A JEWISH SAILOR READS ISAIAH 53
By Israel Cohen
Once I was in the Navy and away from my parents, I had the opportunity to do some new things—not all of them strictly kosher—and also to consider some ideas that I never could have thought about before: ideas like Yeshua being the Messiah.
My father and I regularly attended our Conservative synagogue in Philadelphia, especially during the High Holy Days, and from the age of eight I went to Hebrew school every afternoon. But after my Bar Mitzvah, my religious education came to a halt. Later on, I joined the Navy and found myself away from home for the first time. Of all places to get stationed, I wound up in Morocco, North Africa.
One afternoon as I sat alone in the barracks, a young sailor came over to me and asked if I was Jewish. When I told him I was, he asked me to teach him about being Jewish (obviously he was not!). As I started to tell him, he interrupted me: “Can you teach me about being Jewish from the Bible?” I got hold of a Jewish Bible, but didn’t know where to turn. So he asked me to turn to Isaiah. When he saw I was having trouble finding it, he found it for me and turned to the 53rd chapter.
“Read this aloud,” he said, and I did. At first I thought I had the wrong Bible. Was this young sailor tricking me? It sounded so much like what my Christian friends used to say about Jesus. My confusion deepened when the sailor took out his New Testament and had me read the third chapter of a book called “John.” I read about a Jewish man talking with Jesus, and I could not figure out why a Jewish person would want to talk to Jesus the Christian.
My friend explained that Jesus was Jewish, the New Testament was written by Jews and that it tells all about the Jewish Messiah. Never in my life had I been so confused!
But after three hours of talking and reading from both of our Bibles, especially Isaiah 53 in my Jewish Bible, my confusion started to disappear. I understood that I needed the forgiveness offered by Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. But I also knew I was Jewish and that Jews do not believe in Jesus!
I was so torn that I actually cried that sleepless night, pulling my blanket over my head so the others could not hear my weeping. I then turned on a flashlight so I could read the New Testament my friend had given me.
As my tears fell upon the pages of the New Testament, I could no longer resist doing what I knew I had to do: I prayed to God and told him that I believed Jesus was really the Jewish Messiah. I asked His forgiveness for the many ways I had failed to live as I knew God willed! A few moments later, I went peacefully to sleep—and woke up to a brand new life.