Here Comes the Thief!
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
When people envision ministry to Muslims, a variety of images may spring to mind. These mental pictures may include women veiled in black, secret police, and even those who have been martyred for the name of Jesus. Indeed, many Muslim contexts are high-persecution contexts for Christian ministry. Even when Muslims live in diaspora settings, family and community may persecute those who are turning to Christ.
As we consider these challenges, one encouraging perspective emerges: The Lord Jesus Christ is the absolute expert in dealing with high-persecution contexts, since He experienced it all himself. During Jesus’ public ministry, He endured continual opposition. His own townsfolk wanted to push Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). The religious leaders claimed Jesus was demon-possessed (Mark 3:22). In His last days, one of His own disciples betrayed Him as a part of a cruel conspiracy (Matthew 26:14-16; John 18:1-3).
Since Jesus is the rightful ruler of the world, we observe that things are not in submission to Him. Nations rage. Earthly kingdoms take their stand against the Kingdom of God. Into the midst of the mess we humans have made, Jesus came as the suffering Savior. Yet, death could not hold Him. He rose triumphant over it and He will come again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Interestingly, Jesus says: “Behold, I am coming like a thief” (Rev. 16:15). At first, this may seem strange. Is not the devil the real thief who comes to kill, steal, and destroy?
Indeed, we can observe certain aspects in which Jesus comes like a thief. When He died on the Cross, He hung between two thieves or robbers. Passersby would have thought Him to be a thief also. Second, the term “thief” evokes fear—and evil spirits were deathly afraid of Jesus. Last, a thief knowingly enters into a dangerous and difficult situation. Likewise, Jesus came into a sinful world that would crucify Him—all because of His love for us.
Returning to our theme of ministry to Muslims, there is no need to fear. Most Muslims are very friendly and hospitable. Even if we find ourselves facing difficulties or persecution, we can be consoled by the fact that Jesus knows exactly what we are going through. He also went through it.
In closing, I am reminded of the song “Why?” by Michael Card. One verse speaks of the loving yet stealthy ministry of the Lord:
Why did it have to be A heavy cross He was made to bare? And why did they nail His feet and hands His love would have held Him there?
It was a cross for on a cross A thief was supposed to pay And Jesus had come into the world To steal every heart away.
Yes, Jesus had come into the world To steal every heart away.
Yes, in our day, Jesus is evading Shariah laws and hostile governments that try to keep Muslims from seeing the light of Christ. Like the wind, Jesus moves by His Spirit to touch lives. Those who bless Muslims with the gospel can rejoice. We are not alone. Jesus is in the midst and He has come into this world to steal every heart away.