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Review of ‘Twelve Jews Discover Messiah’ by Ben Hoekendijk

Yeshua chose twelve disciples to follow Him, and this book presents the testimonies of twelve individuals who found Messiah. Some of his disciples were fisherman from Galilee and another was a tax-collector (an occupation that was frowned upon since money was collected for the Romans and typically an oversized portion was retained by the collector). All of them left what they had, and had to count the cost to follow Him. This account chronicles how a fisherman, prophet, artist, theologian, pioneer, sabra, yeshiva student, seeker, wounded one, compassionate one, musician and a young woman from Russia discovered Jesus as Messiah. This review will summarise three of the testimonies and the rest you can read if you purchase the book.

Samuel

Samuel studied Freud, Engels and Marx and other major philosophies to the point where he became confused and doubted the existence of God. But it was when he read his Siddur and the psalms that spiritual matters became a little clearer for him, so he was able to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He recognised the personal way in which David prayed to God and that spoke to him in a profound sense.

He was also pleasantly surprised when he read Matthew 1, the first chapter in the New Testament and discovered Yeshua HaMashiach, the Son of Abraham and David. He was able to see the connection between the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Brit Hadasha (New testament). From that moment on, he read the New Testament eagerly and took a greater interest. Matthew is a Jewish gospel about a Jewish Messiah written to a Jewish audience which sets out to demonstrate how Jesus is the King of the Jews. Samuel read about the King of the Jews who was crucified with a sign in Hebrew, Greek and Latin saying, “This is Yeshua, the King of the Jews.” Yeshua rose again and Samuel suddenly recognised that Jesus is the King of the Jews.

Samuel was elated though had no idea whether other Jewish people had experienced the revelation that he had. He made Aliyah and recognised the restoration of Israel as a nation as an important sign and fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Samuel is aware that Jesus is coming back to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). Thirty years on; many more messianic fellowships have been established in Israel and worldwide. Samuel takes encouragement from Romans 11 which speaks of God’s plans for Israel and the nations and of a vast number of Jewish people trusting in the Jewish Messiah (Romans 11:26).

Sha’ul

Sha’ul was a fisherman somewhat reminiscent of Peter. The synagogue was just a two- minute walk away though at school he discovered that what was taught was not always directly from the Bible, but was simply tradition. Like Peter, Sha’ul was a bold character, and the following story exemplifies that. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he went into the sea on Shabbat he would die! Nonetheless Sha’ul reasoned that if God was his Father and he went into the sea just as he would with his earthly father, then he would not die.

He put his theory to the test and the following day he explained the same to his teacher and was expelled from his school and it caused an immediate scandal. He increasingly uncovered more discrepancies between the character of God that he read about in the Bible and the hard additional laws which were taught. This led him to move away to a kibbutz with the conviction that he would meet Messiah and be changed.

Sha’ul read more of the Bible and had a series of dreams and woke up with a conviction of his sin. He spoke about his dreams to a friend who was adamant that it was Yeshua though at that point Sha’ul thought that Jesus was only for the Gentiles. Like Samuel (mentioned earlier in this review), Sha’ul was also impressed by reading the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 but also the description of Jesus in Paul as the High Priest. That resonated perfectly with his vision of Jesus who cleansed him from his sins. With his brother they bought a boat and became fishermen in Galilee and in addition began to preach the gospel and became fishers of men.

Olga

Olga believed in God’s existence and recognised that He created everything and knew everything. However, her perception of God was as an abstract entity, not someone that could be known personally. Although she was talented, it was difficult for her to succeed in her studies in Russia since people were spied on and Jewish people were at times prevented from an education in top universities and good careers.

When she was sixteen, she went to synagogue to experience God. Although she was interested in Judaism, she struggled with the emphasis of rules more than relationships. Olga then took an interest in Eastern Mysticism although only the philosophical side appealed to her. Later at a farewell party she made friends with another Jewish girl who was different and had something that she did not have.

Her friend invited her to a church, but it was not what she expected. It was characterised by genuine joy and was not religious in the conventional restrictive sense. She started reading the Bible and the New Testament and then one day she suddenly understood what she was reading. She came to recognise God as her heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus as someone she could talk to her needs like she would with an older brother.

Again Olga recognised the restoration of the nation of Israel and the return of Jewish people worldwide to the land as a sovereign act of the Lord. God provided for her needs, and she was involved in a television production about a modern Aliyah. Olga has learnt what real love, trust and faith mean now that she has met God. She is keen to point out that all believers in Jesus, both Jewish and Gentile, should be united through Messiah since they are saved together and will also one day sing songs in Jerusalem together in true unity.