Crucify Him! Crucify Him! His blood be upon us and our children. This was the cry of the Jews at the crucifixion of Jesus. We go now to a time only a few years later when these words of the Jews were being fulfilled.
The years before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God were years filled with much fighting and strife. The Jews and the Romans were constantly at war. Matthew 24:6-7 states, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…. At times the Jews would conquer the Romans, but the majority of the battles were won by the Romans who were lead by a man named Vespasian. City after city in Galilee was conquered. But the Jews, along with their general, Josephus, continue to fight.
A battle breaks out in which hundreds of Jews have been slaughtered but Josephus and some of his men flee the Romans soldiers. They flee to a cave and try to escape the Romans but are followed. The Jews see the Romans coming and they kill themselves because they would rather die that way than be held as a captive by the Romans and then be put to death. Josephus, however, does not kill himself. The Romans befriend him and his fellow countrymen, Jews call him a traitor. In the months to follow, Josephus advises the Jews to surrender to the Romans because he could see that they would never conquer the mighty armies of the Romans. However, the Jews are hardhearted and refuse to listen. They fight on. As the battles continue, thousands of Jews are massacred by the Romans. Many Jews have given their lives to prevent the enemy from conquering their beloved city, Jerusalem.
But then, suddenly, the Roman soldiers retreat. Why? Their emperor, the wicked Nero, had been killed and Vespasian must go back to Rome to become the new emperor. In going back to gain his position, he must first defeat the man who took over immediately after Nero died. After a brief struggle, Vespasian attained to the throne, and sends his son, Titus, to stamp out the rebellion of the Jews.
While the Romans were in their own country, the Jews had created their own problem. After the many conflicts and battles with the Romans a great division arose among the Jews. Part of the Jews wanted to end the war and make peace with the Romans. The remaining Jews wished to continue war and conquer the Romans. This group was called the Zealots. As a result, struggles and serious fighting persisted even without the Romans around.
The Jews continue to fight and their resources dwindle almost to nothing. Food is being burned, ammunition is being destroyed and the city is in shambles. To add to the confusion Jerusalem has hundreds of visitors because the time of the Passover is near.
Suddenly a loud bang shakes the city. Titus and his Roman soldiers have returned and are bombarding the outside wall of Jerusalem with battering rams! The Jews defend their precious city as best they can, but the Romans succeed in making a breach in the wall. Soon they conquer Bezetha, a portion of the city. The Romans press forward.
In the middle of the city, the Jews are trying to celebrate the Passover feast. The people are unable to leave the city because it is surrounded by the soldiers. They are caught in Jerusalem, and with no way to get in or out, they struggle to find food. Their supply of food runs out. Famine and diseases are prevalent. Many are dying from starvation. One mother even kills her own child, roasts it, and eats it. The Lord Jesus himself prophesied in Matthew 24: 7, 8 & 19 “…and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” “And woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!”
Finally, the Romans conquer the majority of the city. During the night, they take by surprise the tower of Antonia, the stronghold of Jerusalem. With the tower in the hands of the Romans, the Jews know that they have little hope left. Fighting rages around the tower until the Romans at last succeed in coming to the temple. The sacrificing now halts because all the people are needed to defend the temple from the Romans. In the midst of trouble many of the Jews continue to look in vain for the promised Messiah believing that he would come at anytime to rescue and deliver them from the terrible massacre.
But alas, the Lord had already come! He himself had prophesied the destruction of the temple! The glory of the temple, the dwelling place of God is destroyed and leveled to the ground. It is the will of God! Christ in Matthew 24:2 prophesied “…verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
So Titus and his men continue the carnage. Titus wants to save the temple, but his men persevere in their fighting. To win and to conquer all was foremost in their minds. They set the annexes of the temple on fire and the temple slowly begins to fall away. A flaming firebrand flies into the temple and it begins to burn. The Jews scramble to put it out, but without success. They cannot believe that their temple is being destroyed! Yet, they continue to look for the Messiah to deliver them.
The temple now rages with huge flames of fire, men and women alike are being killed by the sword, dead bodies are piled in heaps along the streets and the blood rushes everywhere like water. Not one stone of the temple is left upon another. A terrible tragedy for the Jews, and yet, it was the will of God.
The destruction of Jerusalem forced the people of God to flee to the mountains, to flee from the great tribulation. Matthew 24:16-18 “Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” By means of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the gospel was spread to where the people of God fled. I Peter 1:1-2, “…to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you and peace…”
The great battle and horrible persecutions experienced by the Jews are so hard to comprehend to those of us who live in relatively peaceful times, and yet we know that this was only the beginning. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the very elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22). The persecution at the end time will be yet more terrible than that of the Jews. We are called to watch and be ready for the second coming of our Lord. The tribulation is one sign of that glorious return of Christ. He will give his people grace to stand in those evil days. Thanks be to the Lord! ❖
Mindy is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.