12: JERUSALEM FALLS

“Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.”

Luke 17:27

In the year 70AD an event occurred of seismic proportions, which benefitted the spread of Christianity and from which the ancient Jewish people have not recovered.

When Rome was fully engaged in persecuting Christian in the 60’s AD , the emperors were facing a growing challenge to their authority in the troublesome province of Judea. These were years when the Jews were following the false Christ’s, whom our Lord predicted three decades earlier. Vigorous attempts were made to overthrow Roman rule as the desire for Jewish independence reached a fever pitch. Dangerous factions arose in Judea which pitted themselves against one another, often violently. Christians in Jerusalem found themselves caught in the tumult as the extreme orthodox tendency that was asserting itself endeavoured to exterminate this ‘sect’ that regarded as apostate. It was during these years that James the Just, writer of the Epistle, half brother to our Lord and leader of the Jerusalem Church, was stoned to death.

Fighting with the Romans, warring with one another, persecuting Christian’s. This was a heady cocktail of civil unrest making for an unstable society; something which the Romans with their love for order found abhorrent.

While the patience of Rome was growing increasingly thin, the long suffering of God was also nearing an end; judgement day was fast approaching.

Christ foresaw this impending doom. With amazing accuracy he spoke of the destruction of the temple, of days when the people would take flight, of many rising up claiming to be Christ and of the enemy digging a trench about the city. Most graphically of all he spoke of the eagles swarming around the carcass; the Roman soldiers would plant their standards adorned with the eagle crest in the smoking ruins of the temple and of old Jerusalem. We can understand why our Saviour wept over this city and the people whom he loved.

At the heart of Judaism, however, was temple worship; the altar, the priests, the sacrifices, the Holy of Holies, the Passover Lamb. As our Lord died Temple worship was rendered obsolete by the cry “It is finished”. The mysterious rending of the veil hiding the Holy Place from view represented the end of Judaism as a way to God. Yet the Jews clung onto their rituals, despising the Messiah and persecuting His followers. The final sacrifices offered at the brazen altar were not of animals but of people. As the soldiers swarmed the temple zealous young patriots fought for the sanctuary; their’s was the last blood shed before the temple went up in flames. The Romans according to the providence of God, were only the instruments, finalising in a visible sense what Christ had already completed more than three decades earlier.

Christians largely escaped the onslaught; during the siege and in the sacking of Jerusalem more than one million people perished. The Church, as a consequence of repeated persecutions and armed with the knowledge that God had fore-ordained the destruction of Jerusalem, had fled. In the aftermath of Jerusalem’s fall Christianity was no longer regarded as a sect within Judaism but as an independent religion in its own right. A new age of Christian maturity had dawned.

Today more than 1,900 years after the event the Jews are still without their temple; the weeping wall is all that ancient faith possesses while the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, occupies the site of the temple, the only place where the Jews can offer sacrifices. Yet the way to God for Jews and Gentiles remains open through the blood of the Christ of God. In providence God closed up the old way because there is a new, a living way which will never be rendered obsolete.

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform,
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

William Cowper

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