The Fall of Jerusalem

24 November 2005: Thursday of the 34th Week of the Year
Luke 21, 20-28: Andrew Dung Lac and Companions

fell to the Roman armies in AD 70 after a desperate siege in which the inhabitants were actually reduced to cannibalism and in which the city had to be taken literally stone by stone. Josephus says that an incredible number of 1,100,000 people perished in the siege and 97,000 were carried away in captivity. The Jewish nation was obliterated and the Temple was fired and abandoned.

Josephus in Wars of the Jews writes about the beauty of the Temple: the pillars and columns are of white marble, each made of a single block of stone. Of the ornaments, the most famous was the great vine made of solid gold. “The outward face of the Temple in its front... was covered with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But the temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceedingly white.

It was from a comment about this Temple, that Jesus was moved to prophesy. Here we learn some things about Jesus. First, Jesus could read the signs of history. Second, Jesus truthfully said that those who would follow him would meet persecutions and difficulties. Third, Jesus assured them that those who would face persecution would never be alone: He is with them. Finally, Jesus gives a second assurance, “not one hair of your head will be harmed.” They might destroy the body, but never one’s soul.

If we reflect on our lives, much of what we learn about Jesus is indeed true to us. Some of us have graciously loaned a lot of money to someone and that person has exploited your generosity. Some of us have been victims of false accusations and tsismis, abandoned by friends and families even by members of the church, because they believed in the false statements made against us. Some of us have labored willingly behind the scenes, doing most of the work--- whether in a school or a work project --- and another got the credit. Some of us have tried to make things better, but we meet a lot of difficulties from people who resist change.

Here is the message that is often difficult to accept: that it is in this kind of pain that God gives His best message. CS Lewis calls pain, “God’s megaphone”. In his book, The Problem of Pain, he writes: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” Thus, when everything falls, like the Temple of Jerusalem, when we are destroyed by people, we are asked to put our complete hope and trust in God. When we do that, the simplest message from God calms our spirit.

Christian Reger is a man who did exactly that. He spent four years in the infamous Dachau, imprisoned by the Nazis from 1941-1945. He was imprisoned because he was a member of the Confessing Church, one of the German state churches that took a stand against the Nazis. Christian was turned over to the Nazis by the organist of his local church, and was shipped hundreds of miles in the concentration camp of Dachau. Philip Yancey tells us his story in his book, Where Is God When it Hurts? “Christian Reger will tell the horror stories if you ask. But he will never stop there. He goes on to share his faith--- how at Dachau, he was visited by God who loves. Reger told me, “Nietzche said a man can undergo torture if he knows the why of his life. But I, here at Dachau, learned something far greater. I learned to know the Who of my life. He was enough to sustain me then, and is enough to sustain me still.”

Actually, we do have a local example: Angelito Nayan who spent three weeks in captivity in the hands of gunmen in Afghanistan. Every day their captors would threaten to kill him and his fellow captives. Nayan said that words from the Bible sustained him in dark times and how they would repeatedly utter a quote from the book of Jeremiah which says, “For I know my plans that are laid for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”

And so, take heart. Never lose hope. Trust in the Lord. In our desperate times, when all else fails, when all else falls like the splendor of Jerusalem, God never abandons us.

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