Summary: The story of the siege of Jerusalem by Rome reminds us that God judges. But it also tells us that in a time of judgement, God protects his people.
In an earlier 'Reflection' I mentioned that I would include a few Reflections on notable events in Christian history, mainly to give us a bit of variety. Today we’re going to have the first of those. The event is the siege of Jerusalem.
In 66 A.D. a Roman prefect attempted to seize money from the temple. The Jews revolted. The Romans acted to suppress the revolt but the Jews ambushed and defeated a Roman expeditionary force, killing 6,000 Roman soldiers. In 70 A.D. Titus brought 60,000 soldiers to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. They built a five-mile long barricade around Jerusalem. Many Jews fled to escape the city but the Romans crucified them to intimidate the population. According to one account they crucified up to 500 people a day. As the siege continued those inside the city carried the dead outside. The Romans appointed someone to count the number: it was 115,880.
Eventually the Romans built an earth ramp up to the top of the walls and used battering rams to break down the walls, and took the city. They brought nearly 100,000 prisoners back to Rome and paraded them through the streets in a procession. In AD 82 they built a massive arch to honour Titus for his conquests. It still exists. It has a nice carving on it of Romans soldiers carrying away the temple lampstand.
Jesus foretold this, and he made it clear that it would be an act of judgement by God. Although the apparent reason Rome attacked Jerusalem was Jewish rebellion, the real reason was that the Jews had put God’s son to death (see Luke 19:41-44 and Matthew 21:33-41).
But in this story of awful judgement, there is something we can take encouragement from. We can find it in Luke 21:20-22:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written.
Jesus’ instructions are clear – and the early Christians followed them! An early Christian scholar called Eusebius tells us that the entire Jerusalem church left Jerusalem before the siege started and moved to a town called Pella, and so did not suffer the fate that befell Jerusalem.
But let’s read on a little. In 21:24 Jesus says, ‘Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’
After the Romans took Jerusalem it was controlled by Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Tatars, Ottoman Turks and finally, us – the British! But nearly 2000 years of trampling by Gentiles was about to stop. In 1948 Israel was established as a state. Israel took Jerusalem later that year. It captured the temple mount in 1967, and in December 2017 President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It’s exciting!
Recently, we’ve been hearing the word ‘unprecedented’ a lot. It means, ‘never previously done, known, or experienced.’ Maybe that’s true. But the siege of Jerusalem shows that Jesus knows what’s coming. He isn’t taken by surprise. As the song goes:
I do not know what lies ahead,
the way I cannot see;
yet One stands near to be my guide,
He’ll show the way to me…
Have a good day!