The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“No, but when I don’t, I pray and promise not to break them again.”
“And when you do break them again, then what do you do?”
Yom Kippur and the Messiah
“On Yom Kippur, all sins are forgiven.” (She was referring to the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, when God annually forgave Israel’s sins through the death of a sacrificial substitute.)
“But Yom Kippur required the death of a sacrifice on your behalf,” I replied.
“We have no Temple where we can sacrifice, so we just pray.”
“That’s not enough,” I said kindly. “God is holy, and Yom Kippur required the death of a sacrifice—not just prayers—for your sins.”
“When the Messiah comes,” she told me, “he will explain all things and make them right.” I thought of Jesus’ compassion for the woman at the well who had said almost the same words to Him (John 4:25).
So I told this daughter of Abraham standing before me that I believed her Messiah had already come, that His name is Yeshua, and that He already paid the final sacrifice for her sins with His own life just a few hundred yards behind her. What’s more, He said He would come again to Israel.
She shook her head again, except this time she wasn’t smiling. We lobbed the volleyball back and forth a few more times before she began to back away, talking so that I couldn’t interrupt her and again telling me to announce a salvation by works.
The Final Yom Kippur
As she turned to leave, I felt a great sadness. I remembered the words of another Jew who had found the Messiah:
For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. —Romans 10:2-4
When Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil that separated God from man was removed by Jesus’ sacrificial death. The first Good Friday was the last Yom Kippur. Now we don’t need a Day of Atonement each year; any may come to God by faith in Jesus.
I don’t remember this woman’s name, but God does. Please pray for her and for many others who long for the Messiah—that their longing may truly be satisfied.