In 1967, the State of Israel captured Jerusalem and the Temple Mount upon which now sits the Dome of the Rock Shrine. In recent years efforts to build a third temple on the very same spot have only intensified.
One month ago, on October 7th, several thousand Hamas militants broke out of the Gaza Strip, massacred about 1400 Jews, and took 240 hostages. The militants would argue that Israel had already taken about 2.3 million Palestinians hostage and is now responsible for the death of thousands of children. They will also tell you that they are battling for their holy land—the rock under the dome of the Dome of the Rock Mosque.
Some people think that good theology and honest Bible study make no practical difference.
For me, this is a very personal and painful topic. At the beginning of 2005, I preached two messages from Matthew chapter 21. The first was titled “How to Enter Jerusalem.” In it, I simply recounted the history of Jerusalem, “City of Peace.” It’s easily the bloodiest history of any city on the face of the earth. I put up a chart of all the conquerors who have conquered the city and then noted that one conqueror was missing… although we Christians claim that he not only conquered the city but all things. “Perhaps we missed him,” I said, “because of the unusual way in which he conquered.” I then posed a question. “Could it be that we try to take the city, in the one way that our Lord refused to do so? Could it be that the crusader who truly conquers, does not do so by crucifying, but by being crucified for all—his bride?”
I then preached a sermon titled “The Holy Nation” and asked the question, “Who is Israel and who are the Jews?” In that message, I claimed to be a Jew. My Father is Yahweh. My mother is “the Jerusalem above.” My brother, husband, and head is Jesus, King of the Jews. His blood runs in my veins and I’ve been grafted into the family tree.
It turns out that some people didn’t like that. And they weren’t Moslems or Jews (at least not according to the definition of the state of Israel), but Christians. One of them sent out a circulating letter stating that I was an antisemite and that the blood of the Jews was on my hands. I discovered that there were not only two groups that were fighting over the temple mount but three: Jews, Moslems, and Christians—Christian Zionists that is. They usually have a map and think a stone temple needs to be built, so the antichrist can come, and they can get raptured, while the world suffers “the tribulation.”
It’s strange because Jesus was pretty clear about that old stone temple, a new one that he would build, and a New Jerusalem that was already coming down.
The topic is personal and painful for that reason . . . and one other. Years ago, I was hit in the head and almost died. I was hit in the head, with a bat . . . by a Jew. . .
. . . a Jew, who was my best buddy in fourth grade and with whom I always played baseball against the side of his house and obviously stood too close to the batter on one occasion. What you just experienced is called a “Gestalt Shift.” The meaning of all the facts just changed.
This is all painful for me, not only because of angry Zionists or because I was hit in the head with a bat, but because David was my best friend as a kid. And so was Bradley—both neighbors and both Jews. If I’m antisemitic, I’m anti-me, the true me.
Perhaps this entire world needs a massive gestalt shift called “repentance.”
1 Peter 2, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house… ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the head (kephale) of the corner.’”
This is the “plan for the fulness of time” writes Paul, “to bring together under one head (anakephalaioo) all things in Christ Jesus.”
Eighteen years ago, I led a tour to Israel, and on that tour, my wife had three visions. As we walked around the Dome of the Rock, she said “Peter, I see snakes everywhere.” At the wailing wall, she said “Peter, I see a lion—little old men put their prayers in that wall and then this lion just rips them to pieces (‘Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,’ wrote Peter).” On the Sea of Galilee on our tour boat, she said, “Peter, I looked over the side of our boat and saw these boys, in this little old boat, fishing, laughing, having fun, just being boys. One of them suddenly looked up at me—I knew it was Jesus—and he said, ‘I was happy hear.”
Where are you happy? Isn’t it that place where you can rest, where you belong, where you feel most at home? And what is our Lord’s home? It’s a temple made of living stones.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the other boys in the boat were named “Peter, James, and John,” and that they were about the age of Peter (Hiett), Bradley Braverman, and David Hart when I got hit in the head with the bat and looked for bugs with Brad. I shared a heart with Brad.
1 Peter 2 “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light… Keep your conduct among the Gentiles (he’s writing to Gentiles as if they are Jews) beautiful, that they might see your beautiful deeds and give glory to God on the day of visitation.”
What beautiful deeds do you do for which unbelievers will glorify God on the Day of Judgment—the day they see Jesus standing before them shining like the sun? Would it be good news for them to discover that Jesus looked something like you?
Brad moved away and lived a very profligate lifestyle for a time. I tried witnessing. He wasn’t interested in my arguments, but he always cherished me as a friend. Years later, I got a call from his sister, “Is this Peter Hiett from Prince Circle? Brad is dead. He died of Aids. He would want you to do the funeral.” After the service, his sister shared how he would lie in bed moaning, “I can’t be God; It’s too hard to be God.” His girlfriend then said, “One day I asked Brad about his funeral and if he ever talked to his old friend Peter—knowing full well that he hadn’t. Brad turned and looked at me and said ‘Oh Peter. I talk to him every week.’”
I bet that was Jesus… and maybe Brad confused him with me—not the arguments in me—but the faith, hope, and love in me—love for my friend, Brad.
Whatever the case, I think Brad is a Christian now. And I’m sure that I am a Jew. And on Judgment Day, when I finally find the courage to look up into the face of Jesus, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that he looks a bit like Brad Braverman and David Hart. He’ll smile and say, “Didn’t I tell you, I’m not only the King of Creation but the King of the Jews.”
Trust his love for you and love as he has loved you; go on a crusade—not as the crucifier, but the one willing to be crucified. That’s how you rebuild the temple AND love your neighbor.
It’s a Gestalt Shift: The Temple is Your Neighbor. Jesus is the Rock.