Scott Schwartz grew up in a reformed Jewish home. But as a teenager he became rebellious and got in touch with the wrong crowd. He found out he didn’t have any answers to life. He realized he had to go back to synagogue. That’s how his search for answers started.
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…Torment, mental anguish, every single day. And I said ‘God, if You don’t help me, and deliver me from this anxiety and fear, I’m going to take my life.’
My parents got divorced when I was young, I was five years old. And I lived with my mother growing up and we attended a reformed synagogue, where I would go to Hebrew school and where I was bar-mitzvahed at the age of 13, we celebrated the normal Jewish holidays.
Life was fine, until I got into middle school and I started really misbehaving. I got involved with the wrong crowd, and started partying. Smoking a lot of drugs, a lot of marihuana, a lot of drinking and really didn’t want to follow anybody’s rules. I was angry, I rebelled. And just really tried to numb life, I didn’t have any answers to life. I have lived in my car for a while, I’ve been to four drug rehabs, two halfway houses and actually a mental hospital, a psychiatric hospital. And it was a very dark time, a very lonely time in my life.
And I finally got clean and sober and realised that the only way that I was going to succeed in life, was to have a relationship with God. And being Jewish, I realized ‘I’ve got to go back to a synagogue, let me go back and find out what I missed’. Because I never paid attention in Hebrew class. And I said ‘I must have missed something, let me go back and rediscover what I missed, so I can live a fruitful productive life.’ It was during that time of searching for another synagogue that I bumped into a messianic Jew. And I didn’t know he was messianic at that time, but he had a kippon and tzitzit and I thought he was orthodox and I said to him ‘Hey, you’re Jewish, right?’ He says ‘Yes’. And I said ‘Are you orthodox?’ He says ‘I’m actually messianic.’ I said ‘Messianic, what’s that? What is that? I’ve never heard of it.’ He said ‘Well, we believe in Yeshua.’ I had never heard of that! ‘Who is that?’ He said ‘Well, that’s the Hebrew name for Jesus.’ And I said ‘Forget it! I’ve heard enough.’ He says ‘That’s fine.’ He gave me his name and his number and he told me to give him a call and he said two things to me. He said ‘I’d love to have you over to my house for shabbat dinner. And I’d love to take you to services for shabbat on Friday night.’ So here I was, hearing the name ‘Jesus’, right, who I thought was a catholic priest. I thought anything that had to do with Jesus and Christianity was catholic. So catholic people were Christians, Christians were catholic. And I had been mildly persecuted by my catholic friends, who always were asking me what I believed about Jesus: Did I believe He was the Son of God? Did I believe that He died on the cross for my sins? And I didn’t have any of these answers so I would go and ask my mother ‘Hey, do we believe in Jesus? Is He the Son of God? Did He die on the cross for my sins, our sins?’ And my mom would say ‘Absolutely not, we don’t believe in Him. We believe in God, the God of Israel. The God that took our people out of Egypt and delivered them through the Red Sea. That’s our God, and Jesus is for the gentiles.’ So that’s what I thought, so when I was presented with Jesus, it was very catholic to me. And here I am hearing about this Jesus who’s catholic…and this guy is inviting me to shabbat’s dinner, and he’s inviting me to messianic synagogue. And I couldn’t put two and two together, because it didn’t match up to me. You could not be Jewish and believe in Jesus. That’s just the way it was.
Well, four weeks went by and I don’t know what I was thinking, but as a Jew I wasn’t, because I called him up and I asked him if I could come over and have dinner. Mostly because I was a single guy and he was offering me a nice warm shabbat meal. So you’d have to be crazy to not want to do that. But I went over to his house and I met them and had dinner and we went to the shabbat service, and it was that evening that I got my first ever New Testament. And I was challenged by somebody that said ‘Jeremiah says “If you seek Me, you’ll find Me, if you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the LORD.” So I posed to God these questions, I said ‘If Jesus is really real, and He really died for me, and all these people that I’ve met over here that are messianic are telling me one thing, and everybody over here is telling me something else. One of them has got to be true, or there’s got to be more truth to one. The scales got away one way or the other. So Lord, what is it? Is it what I believed all my life is to be true? And if that’s true then I’ll wholeheartedly follow this. But if this new brand of people that I’ve met are true – and they had something that I had never seen before: they were smiling, they were happy, they were peaceful, they were…actually, when they pray, they prayed like they knew God, they sang and they sang and lifted their hands like they knew Him, that they loved Him and wanted to know Him and He wanted to know them personally. And I opened up my Bible, and I was pleasantly surprised, that when I read through the New Testament, I discovered how Jewish it was. How Jewish the New Testament was. How Jesus was Jewish: from the line of David. He celebrated the Passover, what does a catholic priest doing, celebrating Passover? That’s my question! You got an answer for me?! Yes, because He’s Jewish. So after continuing to read the New Testament, and discovering how thouroughly Jewish Jesus was….I took a leap of faith. And I said ‘Jesus, if You can raise the dead, and You could heal the sick, and You can forgive sin, and You can give people peace with God…and offer them a place in heaven for eternity…then I want it.’ And I heard this verse that said ‘May the LORD bless you and keep you, may the LORD turn His face upon you and be gracious to you, and lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.’ I realized that the only way I would find peace with my heavenly Father, was to put my faith in His Son, the perfect Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. And I prayed a simple prayer and I said ‘Lord, forgive me my sins, I believe that You are who You said You are and I want to know You.’ And my life has never been the same since.