The Lord used two men to be the primary influences for my ministry. One was Dr. Louis Goldberg, of blessed memory, who was the head of the Jewish Studies program when I attended Moody Bible Institute. The other was Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, also of blessed memory.
Moishe was very special. He was wise. And he was an activist for the proclamation of the Gospel, the message about the Messiah. Moishe became the most famous Messianic Jew in the twentieth century. God used Moishe to put Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews, Messianic Judaism on the map. Moishe was controversial. Moishe’s daughter Ruth wrote a biography about her father. The title of Ruth’s book: Called To Controversy. It’s a good title for a book about Moishe’s life.
Me, and all of us who are part of Shema, Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews and Messianic Judaism experienced controversy last week when I prayed when the Vice President was in town. I expected some controversy to result, but not to the extent that it did. The controversy became national and international; and most of the comments in the media and social media were negative, critical, insulting.
Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus, are fake Jews. I’m a fake rabbi. One man wrote that not only am I a fake rabbi, since the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations ordained me, then removed my ordination. I’m not just a fake rabbi, I’m a fake fake rabbi. I chucked when I read that. And when I think about it, it still makes me chuckle. My brother-in-law told a friend of mine that right now, I am the most famous fake rabbi in the world.
Don’t worry, by the way, about me not being a legitimate rabbi. A person can be ordained by more than one ordaining organization. And the truth is I was ordained years before my ordination with the UMJC. And in Michigan, and I think in other states, if a person is recognized by his faith community as being the leader of that faith community, then the state recognizes his leadership. He is, in fact, ordained.
So, do you recognize me as your spiritual leader? Then I am Rabbi Loren.
Controversy is to be expected. It is not to be feared. One of the sayings that Moishe frequently used was: “Every knock is a boost.” Attacks hurt, but they also can help. God uses controversy to advance the kingdom of God. God uses controversy to advance the Gospel.
Yeshua Himself was very controversial, even when He was a child. When king Herod found out from the visiting magi that the king of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem, he was so threatened by Yeshua’s existence that he killed all the male children who lived in and around Bethlehem who were two and under.
Yeshua caused a controversy when He cast out demons from the two demon possessed men on the east side of the Kinneret, the lake of the Galilee. The demons went into a herd of pigs, who ran into the lake and drowned. When news reached the town, the whole town went out to meet Yeshua and pleaded with him to leave their region. That’s controversy. And that enabled the whole town to hear about the young Rabbi from the other side of the lake who was able to cast out demons. Every knock is a boost.
Yeshua caused a controversy when some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Yeshua saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the Torah teachers said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” – because they knew that only God can forgive sins, and therefore Yeshua was claiming to be God. Then Yeshua healed the man, proving that He had the authority to forgive sin. Truth about Yeshua was advanced because of controversy.
Yeshua cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and immediately the man spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” That’s controversy. But, this blasphemous criticism from respected leaders didn’t cause Yeshua to back down. And even more focus was placed on Yeshua as a result.
Yeshua went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. That was controversial because the Pharisees believed that was harvesting, and therefore a kind of work, and therefore the disciples were doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath. Yeshua explained to them that human need is more important than the Sabbath, and He was more important than the temple and the Sabbath. What a bold, controversial response that advanced the gospel, the truth about Yeshua!
Yeshua then went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Yeshua, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” After teaching them that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And when he stretched it out it was completely restored. That was so controversial that the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Yeshua. But it also caused people to think more about Yeshua.
Yeshua caused another controversy when they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Yeshua healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David (the Messiah) ?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the Lord of the Flies, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Now, that’s controversy. And again, their blasphemous insult didn’t cause Yeshua to dial back, to tone things down. And it brought more attention to Yeshua.
Yeshua caused a controversy when healed the man by the pool of Bethesda who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Yeshua said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” When they found out that Yeshua was the one who had made him well, and that Yeshua was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.
But that did not intimidate Yeshua. In his defense Yeshua courageously said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason, this very controversial claim about Himself, they tried all the more to kill him; for in their opinion, not only was he breaking the Sabbath, he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. That bold, controversial statement advanced the truth about Yeshua to these people.
The day after He fed the 5,000 from a few loaves of bread and some fish, the crowd followed Yeshua to the other side of the Kinneret, wanting Him to give them more bread. Yeshua redirected them to Himself. He declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
This powerful and true statement caused more controversy. The Jewish leaders who were there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Yeshua, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
Yeshua did not back down – He doubled-down! He responded to their criticism with more truth about Himself: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” These were very controversial statements. The gospel was being advanced by controversy.
Then those leaders began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Yeshua gave them more truth about Himself. He said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” God uses controversy to advance the Gospel.
On the last day of Sukkot, when the water pouring ceremony was at its height, and the nation was praying for water, Yeshua stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
That caused a tremendous controversy. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Yeshua. Again, the Gospel, the Good News about Yeshua, was advanced through controversy.
Yeshua caused another controversy which amplified the truth about Himself when He said to some Jewish leaders: Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Yeshua answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” – claiming to be God, the great I am – which is exactly who He is.
Yeshua healed a man who was born blind and who had been a beggar. He was brought to the Pharisees, who examined him extensively. He told them that Yeshua was the one who healed him. This was controversial because the healing took place on the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. This controversy caused some of the Pharisees to think more deeply about Yeshua and have a more positive view of Him.
One Chanukkah, the holiday of Dedication, Yeshua was in Jerusalem at the temple. The Jewish leaders who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Yeshua answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one – which is a claim to be God.” Wow! Talk about controversial statements! But again, this controversy caused more truth about Yeshua to be proclaimed.
The week before He died, Yeshua entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. The young Rabbi from Nazareth exercised authority over the Temple, even though it was under the control of the priests. Although these actions were highly controversial, and angered the leaders of the temple, it was right for Yeshua to do them; and in doing them, reveal truth about Himself – that the Temple was His Father’s house, and Yeshua had the right to cleanse it. God uses controversy to advance the kingdom of God.
After Yeshua was arrested and on trial before the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin, and the high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Yeshua replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” What controversial statements – which declared more truth about Yeshua to the leaders of the Chosen People.
Yeshua caused a controversy which communicated truth about Yeshua to the Roman governor. When He appeared before Pontius Pilate for another trial, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Yeshua replied. And of course, He is the king of the Jews, and believing in the king of the Jews is the most Jewish thing any Jewish person can do.
Yeshua caused controversy when, after being crucified and buried, He rose from the dead. Every knock is a boost. Being crucified was quite a knock. But being resurrected was an even greater boost!
And 2,000 years later, having changed the course of history, and with millions of followers, and being the most famous Jewish man who ever lived, Yeshua is still causing controversy. In fact, I think He is the most controversial person in history.
Being involved in controversy can be unpleasant. Sometimes very unpleasant. Because of that, most people don’t like being involved in controversy. But the Lord Yeshua taught us, that instead of being afraid of controversy, instead of avoiding controversy, we are to rejoice in it. Luke 6: Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. And Yeshua taught us the same truth but from the opposite perspective: Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Which is you? You haven’t created any controversy among family, friends, people at work, people at school? Everyone speaks well of you? Likes you? You are popular? If that’s you, you are like the false prophets. Or, you have spoken up, caused controversy, and are hated, insulted, excluded and rejected. If so, you are like the true prophets.
The nation of Israel has caused controversy throughout our history and still causes controversy. The prophets caused controversy. Messiah Yeshua caused controversy – and still does. The apostles caused controversy. Paul caused controversy.
God uses controversy to advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God. God uses controversy to strengthen His people, and to make them more confident and dare all the more to proclaim the Gospel without fear.
Most of the comments in the media and social media last week were negative, critical, insulting. But not all. Because of the controversy, Myra Adams, who writes for Real Clear Politics, was able to write an article in which she announced that she is a Messianic Jew; and she was able to give her testimony and give reasons for her faith, including a link to the Messianic prophecies. When was the last time you saw something like that in a publication like Real Clear Politics?
And, after the service last week, Larry let me know that members of his family heard about the situation, and wanted to know if I was his rabbi. This enabled him to have more conversations about the Faith with members of his family than he was able to have before.
Did any of you have a similar experience? I did.
Most Christians today, most Messianic Jews today, don’t want to be controversial; don’t share their faith the way they should; don’t proclaim the Good News the way they should. I want us to be different.
Be confident. Be courageous. Be controversial.
Remember – every knock is a boost.
Lord, help us really understand that every knock is a boost; that although attacks hurt, but they also can help; that You use controversy to advance the kingdom of God; controversy to advance the Gospel.
Help us not to compromise in order to avoid controversy, but embrace controversy and rejoice in controversy.
Help us to be bold, confident, courageous, and controversial for Yeshua!