“The Messiah” By Leslie B. Flynn
During the early persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, some Jews began going to churches on Sunday. The Nazis sent orders to church leaders to ask the Jews to leave. Someone has related that in the middle of one service a pastor asked the folks to bow their heads and all who had Jewish fathers to leave. There was some rustling. Then the pastor asked all who had Jewish mothers to leave. Louder commotion. When the congregation looked up, someone had removed the form on the cross.
We owe the Messiah to the Jews. In His humanity He was Jewish. He was born in the Jewish city of Bethlehem, David’s city, of a Jewish mother. He was a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He was called “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” He bore the Jewish name of Jesus.
He never left the confines of Palestine, except briefly as an infant carried in flight by his parents to Egypt. He spoke the Hebrew dialect of His day. He attended the Jewish synagogue and temple services and participated in the yearly festivals. For thirty years He lived in a Jewish home. When He began His ministry, He was recognized as a Jew. The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well asked in surprise, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (Jhn. 4:9). The superscription on the cross read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (Jhn. 19:19). He was bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. Paul said that from the patriarchs “is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” (Rom. 9:5).
Max I. Reich, a Jewish professor during my student days at Moody Bible Institute, penned these words,
They meant to shame me, calling me a Jew!
I pity them. They know not what they do.
They little think the name which they deride,
Each time I hear it fills my heart with pride.
Since Jesus bore that name when here on earth
No princely title carries half such worth.”
Recently my wife and I were looking around a gift shop filled with Christmas decorations. Suddenly above the din of friendly conversation I heard the strains of faint music over the store’s sound system. I caught these words, “unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” I knew I was listening to The Messiah. I rejoiced in the almost universal acclaim given this oratorio sung every December in countless churches and played in shopping malls everywhere. I thought of how its composer, Handel, at the lowest ebb in his life, sequestered in his attic study for 24 days, often going without food and sleep, wrote almost continuously to capture the glorious music often called “The Greatest Story Ever Sung.”
Every word of The Messiah is from the Bible. Listening to this oratorio, you hear only God’s Word sung, for it’s a compilation of verses drawn entirely from Holy Writ, predictions or fulfillments of the Anointed One. More verses come from the Old Testament than from the New. More than one-fifth of the Bible books are quoted, seven from the Old, and seven from the New. Most quoted Old Testament books are Isaiah and Psalms. The Messiah is about the Messiah.
Two strains of seeming opposing thought run throughout this oratorio. First is the suffering, the humiliation, and the disavowal of the Messiah. “He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He gave His back to smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting…. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities.” Reportedly, a visitor who arrived while Handel was writing this section found the composer shaking with emotion.
The second strain found in The Messiah is a glorious one, predicting the ultimate triumph and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection is promised in these lines, “But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy one to see corruption.” Also in “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” But the most thrilling section of The Messiah for most folks is the “Hallelujah Chorus” as it exclaims over and over again, “And He shall reign for ever and ever, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
How sad that people, hearing The Messiah sung, fail to grasp the significance of these verses from the Bible. John Newton, once a slave trader and best known for his hymn “Amazing Grace,” was converted seven years after the composition of this famous work. He grew to admire this oratorio, but with its rising popularity recoiled at the thought of people finding enjoyment in the music while totally heedless of the message. As a pastor, he delivered a series of “Fifty Expository Discourses on the Scriptural Oratorio,’ praying that audiences would respond with a sense of obligation to the divine love that sent the Messiah.
THE MESSIAH-PREDICTION AND FULFILLMENT
The inspiring compilation of texts in The Messiah doesn’t begin to exhaust the Old Testament predictions about His coming. The Old Testament contains dozens and dozens of such prophecies. Dr. John Gerstner, professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, quoted Church of England Canon Liddon as stating that “there are in all more than three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the coming Messiah. All have been fulfilled, more or less fully and clearly, in Jesus of Nazareth” (John Gerstner. Reasons For Faith. New York: Harper & Row. 1960, p. 115).
Many times in the Gospels, events in the life of Jesus are mentioned as specifically fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy. For example, the account of His virgin birth (Matt. 1:22,23) is said “to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” Then follows a quote from Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” The birthplace of Jesus-Bethlehem-was predicted over 500 years in advance. When the wise men came to Jerusalem seeking a newborn king, King Herod was disturbed at the mention of a rival, and asked the teachers of the law where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet
has written.” To Herod they then quoted Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (Matt. 2:1-6).
The flight of Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus to escape Herod’s slaughter of innocent infants (Matt. 2:13-15) is said to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Hosea (11:1), “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
The senseless murder of baby boys (Matt. 2:16,17) fulfilled Jer. 31:15, which Matthew quoted. (From here on, we’ll give just the reference of the prophecy and omit the quote.) In a Sabbath service in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read a prophecy about the Spirit’s anointing of the Messiah for a ministry to the poor, to prisoners, and to the blind and the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21). Then with all eyes focused on Him, Jesus declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He had quoted the prophet Isaiah (61:1,2).
The moving of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum, which was situated by the lake near Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt. 4:12-16) fulfilled a prophecy by Isaiah (9:1,2).
His plentiful use of parables (Matt. 13:34,35) was predicted in Ps. 78:2. Failure of the people to believe in Jesus even after performing many miracles in their presence (John 12:37), fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (53:1).
Betrayal by one of His own (John 13:18-39) fulfilled a prophecy of David (Psalm 41:9).
Hatred against Jesus without any cause (John 15:24) was predicted by David in two Psalms (35:19; 69:4).
Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt in His so-called triumphal entry on the day we call Palm Sunday (Matt. 21:4,5) was foretold hundreds of years before by the prophet Zechariah (9:9).
The use of the thirty pieces of silver given Judas for betraying Jesus to purchase a potter’s field (Matt. 27:3-10) was also foretold by the prophet Zechariah (11:12,13).
The division of Jesus’ garments by the soldiers into four shares, and the casting of lots for His seamless robe (Jhn. 19:23,24) was foretold in another of David’s Psalms (22:18)
The apostle John related that Jesus’ cry, “I am thirsty” was uttered on purpose “so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (19:28). The prophecy came from David’s Psalm (69:21).
It was customary to break the legs of victims of crucifixion to hasten their death. Though the soldiers broke the legs of the thieves on either side of Jesus, they did not break His for they saw He was already dead. Instead, a soldier pierced His side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19: 31-37). These actions, sparing His bones and piercing His side, fulfilled two prophecies (Psalm 22:17 and Zechariah 12:10).
Many predictions about Jesus are found in certain Psalms, termed by scholars “Messianic Psalms.” Twice on the first Easter, first to the couple on the Emmaus road, and then to the disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus showed how the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, predicted not only His death, but His glory as well (Luke 24:25-27, 44).
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:24- 35) he clearly declared that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and His exaltation to the right hand of God had been prophesied by David (Psalm 16:8-11;110:1). Two Messiahs had not been prophesied, one to suffer, and another to reign; rather, the one same Messiah was to both suffer and then be exalted. Paul’s strategy in preaching in synagogues on his missionary journeys was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures that the Messiah, when He came, had to suffer and rise from the dead. Then he would declare, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ” (Acts 17:1-3). His presentation rested strongly on Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
Available in many Christian bookstores is the New Testament Prophecy Edition which notes in bold print verses that fulfill Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. The Old Testament says, “The Messiah will come.” The New Testament says, “The Messiah has come.” Despite all the evidence to the Messiahship of Jesus, many believe that the Messiah has not yet come.
To those who hold that His coming is still future, Joseph Rabinowitz, pioneer of a Messianic congregation in 1885 in Russia, used to relate “The Parable of the Wheel,” which went like this. Some people driving in a four-wheel wagon happened to lose a wheel. Finding that the wagon lurched along clumsily, they looked about and discovered that a wheel was missing. One of the men jumped down and ran forward in search of the missing wheel. To everyone he met he said, “We’ve lost a wheel. Have you seen a wheel?” Finally a wise bystander said, “You are looking in the wrong direction. Instead of looking in front for your wheel, you ought to be looking behind.”
Then Rabinowitz commented that this was the same mistake Jews have been making for centuries. They have been looking ahead for the Messiah instead of looking back. The Messiah has already come. The four wheels of Hebrew history are Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. The Jews by looking in front, instead of behind, have failed to find their fourth wheel. Abraham, Moses and David are but beautiful types and symbols of Jesus. But thank God, “the Israelites of the New Covenant” have found Y’shua, our Brother Jesus, our All, “who of God has been made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;” from whom alone we have found divine light, life, liberty, and love, for the great Here and the greater Hereafter (Kai Kjaer. Joseph Rabinowitz and the Messianic Movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 57-58).
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
The Old Testament not only gave direct predictions of the coming Messiah, but also foreshadowed His death on the cross in many events involving sacrifices.
Right after Adam and Eve had sinned and stood in naked shame before a righteous God, the “Lord God made garments of skin for the pair and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). They then learned that the covering for their sin came at a price-the death of an innocent substitute-the shedding of some animal’s lifeblood.
Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, each brought an offering to the Lord. The Lord rejected Cain’s, but accepted Abel’s. Abel had offered portions of his flock. Through the shedding of blood, “by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did” (Heb. 11:4).
When the Lord was about to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, he directed the Jews to slay a lamb, and sprinkle its blood on their doorframes. The Lord said, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:12,13). At midnight the Lord struck all the firstborn in Egypt. But every house that had the blood on the doorposts was passed over, and no one “under the blood” died. The lambs had died, but the sons were alive-saved by the blood of the lambs. This story foreshadowed the deliverance from sin’s bondage for all who put their trust in the blood of the Messiah shed on Calvary. Paul wrote that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (I Cor. 5:7).
On Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the High Priest required two goats. He would sacrifice one and sprinkle its blood on the Mercy Seat atop the Ark which contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments which the people had broken. On the head of the other goat the High Priest would lay both hands, confess the wickedness of the Israelites, and send it off into the desert. This annual ceremony anticipated the redemptive work of Jesus Christ who would first offer up Himself, shedding His blood as a sacrifice for our sins, and who also would carry away our sins never to be remembered against us again. The book of Hebrews points out the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Once He had offered Himself at Calvary and entered heaven to appear for us in God’s presence, no further sacrifice was needed. “Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own….But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:25,26). The once-for-allness of Jesus’ sacrifice was indicated by the ripping of the veil in front of the Holy Place. Just at the moment Jesus died, the curtain was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51).
The downward direction indicated a heavenly hand. Not only the Day of Atonement ceremony, but also the entire Levitical sacrificial system with its daily sacrifices, was done away with through the final, all-sufficient offering of the Lamb of God. Priests must have sewed the curtain back together and used it till the temple was destroyed 40 years later. But other priests evidently saw a relationship between the tearing of the veil and the death of Jesus and became believers (Acts 6:7). Of the various animals offered in Old Testament sacrifices, the lamb was probably the most frequent. So, it’s not strange that “the Lamb” was a favorite title for the Lord Jesus. John the Baptist pointed Him out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jhn. 1:29). In the book of Revelation, He is called the Lamb over 25 times. John has a vision of “a lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (5:6). Revelation speaks of “the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” (15:3). Also of “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (19:9). Perhaps the most thrilling picture is that of the ten thousand times ten thousand circling the throne of God, where Jesus now sits, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.”
Recently Messianic believers in Israel have pioneered the placing of full-page advertisements in the nation’s leading Hebrew newspapers. The first, just before Yom Kippur in 1988, pictured a slain lamb on the Temple altar, and was headlined, “Who Is The Sacrifice?” It explained to a potential audience of half the population of Israel how Y’shua the Messiah atones for sin.
Probably no Old Testament chapter speaks more clearly beforehand of the humiliation, suffering and victory of the Messiah than Isaiah 53. Here are snatches of the chapter:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…. we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth …. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth …. my righteous servant will justify many … For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Rabbinical scholars have tried to identify the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the nation of Israel. But there are some problems with this view. Isaiah 53 speaks of the Suffering Servant’s perfect innocence, whereas Israel could never be characterized as innocent. Also, the Servant suffers vicariously for the sins of others, whereas in the Old Testament Israel suffers because of its own sin. Again, the Servant suffers willingly, but the Old Testament never describes the sufferings of Israel as a willing sacrifice for the sins of others, especially for the sins of Gentile people.
The language is so descriptive that it seems as though the prophet was standing by the cross reporting the proceedings. Interestingly, a few years ago some of our church teenagers told me of an incident in their high school where a section of the Bible was read over the loudspeaker each morning before classes. Because of a large Jewish enrollment, the agreement was that only the Old Testament would be read. One morning someone read Isaiah 53. A howl of protest went up from students claiming that the reading was from the New Testament and about Jesus!
It was Isaiah 53 that an important Ethiopian official was reading on his way home after worship in Jerusalem. Sitting in his chariot in the desert of Gaza, he was met by Philip, an evangelist, who had been diverted by an angel from evangelism in Samaria and directed to the Ethiopian’s chariot.
Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me,” and then invited Philip to join him. The Ethiopian was reading the passage, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” He asked who the prophet was talking about. “Philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). The Ethiopian believed and was baptized.
A Rabbi Believes
Through the centuries Isaiah 53 has led many to trust in Jesus as their Messiah. Harold A. Sevener details the conversion story of the founder of Chosen People Ministries.Leopold Cohn, an orthodox rabbi from Hungary, in his search for the Messiah, left his wife and family to come to America. On his third Sunday in New York City, out for a walk, he saw a church sign in Hebrew saying, “Meeting for Jews.” About to walk in, he was warned by friends not to enter a building with a cross on top, “There are some apostates in that church who mislead our Jewish brethren. They say that the Messiah has already come.” But since he was searching for the Messiah he went in (Harold A. Sevener. Vision. Chosen People Ministries, pp. 7-11).
Inside on the platform 24 Jewish girls, dressed in blue frocks with white sleeves, were singing in Yiddish with great sincerity and enthusiasm, “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.” While he was pondering the enigma of Jewish girls singing about Jesus, the rabbi noticed that the room grew quiet, as if something exciting was about to happen. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a young man sprang onto the platform and without introduction began preaching about the Messiah. He ran back and forth across the platform with the force of a political orator. Suddenly he leaped to one side, disappeared into the wings, and in a few seconds came out again, carrying in his arms a little live lamb. The audience gasped. He went on with his sermon about the Lamb of God and the Lamb in Isaiah 53. Then the speaker, who was a Jew, went to the wings of the platform, handed the lamb over to another person, then came running out, shouting at the top of his voice, “The Messiah has come! The Messiah has come!” Though both fascinated and disgusted, the rabbi heard for the first time how salvation was available to all who believed in the Lamb of God, the Messiah.
Sometime later Leopold Cohn accepted Jesus as his Messiah and started a mission to Jews which, after a hundred years, is still going strong.
The book Testimonies: of Jews who believe In Jesus contains the full accounts of how sixteen Jews came to believe in Jesus as their Messiah. Edited by Ruth Rosen, she chose to begin with the account of her mother’s journey to faith:
Losing her mother in infancy, Ceil Rosen was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home by foster parents who loved her and treated her as their own. They were strict about the dietary laws, kept all the holidays and forbad picking up a needle, scissors or even a pencil on Saturdays. She knew that being Jewish meant knowing the real God who expected things to be done in a certain way. She knew that unlike Jews, the goyim (non-Jews) had strange ideas about God. As observant as her foster parents were, she didn’t hear much about God at home.
When she was 13, her mother moved to Denver because of her need for a better climate. At the age of questioning authority, Ceil tired under the restrictions of her Orthodox upbringing. When she was 14, she answered a knock at the door and found a boy named Moishe Rosen standing there, who was selling house numbers. Her mother didn’t buy any, but Moishe asked her out on a date. She refused. A year later he asked again. At age 15 she went for a walk with him. They lived on the same block, went to the same school, and they began going steady. His family were nominally Orthodox, members of an Orthodox synagogue, but his mother didn’t keep kosher. Ceil could eat bacon at his house and not feel guilty.
As a member of the high school girls’ chorus, Ceil recalls them dressing up as Israeli women for a Christmas program, gliding across the floor in flowing gowns, and singing, “O come, O come Immanuel/ And ransom captive Israel.” She suddenly realized that Jesus was Jewish, and briefly wondered if He could be for Jewish people after all.
Moishe and Ceil married when she was 18. They decided not to have an Orthodox home, but be modern American Jews without religious hang-ups. With pride in their heritage they maintained their roots, but the compulsion to be religious was lifted. Having her first baby at 19, she began saying prayers of thanks to God. Any doubts as to the existence of God evaporated. Though she didn’t know what to believe about God, she knew He was the giver of life and in charge of things.
She and Moishe went to the movies a lot. The picture “Quo Vadis” made a lasting impression on her. Something about Jesus nabbed her attention. After Moishe gave her an album of Christmas carols which she listened to over and over, she asked herself, “Was it possible God really wanted her to believe in Jesus?” She began to wonder about the New Testament. She asked her cousin to buy a copy of the whole Bible at Newberry’s 5 & 10. She read the four gospels, and then started all over again. She knew Jesus was real, and just couldn’t read enough about Him. It was so obvious he was Jewish, and she was impressed with the down-to-earth, authoritative, compassionate way He talked.
Ceil knew that to confess Christ had the potential of disrupting family relationships. But she also knew that if Jesus’ claims were true, then to deny Him would be to deny God. If she came to the conviction that Jesus was truly the Messiah, she would not be able to deny it, inconvenient and disruptive as it might be.
She wanted to talk to someone but didn’t know where to turn. On a snowy day Mrs. Hannah Wago, a missionary, knocked on the door. A Christian lady, totally unaware of Ceil’s search, had asked the missionary to visit the Rosens. Mrs. Wago began teaching every week but Moishe wanted no part of Ceil’s growing interest. Finally, he told Ceil that Mrs. Wago was not welcome in their home. Ceil shifted their Bible studies to the telephone. One day Moishe came home to find Ceil engaged in one of their phone Bible studies. Moishe, who ordinarily would not deny Ceil anything, became so infuriated that he ripped the phone out of the wall. Embarrassed at his flash of anger, Moishe later apologized, but made no attempt to call a repairman. Ceil discreetly continued her studies with Mrs. Wago.
On Easter Sunday 1953, Ceil walked into a church for the first time in her life. She responded to the invitation and came forward to pray with the minister. After that she prayed for her husband every day, weeping as she asked the Lord to show him the truth about Jesus. Seeing Ceil’s deep interest, Moishe began reading about Jesus and could make quite a case against Christianity. But the information he had read had taken root. They both were surprised one Saturday night when Moishe confessed his faith. They both prayed for him to accept Jesus as his Messiah. He told Ceil he wanted to go to church the next day. He went forward at the minister’s invitation, just as Ceil had on Easter.
They told both sets of parents who could not understand nor accept their children for believing in Jesus. Ceil’s folks told her to forget that she was their daughter. They left town, and Ceil never saw them or heard from them again. She did hear that they moved to Israel, but could never discover any trace of them. Moishe’s parents threatened to disown them, but did not cut them out of their lives for more than a year or so.
Says Ceil, “When I began praying that Moishe would accept Jesus as his Messiah, I had no idea what I was asking. Once my husband committed his life to Y’shua, he could not bear to stand idly by while the majority of our people wnet on believing that Jesus is only for Gentiles. My husband eventually became the founder and executive director of Jews for Jesus, a team of people who have challenged literally millions to think about Jesus.”
Moishe Rosen says, “Witnessing to Jews is like Philip who, becoming a follower of Jesus, went and found Nathaniel. Like Philip, we want to find our brothers and sisters and tell them, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”
Rosen has a suggested prayer to help Jews or Gentiles who wish to become followers of Jesus:
“God of Abraham, I know that I have sinned against You, and I want to turn from my sins. I believe you provided Jesus (Y’shua when speaking to Jews) as a once-and-for-all atonement for me. With this prayer I receive Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. I thank You for cleansing me of sin and making me a new person. Amen.”
A well-to-do businessman was entertaining a devout believer in his palatial home. In the course of the evening, while the two of them were sitting in the living room before the glowing fireplace, the wealthy host, a nominal Christian, made a biased remark, “I want nothing Jewish in my home.” The surprised guest said nothing at first. Then slowly rising from his chair, he approached a painting on the wall. It was the apostle Paul preaching to the Athenians on Mars Hill. Carefully he took the painting down and laid it by the crackling fireplace. Then spotting a lovely leather Bible on the marble table, he walked over, picked it up, and placed it beside the painting. Looking around, he saw a paitning of the crucifixion, painstakingly removed it and laid it beside the Bible and the other painting. Then picking up all three items, and moving in the direction of the fireplace, he paused, “You said you want nothing Jewish in your home. Would you like me to put these in the fire?”
In a flash the host jumped to his feet. “Stop! Stop! May God forgive me! I never thought of it in this light before. I never realized how indebted I am for things Jewish—especially my Savior” (Testimonies: of Jews who believe In Jesus, ed. Ruth Rosen. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1992, pp. 1-11).
*The article above was adapted from Chapter 7 in the excellent book by Leslie B. Flynn. What the Church Owes the Jew. Magnus Press. Carlsbad, CA: 1998.
About the Author
Leslie B. Flynn, pastor, author, teacher, radio broadcaster, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, died at home in Nanuet, New York on August 11, 2006, at age 87. Reverend Flynn was the pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, New York for 40 years, from 1949 until he retired in 1989, and he had been Pastor Emeritus there from 1989 until his death. At the age of 15, Leslie Flynn claimed Psalm 37:4 as his life verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Reverend Flynn often said that this verse proved to be true in his life. He dedicated himself to trying to answer God’s call for his life and in return he felt blessed beyond measure. Reverend Flynn enjoyed a rewarding career doing meaningful work that he loved, an active retirement, and a rich family life. Married for 61 years, he and his wife raised seven daughters. Upon his retirement from Grace Baptist Church at the age of 70, he invoked Psalm 23:6, saying “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.”
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on October 3, 1918, Reverend Flynn graduated from a five-year high school at the age of 16. He completed the pastor’s course at Moody Bible Institute and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wheaton College, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Seminary, and a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He was also granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Denver Seminary. Before coming to Nanuet, he was the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in St. Clair, Pennsylvania from 1944–1949.
During his 40-year pastorate at Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, Reverend Flynn was dedicated to his parishioners. He started each workday praying for members of his congregation individually by name. He was faithful in his visitation, making approximately 1,000 calls a year to homes and hospitals. Under his leadership, two new buildings were erected to accommodate the needs of the growing congregation. When asked how he survived 40 years in the same church, he answered, “Ultimately, through the goodness of God and the support of a kind congregation.”
Reverend Flynn’s ministry was not confined to his church. A prolific writer, he authored 43 books and hundreds of articles for religious magazines. His last book, Laugh, he completed at age 87. His most popular book, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, sold over 250,000 copies since its publication in 1973. His most widely published tract, Through the Bible in a Year, has had more than nine million copies printed. In addition to pastoring and writing, Reverend Flynn taught pastoral methods, journalism, and evangelism at Nyack College for 21 years. He also had weekly broadcasts on three local New York radio stations for 24 years. In addition, he filled an average of 40 speaking engagements outside the church each year. Reverend Flynn was a member of the Board of Trustees of Denver Seminary for 15 years and a member of the Board of Directors of the World Relief Commission for 20 years. Through the generosity of his church and in his capacity as a World Relief board member, he traveled extensively, visiting mission fields worldwide.
Through his ministry at the church, on the radio, in writing and in person, Reverend Flynn touched countless lives and worked tirelessly to spread God’s message of love and forgiveness to all people. He was gentle, hard-working, humble, disciplined, and soft-spoken. He had both an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and a winning sense of humor. Nothing made him happier than to see someone’s life change for the better through Christ’s teachings. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he answered, “Simply, that I preached the word of God.” Reverend Flynn is survived by his wife, Bernice Carlson Flynn; seven daughters, Dr. Linnea Carlson-Sabelli, of Chicago, Illinois, Rev. Janna Roche of Williamsburg, Virginia, Marilee Lee of Jensen Beach, Florida, Annilee Oppenheimer of Potomac, Maryland, Donna McGrath of Ravena, New York, Carol Mellema of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Susan Symington of Bethesda, Maryland; 22 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Published in the Journal News: Friday, August 18th, 2006.