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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jesus and His Disciples: Part 5 of the 7 Eras of Jerusalem

With the appointment of Herod the Great ( or Herod I ) as a client king of Judea for Rome, the Hasmonean Empire now gave way to the Herodian.  The Romans, in fact, gave him the title “The King of the Jews”.

Although he considered himself a follower of Judaism,  He was murderous and brutal in his ambitions. Among his many building projects ( including pagan temples) he replaced the ruins of Zerubbabel’s temple with a new one. The priestly offerings continued during construction and the Temple itself was constructed by Jewish priests.  Herod also built the Antonia Fortress ( on the south peak of Moriah) which he named for Marc Antony.

It was in this historical period of Jerusalem and the Temple that the Lord Jesus was born.  In fact, upon returning from a trip to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover Mary and Joseph noticed their 12 year old Son was missing. Luke 2: 46-47 recounts:

“Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Luke 2:46-47

It is integral to understand that the Jews of that day believed that the promised Messiah ( Daniel 9:25 etc) was coming to institute an earthly Jewish Kingdom. Even Jesus’ own disciples believed this ( Acts 1:6) , thinking that He would put an end to the Roman rule of Jerusalem and the Judean lands. Upon His public entrance into Jerusalem the people were ready to crown Him King:

“Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David That comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:10

Note the reference to King David and his “earthly” kingdom.   With this cultural context we understand why Jesus took time to explain to His disciples what was really going to happen before hand.

“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” Matthew 20:17-19

Later, when Jesus stood before Pilate, He reiterates what His Kingdom is really about:

Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”…. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:33. 36

It is important to note that Jesus made two unique predictions concerning the destruction of the Temple. The first prediction was a figurative one that had the Pharisees up in arms:

“So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” John 2:18-21

The second was much more literal and concerned Herod’s Temple specifically. Herod’s Temple was a magnificent structure renowned throughout Rome and even by the disciples:

"Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1-2

This prophecy was fulfilled through the Roman General ( and future Emperor) Titus in 70 A.D. about 49 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The secular Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that 1,100,000 people were killed during this “Siege of Jerusalem” and that another 97,000 were enslaved. He describes the end of the siege as a ‘slaughter” and “ indiscriminate carnage“.

Despite this terrible end, God’s loving passion for Jerusalem and what it represented was exemplified when Jesus made this impassioned lament:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Matthew 23:37

It is clear from further Scripture reading that God still indeed loves the Jews and Jerusalem and that there is a future for them in His economy.

Before we leave this “era” we must, of course, focus on the single most important and significant event that ever happened at Jerusalem – that is the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ through Whom both Jew and Gentile may be reconciled to God.

There has been much debate as to the precise location where the Crucifixion took place; the two most prominent places being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and a hill outside the old city gates referred to now as “Gordon’s Calvary”.

It was Constantine I ‘s mother ,Helena, who had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built in the 4th century A.D. after she claimed to have found the “True Cross” there. However there were many doubts as to that location – especially in the 19th century when “The Garden Tomb” was discovered in 1867. Gordon’s Calvary is a rocky hill adjacent to the Garden Tomb and has been considered a much more plausible place by many Protestants.

Although he favours Gordon’s Calvary, J.B. Nicholson Jr. writes in “Behold the Land”:  “ It would seem that the Lord, knowing the tendency of the human heart to adore just about anything but what it should rightly adore, has kept its location uncertain.”

He then continues:

“The geographical spot may be uncertain, but there is one thing that is sure. Calvary is man’s only hope. And God has seen to it that no pilgrimage is needed to this place; it is as close as a prayer, a heart’s breadth away. Evangeline Booth wrote, ‘I have seen men find Him where the shepherd’s did – in a barn; where Paul did – on a journey; where Mary of Magdala did – in a garden; where the jailer did – in a prison. I have seen men find Him on the seas, in the forests, down in the mines, and in the most evil places outside of Hell…. There is no spot on earth where Christ will not come to meet us if we will only seek Him with a heart that so thirsts it will go to any length to find Him.’

“Where is Calvary? Wherever a sinner meets his Saviour; wherever a believer meets his Beloved. The places may be forgotten; it is the Person we need.”

The next article here: Era 6 - The New Testament Until Now

A View of Gordon’s Calvary, now at the edge of a bus station. There is a picture in the foreground of what it looked like in 1880. It is not too difficult  to see the inset of a skull shape within the rock. Many believe that this is another reason to believe this is indeed “Golgotha” (i.e. Calvary)  , the Place of the Skull , a traditional Jewish place of execution and burial.

A View of Gordon’s Calvary, now at the edge of a bus station. There is a picture in the foreground of what it looked like in 1880. It is not too difficult  to see the inset of a skull shape within the rock. Many believe that this is another reason to believe this is indeed “Golgotha” (i.e. Calvary)  , the Place of the Skull , a traditional Jewish place of execution and burial.

Inside the Garden TombInside the Garden Tomb

Inside the Garden Tomb

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