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Jesus loved terrorists and still loves them today

A 2006 photo of Iraqi terrorists. Photo Manendj/Wikipedia

A 2006 photo of Iraqi terrorists. Photo Manendj/Wikipedia

[by Dean Smith] An interesting story has emerged about one of the Muslim terrorists killed in the attack on a Mohammad drawing event held in Garland, Texas, Sunday, May 3,2015. The event sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative was offering a $10,000 reward for the best caricature of Muhammad.

Elton Simpson, 30, along with his roommate Nadir Soofi, 34 ,were shot by a police officer when the heavily armed duo launched their attack on the event. If the officer had not stopped the two, many of the 200 people attending would have undoubtedly been either killed or injured.

Simpson was previously known to the FBI because he had tried to travel to Somalia to join a Muslim extremist group. ISIS would later claim responsibility for the attack by the two Muslims who lived in Phoenix, Arizona — 1,100 miles away.

But it is interesting that before his death, God had reached out to Simpson through Phoenix pastor John-Mark Rieser.

John-Mark who helps pastor Roosevelt Community Church worked with Elton at a delivery center.

On his blog,, John-Mark wrote how he shared his faith with Elton several times and considered Elton a friend. Apparently, Elton tried to convert John-Mark to Islam as well.

John-Mark said Elton’s death did not come as a complete shock because it was obvious he had an interest in Jihad. Rieser described his terrorist friend this way:

“Elton was not insane. Elton was not mean. Elton was not rude. Elton was not wild-eyed. Elton was not constantly angry. Elton never threatened me,”

John-Mark who is currently earning a Doctorate in Theology at Talbot Seminary has an unusual ministry. He performs Hip Hop and rap sometimes on the streets of Phoenix.

He is also involved in Muslim street evangelism politely handing out tracts to people attending one of the 17 mosques in the Phoenix area. John-Mark remembers the time he distributed tracts outside the Mosque where Elton attended. Many of the Muslims were accepting the Gospel of John written in Arabic. He then watched Elton approach the people, gather up the Gospels, and then while smiling at John-Mark, Elton tossed them into the garbage.

Nevertheless, God put John-Mark in a place where he could influence a Muslim terrorist because God loved Elton and wanted to change the path he had chosen.

Jesus had terrorist disciples

It is also interesting during His ministry, Jesus drew disciples who today would be considered terrorists depending on what side of the tracks you lived on.

A number of rebel groups rose up among the Jewish population of Judea after Jerusalem fell to Rome in 63 BC. Though the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their religion, their captors introduced a number of pagan practices and implemented heavy taxation, making them extremely unpopular.

We see references to several such groups in the New Testament. In Acts 5:36-37, Pharisee Gamaliel refers to two rebel groups one led by Theudas who led 400 rebels and Judas the Galilean who started a group during the census. Rome killed both these leaders.

But it wasn’t just the Jews who were organizing rebel groups. Acts 21:38 refers to an Egyptian who had a rebel organization made up of 4,000 men.

The most notable of the Jewish rebel groups were the Zealots. According to Jewish historian Josephus, it officially formed in 6 AD and were a sect similar to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Along with their armed resistance to Rome, the Zealots opposed the Jewish priesthood who they considered Roman collaborators.

We know one of Jesus’ disciples belonged to this rebel organization. Simon the Zealot is mentioned in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. At some point, Simon must have been vocal about his political leanings with his fellow disciples for these views to be known.

I would have loved to have sat around the flickering camp fire at night listening to the disciples’ conversation, because along with Simon, there was also Matthew, a Levite. As a member of the priestly tribe, Matthew worked as a tax collector, collecting taxes on behalf of the despised Romans. One of Rome’s tricks was awarding the tax franchise for Judea to the High Priest, as a way of buying his support. The High Priest in turn would franchise out the work to fellow Levites, such as Matthew.

As both a tax collector and Levite, Simon would have considered Matthew a collaborator and a traitor.

Some have wondered if the Apostle Paul was also a Zealot. In Galatians 1:14, the NASV translates Paul as being zealous (verb) for the traditions of God (see also Acts 22:3). However, the Greek word used here is “Zelotes” and is a noun literally zealot and translated means “adherent, loyalist, enthusiast, patriot, zealot.”

It means Paul was a zealot for the traditions of the Jews. Though we can’t be certain Paul was a member of the Zealots, the purposeful use of the noun suggests he may have been sympathetic to their cause.

Another disciple who was possibly a terrorist was Judas Iscariot — the man who betrayed Jesus. As one of the 12, Judas was among the inner core of Jesus’ disciples. He was given authority along with the other disciples to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons.

The last name Iscariot is a bit odd and theologians have struggled interpreting it.

One possibility is that it is a rendering of the word “Sicarii.” This was the name of a smaller, more radical group of Jewish rebels who broke off from Zealots and formed their own organization. They were extremely violent and the name “Sicarii” literally means “violent men” or “dagger men.” Carrying small easily concealed knives, they were assassins who made their mark killing Jews considered Roman collaborators.

It was members of this group who committed mass suicide at the mountain fortress of Masada in 66 AD rather than surrender to the Roman army who had surrounded them. Judas the Galilean mentioned in Acts 5:37 may have been the founder of the Sicarii.

It may have been Simon and Judas’ known political positions that caused Peter to use a sword in defending Jesus when the High Priest and his entourage arrested Christ (Matthew 26:51; John 18:26). Though Jesus refused to take up the sword (Matthew 26:52), He still desires to draw all, including terrorists, into a relationship with His Heavenly Father.

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