particularly those in the City.
Jews are taught that you cannot believe in Jesus and still be Jewish, so I wanted to be part of an organisation committed to correcting this misunderstanding – I am Jewish by birth and a believer in Jesus by faith. I did not cease being Jewish when I believed in Jesus the Jewish Messiah, in fact it reinforced my Jewish identity. Indeed, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah then there can be nothing more Jewish than believing in him. Today, Jewish friends who do not follow Jesus now keep their distance from me. My mother and brother do not want to hear it; and my father does not believe it – but I seek to share the world-shaking news of the death and resurrection of Jesus with anyone who wishes to talk about it, because of the forgiveness it brings to those who believe.
People ask me how they can speak to their Jewish friends and colleagues about Jesus. I tell them to ask questions: What do you believe? Who do you think Jesus is? Never assume they believe in God, regardless of what they say, do or wear – and find out who they are and what they believe about Jesus. Do not take offence if they react badly to you when you share your faith, and if need be apologise for upsetting them, and say, ‘I don’t know what I said to offend you, but am I really sorry. Could we talk about this another time so I can better understand?’
I regularly hand out a thousand gospel flyers a week in the City (and elsewhere) – and it is positive. Jews for Jesus colleagues and I wear distinctive clothing, t-shirts saying ‘Jesus made me kosher’ being a particular favourite, which attracts all kinds of people. Some spot our attire and approach us despite their prejudice. We do not stand to the side of the pavement. No one can accuse us of being wallflowers, rather we stand in the flow and make ourselves visible.
We smile at people; we say hello to passers-by; we let them know we are ready to converse with them as we invite them to talk with us. Not only do they hear the invitation but they also take it up. They take a moment out of their schedule and we engage in a dialogue about Jesus and his incredible claims, his incredible life and his promise of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.
Not only do people engage but sometimes they give us their contact details. Often, with their mobile number fresh on my phone, I invite them to a local church, or offer to connect them to believers.
And then there is the literature itself. It contains the gospel – and it always says that the claims of Jesus should be considered. Many read our short flyers and, if only for a moment, think about the Jesus they were taught about at Sunday school. At the very least they will be presented with the name Jesus. These are seeds among those whom our God is calling.
As a method of evangelism, handing out flyers may be deemed as useless or even needlessly embarrassing! But it is an incredible opportunity to share the gospel with a complete stranger. Surely you wouldn't be embarrassed to invite a complete stranger to a Christmas Carol service? As we share the gospel again and again, would you be surprised that you become skilled at it? Just imagine how it might affect your evangelism. How might it affect the way you share Jesus in the workplace?
Paul says, ‘I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.’ Philemon 1:4-6.
As we share the gospel, we will come to know it better.
And how about if you were to stand outside your place of work and share the gospel? Surely you will be making yourself vulnerable, it could well feel uncomfortable, but most importantly your colleagues will discover that you are a believer in Jesus. Also, something might happen that could surprise you: Colleagues will see you and wonder what you are doing, and they will see that your faith is not just for Sundays. Would you be surprised if I told you this method of evangelism leads to reading the Bible with people? Would you be surprised if I told you people have come to the Lord because of such boldness? With the Lord who can do anything, we would be fools to avoid this opportunity.
Could you be someone who speaks to strangers and friends on the street about the gospel? I think so. Why not contact Wes Illingsworth or me, Ziggy, so we can talk some more and share Jesus together.
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- The Insurance IT worker and reading the Bible