Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
Isaiah 53:4-5, HCSB
Monday night, my mom and I attended a Survivor Art Show at the local oncology center. A friend was one of five breast cancer survivors to tell her cancer story through the collage she'd created in the therapy class.
The women amazed me with their courage, resilience, humor, and gratitude. Our friend seized the opportunity to boast about the support she'd received from her church family, several of whom were there. Almost all the women shared about how wonderful their husbands had been through the ordeal. One brought laughter to the crowd through her story of how her son shaved her head when the time came, how he gave her a punk 'do, a clown head, a mohawk, how hard they'd laughed. Another brought tears through her testimony of "3 months to live" stretching out to 6 years, during which her grandson was born.
The last woman to speak was unique. She was the only one without a husband's support, although her family and friends had been wonderful. She was the only one of Jewish descent, which she highlighted in her presentation as she honored her religious community. She was also the only one visibly afraid, having received the news only that week that the cancer had spread to her bones.
When the presentations began, the crowd parted ways to open an impromptu stage in front of the paintings. In the process, I was separated from my friend's team and found myself in the middle of a Middle Eastern family speaking a language I couldn't even identify, let alone understand. We had exchanged smiles and politely shifted about so the right people could see at the right moments.
The fifth woman, the one whose cancer had progressed, had been standing or sitting to my left through all the preceding presentations. When she told her story, my heart went out to her. When she said she was Jewish, I was stunned.
You see, over the preceding week I had heard five different sermons on Jewish evangelism. (I doubt I had ever in my life heard one prior to last week.) That had been the emphasis for missions week at Dallas Seminary
, the school we attended and whose chapel podcasts
I listen to regularly. It had also been a key component of the Sunday sermon at church.
My mind flashed back through what the Messianic Jewish speakers had said, wishing I'd taken better notes:
- Love your Jewish friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They are people just like you.
- Pray for them.
- Fly the flag of your faith in Jesus the Messiah. Speak openly about your relationship with Him.
- Isaiah 53 is the one chapter in their Scriptures they can't refute.
Love them. Pray for them. My heart had been in my knees, to paraphrase George Herbert, all week for my Jewish doctor and the family of boys I once tutored, for the middle son whose Bar Mitzvah speech I'd edited and celebration I'd attended, for the youngest son who asked me once "why you guys wear that sword around your necks."
In that context, when I discovered myself surrounded by this wounded, loving Jewish family, I felt there was something I must do. "Why did You place me here, Lord? What do You want?"
When the woman, whom I'll call Miriam, returned to her family and they surrounded her with hugs and encouragement, I moved to touch her arm to get her attention. She looked up, surprised.
"Excuse me, please? I'm not Jewish. I'm a Christian, but would it be okay, would you mind if I prayed for you, for what you're going through? God can do what the doctors sometimes can't. I will write your name on my prayer list so I remember. So... would that be okay?"
She beamed, "Of course! Of course that would be all right."
Someone translated, I think, to the mother who had come from Israel and only spoke Hebrew. The friend nodded at me and said, "Nice."
Embarrassed, I made my way through their group and rejoined my friend's team, wondering all the while, was that the right thing to do? Was it enough? I could have just prayed and not said anything. Should I have given her my contact information, or would that have been too much?
The opportunity passed. We celebrated our friend, now cancer-free. The group smiled for the camera, relished the tiny pumpkin tarts from the refreshment table. Mom and I drove home through sheets of rain. I wrote Miriam's name on a sticky note by my List in the kitchen and later on my prayer list. My heart has been in my knees for her since, that God would heal her cancer if that would bring her to know her Messiah, by whose wounds believers are healed
in the most important way. If not, I ask that Adonai
(Hebrew for "Lord") would sustain her life until she has come to know peace and true life through Jesus, Yeshua, Messiah.
God is able to water the oh-so-tiny seed of this Gentile stranger offering prayers for an ill, frightened Jewish woman. May He cause it to grow and bring forth fruit to His glory.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved (Romans 10:1, NIV 1984).
If you would like to learn more about ministries seeking to share the good news of Messiah with Jews around the world, please visit the Web sites of Chosen People Ministries and Jews for Jesus.