Michael Brown, ‘How could I, a Jew, believe in Jesus?’
Michael Brown has written books and articles that have been translated into more than a dozen languages, debated and dialogued with rabbis on radio and TV and earned a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has lectured as a visiting professor at leading theological institutes and served as president of two Bible colleges. This all started after a radical turn in his life!
“I’m, burning in hell! I’m, burning in hell!”
I was only sixteen years old, but I could do greater quantities of drugs than any of my friends and live to brag about it! Until I took enough mescaline for thirty people and became delirious and disoriented and got lost just two blocks from home. I sat down on the ground in mental torment. I thought I had died and gone to hell. Then a friend of my parents came by walking his dog, “I’m burning in hell!” I screamed, wondering why he was walking his dog in hell. As soon as he walked away, I made a decision, “I’m going to jump in front of the next car that comes by.” Within minutes, a car came racing around the corner. I jumped into the road directly in front of the car and threw my hands in the air. The car came to screeching halt just inches from my body. It was my parents! The man with the dog had told them what he had seen.
A wonderful process
I was born in New York City in 1955. My upbringing was typical of many New York Conservative Jewish children. My favourite music was rock and, after my Bar Mitzvah, I got interested in playing in a band. I wanted to be a rock drummer and all my role models were known for their heavy drug use, rebellion, and flagrant immorality. I wanted to be like them! I used pot and hash, uppers and downers, LSD and later, heroin. In spite of that, I thought that I really was a pretty good person. During the spring of 1971, my two best friends (and members of my band) began attending a little gospel-preaching church. Why? Because they liked two girls who went there! Why did the girls go? Because their uncle was the pastor and their father was praying for them. Then, in August, I went to the church too. Why? Because I wanted to pull my friends out! They were beginning to change, and I didn’t like that. You can guess what happened. I lost the fight! The love of the people began to break down my stubborn pride and, totally unknown to me, their prayers began to have an impact. I actually began to feel guilty about the filthy things I was doing. I started to feel uncomfortable with my lifestyle, seeing myself as more of a jerk than a cool teenager. I had no idea that this was something called ‘conviction’, a wonderful process through which God shows us just how sick we really are, in order to make us whole.
How could I believe in Jesus?
When I finally returned in the church in November, something completely unexpected happened to me. For the first time in my life I believed that Jesus died for me. In other words, He paid the penalty that I deserved, He died in my place and that He rose from the dead. However, for me a Jew (even a non-religious Jew), how could I believe in Jesus? For me, Jesus was only for the Gentiles. Yet there was a much bigger problem that I faced. Following Jesus and getting into a right relationship with God meant I had to turn away from my sins. I didn’t want to do that! Plus I was too proud to admit that I could be wrong. Yet somehow, God’s goodness and patience overcame my stubbornness, my pride, my sinful habits, and my religious misunderstandings. The heavenly Father intervened in my affairs, making me know that I was guilty in His sight, exposing the corruption of my heart and showing me a new and better way. By the end of 1971 I was a new man!