Standing in the ancient synagogue
of Berea, Greece, I draped the tallit (prayer shawl) over my
shoulders. We had just received a moving account of the history of this
house of worship — including the profound detail that the Apostle
Paul had preached the gospel here to the Jews and "not a few of the
Greeks" who "received the word with all readiness ... and many
believed" (Acts 17:10-12).
Eitan sharing in the synagogue at Berea
I was humbled by the entire scene, knowing that there's no longer a
minyan in the town (the requisite 10 Jews needed to conduct a prayer
service), and that this ancient house of prayer seldom hears the Hebrew
that rang here until the Holocaust. As part of the Jewish people, and as a
spiritual descendant of those Bereans who became Messianic Jews twenty
centuries ago, I sang the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 6:4), declaring
"Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one." The words
still hung in the air as an Israeli tour guide entered with a group
from Israel, to show them the synagogue site.
After their tour, the guide gave me an opportunity to greet the Israeli
tourists. Taking a mere three to four minutes, I presented Yeshua as the
fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant (Jeremiah
31:31ff) some 600 years before His birth. All of this was in Hebrew.
I'm sure the group was not expecting to meet a Messianic Jew from
Israel in the Berean synagogue. Five or six members of the group came to me
afterward with serious questions about what I'd shared. God's
ways are amazing!
Together in the synagogue
The next day I found myself in Philippi, a massive archaeological
site, preserving the city — called the "foremost city of that part
of Macedonia" in Acts 16:12. What moved me the most was not the Greek
columns, nor the amphitheater, but the small cavity in one hillside that
had been a jail. In this jail Paul and Silas sang midnight praises to
God after being locked in chains. I thought, "What radically dedicated men
these were. They gave up their freedom for the sake of the gospel of
Yeshua. It was, for them, a joyful fate to be beaten with rods and put in
stocks while their wounds still bled.
At the entrance to the Philippian jail I stood with a pastor from
Thessaloniki, whose name, appropriately, is Pablos — the Greek
version of Paul. Many members of his congregation have been persecuted by
their Greek Orthodox families. There are churches in modern Greece that
preach the gospel, bring Greeks to personal faith in Jesus, and disciple in
the fullness of God's Spirit. However, these churches are considered
hereticical by the majority of the dominant, state-supported Orthodox
religion. Like Paul and Silas, this does not stop them.
At the entrance of the Philippian jail
It was my memorable privilege to spend three days with this man of God, his
family, and his flock. From celebrating Erev Shabbat (the festive
meal inaugurating Shabbat on Friday evening) to a well-received two
part series I titled "The Prophets and the Apostles," the Apostolic
Church of Thessaloniki won my heart. Their eagerness to embrace Israel,
myself as a representative of the Messianic movement of indigenous
congregations in the land, and a dear sister — Greta — whose 30
years of intercession helped build this bridge between local believers in
Israel and Greece.
On the last night, Pastor Pablos followed my message with a call to
repentance over the Thessalonian betrayal of some 53,000 Greek Jews who
were taken to the Nazi death camps via city cooperation. The church members
came forward, heads bowed, to proclaim their anguished regret for that sin.
Then their shepherd extended his hand to me, desiring a sincere covenant of
friendship between us, our congregations, and our national communities of
faith. I have seldom seen such sincerity and genuine humility. This desire
for mutual strengthening at such a tense time in history is nothing short
of a sign and a wonder.