The Gospel goes out to the ends of the earth
Yeshua told his disciples: “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” (Acts 1:8).
And ten days later that’s exactly what happened. After 40 days on earth in his resurrected body, Yeshua ascended to the Father, and the disciples waited, nervously, huddled together, for the promised Holy Spirit. The day of Pentecost came, and they didn’t know what had hit them! They transformed from terrified and persecuted undesirables into a handful of men who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Haltingly at first, with more than a few reservations, the Jewish disciples began to include Gentiles into the body of believers. Could these Gentiles worship our Jewish Messiah? Should they be circumcised now? These were the questions that the early church had to settle before the message and life in Yeshua could go forth freely. A few visions and conferences later, the matters were dealt with and the word spread like wildfire.
Almost as if someone had planned it, the infrastructure of the whole of the Middle East and Europe was ready – straight, easy roads, one common language, and with the encouragement of persecution in Jerusalem, the disciples dispersed rapidly and so did the Gospel along with them.
Every nation, tribe and tongue
“Who is this God who helps people?” She wondered, as she read the stories. “Allah never helped me!” It suddenly starting to make sense to her, and the veil came off her eyes.
Remember what it was like before…
We do not take Rabab’s heart for Israel for granted – many Arab believers identify strongly with the Palestinians and object to the Jewish state of Israel. In a recent trip to share with some Egyptian Coptic Christians, one of our Arab students was welcomed among them with open arms… until it came to light that he was from Israel. But he challenged his new friends with this passage from Ephesians:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
BUT NOW, in Yeshua the Messiah, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Eph 2:12-14)
There was a time when Gentiles were prevented from worshiping the God of Israel, and had to stay outside the temple courts. Instead of telling us to “forget about what was behind”, Paul encourages the Gentile believers to “remember” how things used to be. The wall has gone, and we are one in Messiah. The Egyptian believer ended up praying with love for the Jewish people, declaring that “All Israel will be saved!” Amen! Equally, it is important for us to stand in solidarity with our Coptic brothers and sisters as they are being so fiercely persecuted at this time. God has made great promises to Egypt too, in Isaiah 19, and calls them “My people”.
But even those persecuting the Egyptian Christians are not too far off for God to reach. I heard of someone who had personally met three ISIS members who had come to faith in Yeshua! God’s powerful message of freedom and forgiveness is truly for all flesh.
This year, Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, coincides with Ramadan when many Muslims are earnestly and sincerely seeking God. Let’s pray that many of them find the truth about Yeshua, and come to experience his great love as Rabab has.