Thursday, November 17, 2011
Hemmed in From All Sides: Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Gospel Reading for November 17th, 2011
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
"If this day you only knew what makes for peace? but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
In the 70 A.D., forty years after these fateful words uttered by our Lord, Jerusalem fell to the Roman army, led by the Roman General Titus. An insurrection by Jewish Zealots (nationalists) broke out in 66 A.D., several months before Jerusalem was leveled to the ground. About a hundred years before, the Roman Empire had already annexed the land of Judea (part of the greater Palestine region)where the city of David was located. The Jews wanted their land back; they wanted to govern themselves; and they wanted the Romans out! Originally, their campaign to oust the Roman administration was successful. However, in 70 A.D. the Zealots became acquainted with the full might of the Roman army. The results were devastating. The Roman army not only crushed this revolt but they also surrounded the city of Jerusalem, preventing any food from entering into the city. As such, hundreds of thousands of Jews starved to death. Many people resorted to cannibalism.
What was even more pivotal was that the Jewish Temple, the second one to be built since the days of King Solomon, was burned to the ground. This would change the religion of Judaism to this day. With the Temple gone, there could be no more sacrifices; and without any sacrifices there can be no priesthood. Hence, the emphasis in worship went from the Jewish Temple to the Synagogue; from the ritual of sacrifice and offerings to the the reading of the Torah; and from the altar to the pulpit. As a side note, when Christians left the Catholic Church during the Reformation, a similar transition took place. Protestant Christianity, in large part, left the altar behind and placed exclusive emphasis on the Word of God at the pulpit; this, much like the Jews in the post-Temple era.
In any case, it was reported in the early years of the Church that there was not a single Christian killed when Jerusalem was besieged. From tradition we learn that the followers of Christ fled to a town named Pella. Evidently, much like the star on Christmas night that led the Magi to the baby Jesus, there were signs in the sky which alerted Christians to get out!
Here is the irony of the story. Jesus Christ, as predicted by the Old Testament prophets, came to inaugurate a spiritual kingdom, known as the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. The first-century Jews had interpreted these passages through a political lens. In other words, they had been trained to look for a political Messiah to liberate them from Roman domination. But Jesus did not come to offer political solutions as such, nor did he have political power. As the prophet Isaiah wrote about him 700 years prior to his coming, "There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him." On this account, he was rejected by his own people. Christ simply did not fit the profile. As such, he needed to go!
But here is my point I wish to draw your attention to: The preaching of the Gospel and the Revolution of the Cross would end up conquering Rome, not by committing acts of violence but by enduring them with the blood of martyrs. To make a long story short, in 313 A.D., after years of persecution, Christianity was legalized and then in 382 A.D. it became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
It should be pointed out that the Jewish Zealots had never come close to accomplishing what Christianity accomplished. Sadly, the Jewish people were wanderers with no homeland from 70 A.D. to 1948 A.D.
It really is true that to seek the kingdom of God first everything else will be given to you. And yet, many within our Church look to the State for the answers or they pursue political solutions in response to our daily problems. Within our own ranks, unfortunately, there are some who search for that political Messiah. But like our Lord, we have to communicated that the only sure foundation is a solid spiritual foundation. Everything else proceeds from this!
America does not have to learn the hard way like Jerusalem did in 70 A.D. The vulnerability of our political and economic climate, and the uncertainty it brings, exists because spiritual truths are not our highest priority.
Again, to quote Fulton Sheen: "If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants, and Catholics have to suffer under a totalitarian state denying them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress, and because they never opposed the materialistic lie with spiritual truth."
Posted by Joe at 8:36 PM