As I was leaving the Opryland Hotel at the end of my volunteer shift at the 76th annual general assembly of the United Jewish Communities, an elderly man walking with his wife stopped me to ask why there were so many people wearing kippot (yarmulkes). Pointing to my kipah he said, “For a moment I thought I was in Israel.””Was that a good moment or bad moment?” I asked.
“Oh, good. I love Jews. You Jews gave us our Lord and Savior,” he said.
“And they killed him,” his wife said.
“That too,” he said.
“Actually the Romans killed him,” I said, “but whoever did it you must be glad they did.”
“What! Why on earth would we be glad you Jews killed Jesus?” his wife said.
“Actually the Romans killed him, and you should be glad because if Jesus didn’t die on the cross he wouldn’t have been resurrected and couldn’t return to save you.”
“No, sir,” the wife said. “The Jews didn’t have to kill him. That was an evil act.”
“Actually the Romans killed him, and evil or not, it was necessary to God’s plan. Don’t you believe the Bible: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that anyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life?'” (John 3:16)
“Of course we do,” the husband said.
“Who would believe in Jesus if he died of old age and had great grandchildren? He had to die on the cross to ransom you for your sins” I said.
“Yes,” the man said. “And that is why we love Jews. They will witness the return of Christ. Won’t you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
“Oh, I will,” I said. “As soon as I witness him coming back.”
“But then it will be too late,” his wife said.
“On the contrary,” I said. “You need Jews to witness the return of Jesus. If I convert I will be a Christian and my witness won’t count. No, I will remain a Jew until the second coming. I’m doing you a favor. You should thank me.”
“Oh. Well, thank you,” the man said.
“You are welcome,” I said as I walked toward the exit. “It’s my pleasure.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally on his blog.