COLUMBUS, Ohio (Christian Examiner) -- Columbus, Ohio native Diane Cohen was one of four children raised in a devout Jewish family so committed to Jewish tradition that Cohen's grandmother forbade her from mentioning the name of Jesus when encountering Christmas music at school.
As an adult browsing through the New York Times bestseller section of a bookstore, Bruce Chilton's book Rabbi Jesus caught Cohen's attention. Such a title was uncommon in her personal experience.
The beauty of how this happened to me is that I was so hit with the truth of it at such a deep level, that all I could answer was with great conviction, 'I can't tell you why, but it is true. I know it is true. I know it is true in my heart. And I have the rest of my life to read Scripture and understand the why, but I know it is – it is the truth.
When her brother questioned her as to why she would want to read such a book, Cohen replied that she was an educated woman who did not know who Jesus was. "He changed history, if nothing else. So I'm just curious. I just want to read the book," she recalls telling him. "I want to understand a little bit more about who Jesus is."
While reading the book on a flight, a fellow passenger asked Cohen what she was reading. Cohen gave, in her words, a "defensive" reply telling the curious passenger that she was Jewish and merely trying to find out more about who Jesus was.
"What do you want to know? I've written books about him," replied the passenger who turned out to be author Laurie Hall, who has been living under an assumed name since 1996.
The two women discussed information about Jesus and Hall's books. Cohen vowed she would not change her religion but asked Hall which version of the New Testament she would recommend. Hall provided a suggestion and asked for Cohen's address, promising to send copies of her own writing.
Soon after this conversation. Cohen's 28-year marriage "shockingly came to an end," she said. It had had been building for a long time, Cohen admitted, but it was still a jolt. She had always believed raising her children was the most important thing she could do with her life.
On the heels of the break-up, Cohen had an unusual dream in which a phrase from Zephaniah 3:17 went through her mind: "He will delight in you with song." Cohen reported, "I just woke up one morning going, 'What is that? Where did that come from?'"
Finding herself alone in life, she arrived home from work one day and discovered a package in the mail containing a book and a card. The card read: "Dear Diane, I haven't forgotten my promise to send you this book. It just has been slow in getting to you. This book is part of my life story. In the midst of great pain, Jesus walked alongside me. I have been praying that whatever you go through in your life that He will find you and comfort you as He blessed me. Blessings and Shalom, Laurie Hall. Zephaniah 3:17: 'He will delight in you with song.'"
Cohen was shocked by the content and timing of the package. She called her sister to share astonishment. Cohen's sister sat in stunned silence before asking, "Did you say Laurie Hall?" She relayed that when Cohen called, she was holding a copy of Christian Led Woman magazine containing a review of Hall's book.
"This moment to me, it was so profound that God was absolutely in my life," said Cohen.
In August 2001, Cohen received an invitiation to attend church for the first time when her sister invited her to a service to support a friend entering the pastorate.
"I was supporting my sister, and my sister was supporting her friend," Cohen said of the occasion, but she found herself shocked again. "I loved the music. This is amazing music, and I got goosebumps and was really into the service which was surprising. I was a Jewish woman. I really had not attended church before and this was good."
Afterwards, Cohen was surprised one more time when she was introduced to the church's pastors and discovered both men grew up in New York and were Jewish. Cohen asked: "How do you grow up Jewish and you're a pastor in a church? It just blew my mind."
A woman standing nearby asked Cohen if she could pray for her. Cohen agreed, telling the stranger, "I just want to understand more about Jesus."
"That's all I wanted," Cohen said, "but God zapped me. I feel like if there's such a thing as good electricity, it was like my body was just filled with love and warmth and electricity. It was like an electrical love hug of proportions I can't even imagine, and I just felt this huge sense of truth of who Jesus is. I felt it. I could feel it."
The woman praying for Cohen asked, "Will you accept Jesus as your Messiah?"
Cohen soon admitted to her rabbis and her fellow synagogue board members that she had come to believe in Yeshua. It was their turn to be shocked. Cohen described their response: '"How could you do this?' I was like a traitor. 'After all these years of being a Jewish woman, a leader in our community, how could you believe it?'" they asked her.
"The beauty of how this happened to me is that I was so hit with the truth of it at such a deep level, that all I could answer was with great conviction, 'I can't tell you why, but it is true. I know it is true. I know it is true in my heart. And I have the rest of my life to read Scripture and understand the why, but I know it is – it is the truth.'"
Cohen's testimony is one of several videos on imetmessiah.com. The site is a branch of One for Israel – an evangelism ministry initiative developed by native-born Israelis featuring Jewish professionals.