Stephen Katz

Stephen KatzI was raised in a fairly traditional Jewish home in the Chicago area.I went to Hebrew school, Shabbat school, and was active in BBYO, a Jewish youth group affiliated with our Conservative synagogue.

In my first semester at the University of Illinois I wound up writing a research paper on why the Jews at the time of Jesus did not believe he was the messiah (and this was for a Jewish professor). I had to examine those passages of the Bible that our rabbis had said spoke of messiah. As I read books by Jewish, Christian, and secular authors — all who attempted to explain these passages — my questions seemed to multiply; and so I met with two rabbis and two Christian ministers in town to hear both sides.  They each tried to be helpful in their own way.

One of the rabbis, a holocaust survivor, got angry with me and recommended a few books to me. I already had those books.The other rabbi didn’t even believe in God and he spoke of ancient religious sects, trying to tell me that belief in Christ was one of many such groups. One pastor was also very theologically liberal and spoke to me about confusing ideas that didn’t help at all.The other pastor was very helpful. He had a Jewish friend who became a believer in Jesus and he told me stories of this man’s conversations with rabbis. He also left me with a challenge. I would never know if Jesus is truly our messiah unless I asked him into my life. If it were not true (and merely a myth), then my life would not change. If it were true, and Jesus is alive, then I would also know it because my life would change in positive ways.

A few months after this, a close friend of mine told me that she began to believe in Jesus, and I quietly began to observe her life and to detect some positive changes. Around that time I began to “pray.” I began to question out loud if there was a God and whether Jesus might be the promised messiah. I wanted to know the truth. I said, “If there is a God out there, show me. If Jesus is the messiah, I’m willing to find out. “God does answer prayers like that.I came to the point where I believed that there is a God and that Jesus is the Messiah, and I acknowledged this both to him and to myself. In him I have found the answers to my questions and real meaning and purpose in life.