Current events have a way of confronting what we really believe to be true—rather, they have a way of confronting us with what we really believe to be true. The fourteenth of May in 1948 pressed us with what we’d really been reading into Scripture’s declarations; the redrawn national borders of Israel continue to confront us still. That fateful Friday in 1948 relit a slow-burning powder keg of animosity; the last week or two have set off fireworks—and we are, again, confronted.

We’re meant to be.[1]

And we’re found wanting.

Just before His Ascension, the disciples asked Jesus an earnest question: “Lord, will You now restore the Kingdom to Israel?”[2] How we read His answer could serve to suffice for how we’d distill the Gospel down to a sentence if need be.

 

Disciples: “Lord, will You now restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[3]

 

It really matters for Palestinian people that we read this correctly. There runs a ditch on either side of the narrow road of truth,[4] and many are the victims to the numerous mudslides running through them. The straight and narrow is this: He did not rebuke them for asking the question. He just said, “The answer isn’t yours to know. It’s His. Right now, I have work for you to do.”

“You will be My witnesses….”

Witnesses of what? Of “this Gospel of the Kingdom,” the one Jesus so specifically referred to just a month or more before.[5] Witnesses to where? “Everywhere, but start with the City of the Great King[6] and make your way through what many now call the West Bank. Hit Ramallah on your way to Doha. Hit Beirut on your way to Baghdad. Hit Gaza on your way to Guatemala. Go as far as you can on this round globe you call home, and go far enough that if you took one more step, because it’s round, you’d start your journey home. Go to the ends of the earth.

Every Jewish ear within sonic range would’ve recognized Jesus’ verbiage because they were familiar with the prophets—because they’d actually read and re-read the Old Testament. They didn’t disregard its implications or excuse away its prophecies. David sang about the ends of the earth.[7] Isaiah wrote at length about them.[8] Jeremiah chimed in.[9] Crucially, they would’ve understood what “this Gospel of the Kingdom” meant, because all their hopes were hanging on it.[10] They knew Jesus to be the Son of God, Man, and David,[11] and they knew exactly why it is in everybody-since-Abraham’s best interests that He rule and reign from the City of Peace.[12] They knew the “new song” of the “new covenant” would erupt from David’s city and run across the nations until it hit New Zealand.[13] They knew it would make its way back until Muslims in Mecca and Amman bowed the knee to his Lord.[14] They knew the Arab world would be the last Gospel frontier before Jerusalem realized she killed her own Passover-preserved firstborn.[15] They knew the inauguration of the Davidic throne to be their “blessed hope,”[16] and they were waiting for it

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”[17] I shudder to wonder what the author of Hebrews would say to us now if he could see what we’ve done with the Name of Him who is greater than Moses, Melchizedek, and every king.[18] I shudder to wonder how Peter, Paul, or (especially!) Jesus would respond if we could time-travel back to this moment on the Mount called Olivet, raise our hands, and say, “Wait—You mean all that stuff Zechariah and Isaiah and Malachi and Micah and Hosea and Jeremiah and Daniel and David said is actually literal and legit and You’re really gonna do it?”

“You mean you’re the teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? You need to be born again.”[19]

What does this have to do with Gaza? And what does it mean for the Great Return March?

I was born in the eighties and grew up at least nominally affiliated with Christian culture. I was raised, christened, and nearly confirmed Catholic before entering Protestant evangelicalism just in time for the “if you like this demonic secular band then you should listen to this Nashville-crafted CCM substitute instead” posters and True Love Waits campaigns. The late nineties and early two thousands had a bizarre evangelical culture and I was there for it. I was there for the kissing-dating-goodbye and birth of ska (shoutout to Five Iron!). And I was there for it when we all hit college and basically altogether left the faith (find your old youth group buddies on Facebook—who’s still walking with the Lord?). I was there when the leaders of the “emergent church” wrote a bunch of books to rewrite the Bible. I was there when we grappled with questions and realized we’d graduated high school with inch-deep theology and youth group faith. The world had problems, and we did not have answers—but we were determined to find them. “Social justice” became our buzzword and we seriously considered making our own clothes so we didn’t have some kind of Blood Diamond situation with our blue jeans.

We didn’t make our own clothes, but we read some books by some people who did.

We mostly didn’t notice when they quoted Ghandi with the same sentiment they quoted Jesus.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict confronts our glaring doctrinal inadequacy and missiological ineptitude. It pushes back on our cheap narratives and Twitter-feed news intake. It challenges our historical ignorance. It holds the mirror up to those of us who are a generation removed from the ashes of the Shoah. We don’t have Holocaust sympathies like our parents and grandparents did and far too many of us can’t answer basic questions about its historicity.[20] Most of us can’t answer basic questions about “this Gospel of the Kingdom.” This is a problem, but we can’t fix it if we don’t address it.

None of us want inch-deep theology and youth group faith. None of us want to author our own Gospel. And, none of us want to be sentimental, naive, Bible-ignorant hyper-Zionists who can’t see the forest for the trees. No one wants to be complicit in supporting an aggressive, apartheid Jewish nation-state against the Palestinian people. I get it. Also, none of us want the wool pulled over our eyes by journalists who lie in order to live through their assignment.[21]

Intelligent information matters, but The New York Times isn’t Bible and the only words we can really rely on are Bible. Doctrine matters—it really matters—but it’s not the jugular issue. Jesus is the jugular issue. How we respond to something like the Great Return March or—heaven forbid—a Third Intifada is shaped and informed by what we believe the Gospel of the Kingdom to be, and who we believe Jesus of Nazareth to be in light of that. We’ve deviated from “this Gospel of the Kingdom” for so long, we can’t recognize our glaring doctrinal and missiological insufficiencies when they stare us in the face.

Gaza and the #GreatReturnMarch are staring us in the face.

We have a biblical imperative to preach the Gospel to the Palestinian people, and we have a biblical imperative to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom when we do. We’re under a Christ-imposed mandate to tell them about the little girl who gave it all for the Lord of the Resurrection.[22] This means we need to understand the Gospel, we need to understand the Kingdom, and we need to understand the Palestinians. We need to understand why Mary would waste it all at His feet. We need to understand Jesus like the prophets and the apostles understood Jesus. We need to understand Palestinian geopolitics and the Islamic worldview—and we need to understand it from the soil at the heart of Islam, instead of adopting a polished version of it from a community center in Detroit. We need to understand what Hamas is doing to the people of Gaza, and we need to care about it like we say we care about Israeli response to what we think are peaceful protests. And we need to evaluate if we really care about what we say we care about.

Ninety-nine-point-one percent of the Palestinian populous has not received a Gospel witness.[23] Nearly five million people live within Gaza and the West Bank, and 99.1 percent of them—99.1% of nearly five million peopleare categorically unreached. Palestinian territories have an annual Gospel growth rate of precisely 0.0%[23]—so when our Twitter hashtags start trending some kind of #PrayForGaza solidarity sentiment, it is only that. It is only sentiment and it will be buried by the hashtag algorithm ten seconds later when something else goes viral. If we cared about the Palestinians, we’d get our feet on the ground and give them a Gospel witness. A Gospel witness is not a kind humanitarian witness. It includes that, but it is not limited to water distribution. It cannot be.[24] If we loved Jesus, we’d pour every drop of our blood and Bethany offering[25] out on the soil of the Promised Land if that’s what it took to do something about the border fence. If that's what it took to bring Him back.[26]

If we do not sober up and have a collective “come to Jesus” moment, I’m not sure we’re going to do the Middle East any good.

But believers are not debased, and we are not in the dark.[27] We are not bastard pagans.[28] We have a Father, and He is not unkind. Our Father is not unkind. He is the Father of mercies and lights.[29] He turned—and turns—the lights on for us. We have all the information we need.[30] We do not need to live in delusion. Scripture equips and enables us to respond intelligently and compassionately to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Gaza with a distilled Gospel-clarity, free from “sides” and narrative banners that only betray our own ignorance and unbelief.

We believe eternity to be real, or we don’t. We believe justice to matter for the ages, or we don’t. We believe sin to be high treason against our Maker, or we don’t. We believe the Gospel premise that we’re all sinners and we all deserve death, but Jesus in His magnificent mercy bore our sentence to die in order to make us forever alive, or we don’t (this is true for us, for Palestinians, for Israelis—everybody). We believe God made promises to Abraham that really matter for all who call upon the God who raises the dead, or we don’t. We believe David’s Son deserves His throne and all war will cease when He sits upon it,[31] or I literally don’t know what we’re getting out of bed for in the morning. We believe the people of Gaza deserve “this Gospel of the Kingdom” and that Jesus is worth its declaration and their worship, or I have personally put my poor mother through far too much on this side of time and need to go home.

Gaza’s going to hear this Gospel of the Kingdom.[32] Are you going to be part of it?

 
 

Stephanie Quick serves as a lead writer and producer of the Covenant and Controversy film series and resource library, and editor-in-chief of FAI Publishing and Pilgrim Media. She lives in the Muslim world and can be reached for queries and bookings at stephanie@stephaniequick.org


 

 

 

 

[1] Zechariah 12:1-2
[2] Acts 1:6
[3] Acts 1:7
[4] Matthew 7:13-14
[5] Matthew 24:14, emphasis added
[6] Psalm 48:2; Matthew 5:35
[7] Psalm 2:8; 22:27; 48:10; 59:13; 65:5,8; 67:7; 72:8; 98:3
[8] Isaiah 5:26; 24:14-16; 40:28; 41:5,9; 45:22; 52:10
[9] Jeremiah 10:13; 16:19; 25:31; 51:16
[10] Matthew 24:3; Luke 2:38; 3:15; Acts 1:6
[11] Daniel 7:13; 8:17; Matthew 1:1,20; 8:20; 9:6,27; 10:23; 11:19; 12:23,40; 12:23; 13:37; 14:33; 15:22; 17:22; 19:28; 20:28-31; 21:9; 22:42; 24:27-29; 26:63-64; 27:40,43,54; Mark 1:1; 10:47-48; 13:26; 14:21,41,62; 15:39; Luke 1:35; 3:31,38; 11:30; 12:40; 17:24-30; 18:38-39; 19:10; John 1:34,49; 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27; 9:35; 11:27; 12:23; 20:31
[12] Genesis 12:1-3; 14:17-20 (“Salem” was an early name for “Jerusalem” and meant “peace”); 22:18; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6-10
[13] See Isaiah 42:1-17
[14] See Isaiah 42:11; Kedar refers to Arabia and Sela to Amman. David calling his Son his LORD: See Psalm 110:1; cited Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35
[15] See Exodus 12; Zechariah 12:10-14; Matthew 23:38
[16] Titus 2:13; the Davidic throne is introduced in 2 Samuel 7 and noted again in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 and 2 Chronicles 6:16; see Psalm 2; 110; 132. Psalm 110 is the most-quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament, bearing significant witness to the apostles’ prophetic anchor and bated hope in the reign of David’s Son, a Man scripturally concurrent with the Messiah/Son of Man (see Daniel 7:13; 8:17) and Son of God (see note 11).
[17] Hebrews 5:11
[18] See Hebrews 1:8-9,13; 3:3-6; 4:14-10
[19] See John 3, particularly verses 3 & 10
[20] Kelly, L. (2018). Shock poll: Two-thirds of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is. Washington Times, 12 April 2018. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/apr/12/many-americans-millennials-ignorant-holocaust-surv/
[21] Friedman, M. (2018). Falling for Hamas’s split-screen fallacy. The New York Times, 16 May 2018. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/opinion/hamas-israel-media-protests.html
[22] Matthew 26:13
[23] Joshua Project. (2018). Country: West Bank/Gaza. Retrieved from https://joshuaproject.net/countries/WE 21 May 2018.
[24] Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41
[25] See the account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus for His death and burial as recorded by Matthew (chapter 26), Mark (chapter 13), and John (chapter 12).
[26] 2 Peter 3:12
[27] 1 Thessalonians 5:4
[28] Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-7
[29] 2 Corinthians 1:3; James 1:17
[30] See Matthew 16 and The Golan Heights & the Coming War to End All Wars
[31] Psalm 46:9; 72:1-20; Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:7; Micah 4:1-5; see Contention & Complexity: The Dangers of Zionism and Lack Thereof
[32] Matthew 24:14

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