This Jew Believes In Jesus? Joel C. Rosenberg Explains
"What are you, a "Born Again!?!", "an Evangelical?!?"
Joel C. Rosenberg outlines one of the earliest radio interviews he ever did where he was asked, "What are you, a "Born Again?", "an Evangelical?" How can you be a Jew and believe in Jesus? The answers to these questions came to define Joel's life and career. Some decades later he continues to be asked these very same questions by President Donald Trump and other leaders around the world.
- [Carl] Joel, I was wondering if you could just give us some concluding thoughts and then...
- [Joel] Sure. One of the things we haven't mentioned actually is that Carl and I began a podcast in January called, Inside the Epicenter. And uh... It's clear to me from this conversation that every single person that we've talked to, we're gonna need to do multiple podcasts. We're gonna use these messages to create podcasts, but I, you know, for... Kalil, for example, you're just getting a smidge, right? And I'm guessing that most of you, as much involved in this as you are, may never have met a Gazan at all, a Gazan Palestinian, much less, one who loves Jesus, much less, one who's so articulate and fearless. And so he needs more opportunity to make the case, and explain and... there's so many questions we have. By the way, I also wanna, you know, these are all good people to invite to a church, to a ministry... and The Joshua Fund can help you make those connections and invite them. I just wanna close with a few thoughts. And I was so inspired by my friend Anne, because, you know, it's true, you know. When people invite her, just the way she runs, they, you know... Come and speak and then the lord will put something on your heart. But I said, come and speak and this is what the Lord's putting on your heart. Because I thought there's nobody gonna be better at explaining the Romans 1:16 love for Jews and Gentiles better than her. And then she said to me, I'm gonna tease you just slightly, but just like, I don't know if I really, you know if it's gonna be a good message. and I leaned over to Morrow in the middle and I'm like, yeah, she's way off message. She really... I don't know what she was thinking about this one. So encouraging! But and I was sitting there, I was thinking, you know, okay, I don't have a normal life, right. I get it, you know, you have normal lives, and mine is weird, and we're not all sitting with crowned princes and kings, that's not my daily life. But I was thinking um... the first radio interview... well, I think it was the third, but the third radio interview I ever did for my first book. I was on a radio station in Rochester, New York, which was my hometown. Because my publicist was having trouble getting me on any radio stations because nobody knew who I was. And so, just sort of scraping, throwing spaghetti at the wall, trying to make something stick. So they got a rock station and the most famous but odd host on that rock station. Sure, this looks interesting. A guy writes a book about a kamikaze attack on America, it leads to a war with Iraq. Sure, I'll read that and I'll have the guy on. And if you've ever seen my One For Israel testimony video that we did for eras. I begin with, dude! How did you know? So the search... This guy literally talked this way. He's like, dude! This is crazy! This is whack! I mean, come on! How could you know? How could you write a book like this? It's so crazy! I mean, it's exactly telling us what happened. And, uh... But as we went through that interview, he says, now I don't understand it. I mean, dude! Your name is Rosenberg, right? Right. Well, that's Jewish right? On my dad's side, yes, my mom's not Jewish. Ah, whatever, but you got these characters at the end of your book, they're all talking about Jesus! Why? What are you, a "Born Again?", "an Evangelical." You know, he said it like, with such disdain. It was some toxic radioactive nightmare. And... I said, well, yes, I'm a follower of Jesus, and from a Jewish background, and I tried to steer the conversation actually back to the book. That's why I was on the air. That's why my publicist was doing it. That's why my publisher was... But it's true that my heart was to use the book this way. I just didn't see this coming. Not from that guy whose name, you know, and his name was Brother Wease, okay. And he's like, but dude! I don't understand. How can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus? I'm like, well... Mr.Wease, it's um... you know, it's an interesting story, and I'm not sure that you have time to get into it. No, no, are you kidding me? Are you... you know, it's one thing to have a novelist whose novel, whose fictional ideas seem to be coming true in before our eyes. That's one thing! But to have a Jew who believes in Jesus, this I gotta hear, son! He goes, I'm gonna hold you over the break and we're gonna get into that. And we did. And so the third interview I ever did in my life, Sean Hannity was first, so, but uh... was this and I got to share the gospel. What I didn't expect was, Brother Wease explained to me in the next segment, he goes, you know, I'm Jewish. I said, no. I thought you might be a Jesuit with Brother Wease or I don't know what, I.. . I never saw that coming. And then he took some calls. The first guy that calls was a Jewish kid I knew growing up who was listening to the show and I'm like, what is happening? A new ministry was born by writing fiction. Didn't see that coming, didn't... but that was exciting. And I just thought, wow, what a fun question! How can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus? Well, a few years later I got to... I got invited to Morocco, the Kingdom of Morocco. The Minister of Islamic Affairs had read one of my novels, had come to our home to meet us for a little dinner party, and then invited me to come, and I'm like... So what's your job exactly? He goes, I oversee 33,000 mosques in Morocco. I said, okay then. And you want me to come... what? So he has a dinner party in his home and he is like, their equivalent of the head of Homeland Security and the advisor to this, and there's a lot of muckety muck, high level... And he's got this huge, I forget the name of the food, but it's like this big, huge platter. Rice and lamb and vegetables, aromatic, was so... My mouth was watering and he goes, well, before we begin, I've been thinking a lot since my dinner party with you at your home in Virginia. But I am confused, Isn't your name Rosenberg? Yes, it is. Isn't that Jewish? Well, on my father's side it is, my mom, no. Okay, okay, whatever. How are you an Evangelical Christian? I don't understand how you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. And I'm like, Lord, are you serious? That's the question at the Minister of Islamic Affairs house? All right then, let's go! That's exciting, that's a fun conversation. Fast forward a few years later, I'm having lunch with Vice President Mike Pence. We have known each other for a number of years, we were friends. We were talking about these delegations of the doors that were opening and... the administration was fashioning their peace plan, and they... he wanted to get more nuances. I was sending him written reports, but he wanted to pick my brain because they were looking, is there anything we ought to... any nuances we ought to put in our middle east peace plan that maybe you've picked up on or noticed. So it was a great conversation, fascinating. Dayenu, that alone would have been enough, but he said, have you ever met the President? I'm like, no, you know, Mr. Vice President, you know I was a Never Trumper. All right, follow me. We walk into the Oval Office, the first person I see is Mike Pompeo. So that was nice, shook hands with him. The second person I saw was, the National Security Advisor, John Bolton. So he and I had been friends for a long time. So now I got three people I know, all of them are friends. Only two of them are novel readers, but it's okay, John Bolton's, a good man anyway, unconditional love. You know, you don't have to read my novels too... And then they introduced me to the vice... uh, to the President. I won't go through that whole story, it's in the book. But as we sit down, the President... and I don't know what I'm up into, and are up for it, and I'm not prepared, cause this isn't on the schedule. And even the meeting itself, pens had just meant it to be a "shake-hands-say-hi," I want you to meet my friend, he's from Israel and he's an Evangelical. The President said, well, come sit down, let's talk Joel. And Pence actually tries to wave him off. He's like, look, I know the Czech Prime Minister is arriving any minute, we've got that lunch, but... I just want you two to meet. Joel's not in the states that often. Oh no, we have time, sit down. So I sit right across from the President. He's behind the Resolute Desk. The Vice President of the United States is sitting here, the Secretary of State here, and the National Security Advisor. And honestly, I've written so many novels about that room. I'd never have been in it. 24 years in Washington and I was always on the wrong side of the political spectrum. Never got invited in. And now I'm sitting there and I was not thinking, what am I going to say? What's this gonna be? I just was thinking of the old Sesame Street, Diddy, One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong. You know? Like, what am I doing here? And the President throws me a curveball. He says, so tell me a little bit about yourself. I thought he was gonna tell me, you know, his middle east peace thinking... I don't know what... So I'm trying to think, what would I say? And then he said, wait, wait, wait, wait. And he turns to Pence and he says, Mike, did you just call Joel and Evangelical? Yes, Mr. President. Joel, are you an Evangelical? Yes. Mr. President. But isn't your name Rosenberg? I kid you not... I kid you not... Isn't your name Rosenberg? Yes, it is, on my father's side, but not, my mom's not a... Okay, well, whatever, I mean, they always say, whatever... only a Jewish person or a religious Jewish person thinks that's significant, but I say it because it's true. He's like, wait, waits, so but... How can you be an Evangelical if you're Jewish? and I'm thinking, Lord, get out. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? This is my favorite question on the planet. And this is my first substantive conversation in the Oval Office with a President of the United States, one that I'd been opposed to. And I let them have it, gently, respectfully. But interesting about that is, when I processed that later, the opportunity to share the gospel with the President of the United States. I thought he's actually looking at this, not as a Gentile, Gentiles genuinely, unless you're a Muslim, aren't gonna ask... unless you're a... If you're a Born Again Christian, you would see it. You would say, oh, how did you become? But if you don't see it from that perspective, you would say, I don't understand how that's possible. And he was looking at it as a... He's a Jewish grandfather. I mean, he's not Jewish, but he's got Jewish grandkids. His daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism, Ivanka to marry Jared, and they, their grandkids are Jewish. So that was pretty fun! Talk about being needing to be prepared for any opportunity. So a few weeks ago, for all of Israel news, I get invited to meet a former Prime Minister of Israel. Because it's sensitive, I'm not gonna say who. But I'm sitting down with him, and he asked me about making Aliyan, the boys in the army, and what units did they serve? I kid you not, he says, now... this is an Evangelical news site, right? Right. So are you an Evangelical? Yes, I am. But your name is Rosenberg... and like, get out. The Lord is opening up doors. I think that there's a great curiosity. Yes, I met world leaders and that's a fun way to tell that story. But I'm telling you that there's an openness, there's a spirit of openness in Israel, even in the Muslim world, in the American Jewish community. That it's never happened like this in 2,000 years. and what's... That's exciting, and... of all the things I talked to Eras about, I forgot to ask him this, by the way, eras, you're the expert on the growth of the Messianic body in Israel. He wrote part of a book that was a compilation of different authors, but his chapter was about the growth of the body. And his research shows that there were 23 known Jewish followers of Jesus in 1948 when Israel was, declared independence. 23. Okay? And we know most of them, those that are still alive. Now today, there are about 30,000. That's a wonderful amount of growth. Now in a nation of six and a half million Jews, it's not nearly enough, but, the trend line is moving up. And most of that's, I would say in the last 10 years or so. So that's exciting, and a lot of it's because of the seeds that are being planted, this is good. In the United States, Joshua fund invested in a study just a few years ago that showed in 1967, when I was born, there were fewer than 2000 Jews on the planet. But today, I mean a couple of years ago, but essentially today, there are now 871,000 Jewish followers of Jesus in the United States alone. 871,000. That's amazing. The gospels working. We know it does, but... But even the Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries thought maybe the number's 300,000 on the planet a few years ago, that seemed high to them, but they're like, it could be. But now we know there are approximately 1 million Jewish followers of Jesus on planet earth, in a world of about 16 or 17 million Jews, depending exactly how you define it. What is that telling us? The curtain is going up, right? After 2000 years of the hardness on our hearts, it's melting that hardness, that ice, that block of ice around our hearts, it's melting. When you combine that with all the research that's showing that more Muslims have left Islam and come to faith in Jesus Christ in the last 50 or 60 years than the last 14 centuries combined, you can see that something is happening. Not only are people listening, Jews and Muslims listening to the gospel, satellite television, internet, radio, and various other ways. But many are responding. And at this very moment, however, many in the church are not engaged in Evangelism, to Jews or Muslims. In fact, many love Israel so much, they wanna be politically supportive, but they decide but don't worry, we're not going to tell you about Jesus. Now, you know, a difference between Halil and me, I'm happy about Christians who want to show political or humanitarian relief support or various other ways to bless Israel. I think they should show love and support and encouragement to our Palestinian friends as well. But my point is this, it's kind of crazy. That to be at a moment where Jews are more open to the gospel, where Muslims are more open to the gospel, and yet the church is unwilling in many places to be engaged. So that leaves a remnant. Who will say, I want a blessing for all of them, but at the heart, if we bless them politically, financially, materially, all the other ways you could do it and they go to hell? How is that good? And so I just wanted you to hear the heart of our team. We're not saying it's easy and we're not saying we're doing it as best it could ever be done. We're just trying to be faithful with what we're seeing, faithful to the opportunities, um... But the opportunity is enormous. And I'll close with this thought. You know, I'll focus just on the Jewish side for a moment. Pretend that you were, you know, pretend that Jewish Evangelism was one company, Okay? Called Jew, Jew.com, Jewish Evangelism Works.com, just pretend. And pretend this company had been around for 2000 years and that there was a stock graph on, let's say, CNBC, you could sort of dial-in and sort of see how the stock was performing for Jew.com for the last 2000 years. So you'd zoom in to, let's say, the first century and you'd say, oh, there's a real movement. That stock is... Things are picking up steam, there's movement, exciting, Wow. Maybe not, you know, right after the time of Jesus, but in the years that followed, there's growth. But then you're gonna see that line, that stock line, it's gonna flat line for about 2000 years. Right near zero. Jews aren't coming to faith. Now in the early 1900s, Christian Ministries began really sharing the gospel with Jews... Humanitarian relief and the preaching of the gospel. And in the early 1,900s, we start seeing the numbers go up by... By the time of World War II, there were approximately 250,000 Jewish believers in Jesus in Europe. And then most of those were killed during the Holocaust. So the stock would go up, and then a sharp drop, and then almost nothing. But now we're seeing in the last 40 or 50 years, and I would say in the last 10 or 15 years, we're starting to see that line... That's a growth opportunity. And if you're a venture capitalist, you're thinking, we should be doing this anyway, no matter what, whether there's movement and growth and receptivity or not. But when you see movement, when there's openness, and when there's the response. This would be a good time to invest. And that's why we do it. We invest our time, whatever talents, meager that we might have, our little loaves and fishes, our prayer life, and financially. And we're grateful that you're standing with us and you know, the opportunities that correlate out, we do that because to be a blessing to you. We know this is not a closed fund. We're getting a lot of blessings internally. We're not, you know, it's a lot of challenge now, but... We're excited about being involved in this, we're excited about these heroes, we're excited about helping them in any way we can, but we don't want it to be a closed fund. We want you to at least be aware of it. And if the Lord puts on your heart, great, if he doesn't, there are lots of other people in the world to reach. But this is an exciting time. And I think God has saved the best for last. I would've said that the Muslims were the last frontier of the gospel, but it turns out they're the next to last, they're penultimate frontier. The Jews are the Alpha and Omega of missions. But God is drawing us, finally, finally, into the kingdom. And I don't wanna do anything else. Yes, he gives me lots of assignments as part of fishing and educating, but I just love working with a team. A team that has other skills and other gifts, and I'd love it if you guys wanted to be part of that team or intensify your involvement already. Thank you for being with us. We're gonna close. Let me close this in prayer. Father, thank you for this time. Thank you for this great opportunity. Thank you for these folks flying in from, or driving in from all over the country, how exciting. And I know we've given them a lot, but I pray that you would help them digest it, swallow it, internalize it, let you will be done. We're grateful for their prayers, their interests. Show us how to answer their questions in the days and weeks and months ahead. Or continue to do great work, you are doing it, more than most people realize, and we're just jazzed to be part of it, and may this tribe increase. We thank you and praise you in the name of our great king and savior who will reign in Jerusalem one day. We hope soon, the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. God bless you.