Barry Barnett

I grew up in an academic Liberal Jewish family in North London. I was the son of two shrinks, a psychoanalyst and a psychotherapist! Every time I tried to rebel, they just ‘understood’!

Working hard and Woody Allen were the two major driving forces in my childhood! I had a lovely Bar Mitzvah when I was thirteen and then got involved with the Liberal Jewish Youth network. My family always celebrated Shabbat with the Friday night Kiddush prayers and also all of the Jewish festivals.

I went to Israel many times and spent a year out there after university. We went to synagogue regularly, but although I enjoyed the services and liked the people, I never developed a personal relationship with God. I thought the Bible was interesting, but antiquated, and thought much of it had little relevance to my life. I did love the stories though of the great heroes of the Jewish faith: Joseph, Moses, David.

I had many Jewish friends and hoped to marry a nice Jewish girl. Then, at teacher training college, I fell in love with a nice Christian girl! She had a strong faith in this “Jesus” and I used to tease her: “What do you mean you talk to Jesus? You’re just talking to thin air!” I was jealous of her faith. We got married and then we found out that we were unable to have children. It devastated us both. I realised for the first time that I was not fully in control of my life. If there was a God, a real God, He had stopped me having children. I wanted to find Him and find out what was going on.

My wife and I talked about adopting children, which led us into debates on how to raise the children. She felt so strongly that they must be told that Jesus is the Messiah. I argued that they could be brought up both Jewish and Christian. She wouldn’t budge and said she would have to tell them the ‘truth’ that Jesus was the Son of God. There was no compromise. It seemed that any adopted children we might have would be ‘Christian’. That was a shock to me. I had always wanted and believed that my children would be Jewish.

I decided to cautiously investigate a bit more about this ‘Christianity’, for the sake of any possible children.

So I went to a nearby church and felt real love in the room! These people really loved this Jesus. I wanted to join in, so I sung the lovely hymns, but I couldn’t say the name, “Jesus”. At the end of the service, I was invited to find out more about Jesus by doing an ‘Alpha’ course. No strings attached. I thought, ‘Ok… for the sake of the children…’ So I did an Alpha course with the church and found it a great way to express all the cynicism I had grown up with about Christianity.

I had been told that the explanation of the resurrection was that ‘Jesus’ dead body was stolen by his disciples’. I was also told that Paul had made up the New Testament, turning Jesus into a God. I was even told that Paul was not actually Jewish! I know now that these were lies that had been told to immunise me and protect me from “converting”. I was suddenly afraid of losing my Jewish identity. I thought I would have to leave Judaism and the Jewish community in order to pursue Jesus. I couldn’t do that. How could I turn my back on my faith, my people and my family? I was Jewish. How could I be anything else? It was unthinkable.

I decided I could never give up Judaism. So I quietly left the Alpha course and felt depressed. But then I heard a testimony by Helen Shapiro explaining that Jewish people become Messianic Jews when they accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah! When it comes to Jesus it is not an “either-or” situation, it is both. You don’t leave the Jewish people at all, in fact you become completely Jewish – a completed Jew! This is because you have found the long-awaited Messiah of Israel!

I was overwhelmed with joy and relief when I heard this! It made sense that Jesus was the Messiah after all and it was safe to acknowledge this as I was not going to lose my Jewish identity. I gave my life to Jesus. I felt that I had found the truth I had longed for and I had found God and there was hope. I had never expected Jesus to be the Messiah – but He was!

My parents weren’t so happy. After three months I plucked up the courage to tell them and said, “I have become a Messianic Jew, a Jewish Christian.” At first they responded,

“Is that it?” Then they said, “Well, it could have been worse – you could have been on drugs!” Finally, they concluded, “What’s a Messianic Jew? You can’t be Jewish and Christian! You must be meshuggeh (crazy – a nutter)!” I reassured them that I was still Jewish, and I am still reassuring them ten years later! At the same time, my sister became a Jewish believer in Yeshua too. So my parents had a ‘double-whammy’!

Since that time Jesus has helped me through hard times: divorce, singleness, changes of location and jobs. God led me to India to minister to children with AIDS and street children. I became a Religious Education and drama teacher teaching in Essex and London before I began working with Jews for Jesus full time. I married my wonderful wife, Alison, in 2007! She is also a Messianic Jew and shares my passion to tell the good news of our people’s long-awaited Messiah, Jesus!