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Jesus & the Palestinian Woman

 “As Jesus came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

Jerusalem was in the news as President Trump announced the plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, sparking controversy and concern. Church leaders in Jerusalem, around the world, and Pope Francis all voiced concern over the possible violence that could result and hinder the peace process. How ought followers of Jesus think about this issue?

I addressed the topic at Three Taverns last night. Here’s a follow up thought.

In John 4 Jesus enters an ongoing debate between two people groups fighting over religious differences relating to holy land and sacred sites. Jesus weighs in very boldly and clearly on the Middle East Crisis of his day. Here’s the short but illuminating  exchange:

The woman said, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

For Christians, the Messiah has indeed come, and “explained everything” to us. But have we listened?

The woman here was a Samaritan, the 1st century enemies of the Jews, and so we could easily envision Jesus saying something similar to a Palestinian woman (or Israeli woman, for that matter) today on a similar mountain — let’s say, the hotly contested Dome of the Rock.

The Messiah has come, and yet the fight over land and holy sites continues. This is understandable for those who reject Jesus and are therefore still awaiting the Messiah and fulfillment of all the promises of the Hebrew Bible (OT).

But, as Christians, do we believe Jesus’s words or not? Why are many followers of Jesus invested in Israel occupying a holy mountain and land, when Jesus came to expand the Holy Land to the ends of the earth through his sent-out church who are now God’s temples?

At another sacred site 2,000 years ago, a couple women were gently rebuked by an angel as they stood in the empty tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here” (Luke 24). So, Christians might need to be reminded when standing near the wailing wall in Jerusalem, “What are you looking for? He’s not here. He’s risen!”

He reigns not from the earthly Jerusalem but the heavenly one. His presence is no longer concentrated in a strip of land or on a contested mountain; He dwells among his people in his new temples, the church, as they approach him “in spirit and in truth” and not politics and wars over real estate.

Also, why are some followers of Jesus so quick to choose sides, when we’re called to bring the Prince of Peace’s message to both Israelis and Palestinians who don’t yet know the Way of peace that Jesus brings? Why are we so quick to get behind a political move that could bring more violence and suffering upon both Palestinian and Jewish Christian brothers and sisters?

So, Jesus still weeps over Jerusalem today, but also for his followers who are often driven more by political ideologies than a Kingdom commission to be “peacemakers” compelled by love to be ambassadors of Christ, first and foremost, with a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11ff).

Is the way to peace hidden from our eyes, too?

“As Jesus came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5).

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