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When Jesus left Bethany and approached Jerusalem from the East, He came to a high point where Jesus could view the city. His disciples pointed out its beauty. Jesus’ response was sobering:

(Matthew 24:2) 1 – “’Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”

Jesus was telling His disciples that Jerusalem and the Temple would someday be surrounded by an army and destroyed. Just 38 years after He spoke these words, the Roman General Titus accomplished the fulfillment of Jesus’ words precisely. What can we learn about this medieval event, laying siege to a city, and the insight from our Savior?

The Bible doesn’t record many instances of Jesus weeping. We have the well-known and probably shortest verse in our Bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) when Lazarus had died. But there is another one, in Luke 19:41, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” The foreknowledge of the fall of Jerusalem brought Jesus to tears. The siege of Jerusalem, (70 BC), was a Roman military blockade of Jerusalem. The fall of the city marked the effective conclusion of a four-year campaign against the Jewish insurgency in Judaea. The Romans destroyed much of the city, including the Second Temple. Most of the information on the siege comes from the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

In a siege, people are trapped in a location. Unable to escape, refresh food supplies, external trade for critical goods are stopped, and everyday life brings untold hardship, even death. The purpose, of course, is to subjugate the citizens, to bring them under control, to enslave them. The siege strategy of war remains alive and well. It has been and is still being used to fight COVID when people are restricted to their homes and cities. In Ukraine, we see the impact on millions of people trapped by Russia. Can we learn anything from the siege by Titus that can help us today?

Jesus was commenting on more than the future of Jerusalem. He was also drawing attention to the tragic spiritual condition of the Holy City. Just as in the days of the prophets, Jerusalem remained a city chasing after other gods. The worst part of their behavior was that they simply did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Soon the city would condemn Him to death and accuse Him of perverting the nation. (Luke 23:2) Jerusalem was a sinful city.

Josephus claims that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege. The majority were Jewish. Josephus attributes this to the celebration of Passover for the vast number of people present at the time of the siege. All of Jerusalem’s remaining citizens became Roman prisoners. After the Romans killed the armed and elder people, 97,000 were enslaved. Of the 97,000, thousands were forced to become gladiators and eventually expired in the arena. Many others were forced to assist in the building of the Forum of Peace and the Colosseum. Those under 17 years of age were sold into servitude.

The Jewish nation had grown tired of Roman rule. It seemed logical to fight back against the Romans, their common enemy. This resulted in the formation of multiple resistance groups (Jewish Militias) to break the grip of the Roman Empire on the Jewish Nation. After Jesus’ death, uprisings began to occur throughout the Jewish kingdom. Two of the groups were the Zealots of Eleazar son of Simon and the private army of John of Gischala, run by a new leader who had just come to power. John and Simon had different agendas. The first strove only for political freedom and minted silver coins with the legend “Freedom of Zion“. Simon, on the other hand, stood at the head of a messianic movement; his copper coins have the legend “Redemption of Zion.” Each group was convinced that they had a righteous plan to defeat the Romans and free the Jewish nation from Roman rule. The Roman strategy was simply to allow the Jews in Jerusalem to destroy themselves. Titus would succeed in using their internal conflicts against them.

The ancient city of Jerusalem had a security system consisting of an external set of three surrounding walls, all with defensive gates and numerous towers where archers kept watch. There was arrogance within the Jewish leadership that the Romans could not conquer the city. Titus and his legions eventually came to the walls of Jerusalem after other successful battles in the area and surrounded the city. The siege was on! General Titus sent a small group of emissaries into the walled city to ask if the rebel leaders would care to surrender the city, and thus protect the life of its people. The rebel leadership controlling the city chose the worst decision that they could make. Remember, they were surrounded, trapped in a walled city by a powerful and experienced Roman army. Their answer was returned to Titus by murdering the Roman emissaries and throwing their bodies from the city walls.

With now three separate Jewish rebel groups operating in Jerusalem, they began to physically fight against each other while the Romans remained encircled around their city. The entrapped citizens within the walls literally were starving to death. Yet, their leaders, who were distracted by infighting, finally gave the Roman legions the chance to take the city. The common people of Jerusalem who had suffered under the long siege would suffer again because of the bad decisions made by their divisive leadership. The Jewish historian Josephus blames the entire war and its disastrous aftermath on militant groups who were a minority among the Jewish people during the entire Roman period. Their decisions were never in the best interest of the people. The infighting provided cover for Titus to plan, attack, and destroy Jerusalem. 

Divisiveness remains a problem in the world today. It seems that even having common enemies does not bring people together anymore. What does God say about divisiveness?

(Mark 3:24-26) – “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.”

God’s opinion on divisiveness is quite straightforward. Don’t do it, it will destroy you. We find divisiveness everywhere today. In the news, the entertainment industry, the government, courts, businesses, and it is destructive. This happens even when groups have common goals. The attitudes within our country today cannot be pleasing to God! We must learn how to work together again. Could it take finding common goals like placing our God first? Serving Him should be the common strategy for all humanity. It is time to become civil again! If our leaders cannot bring God back, it is time for new leadership. We need to make God our common goal!

(Romans 16:17-18) – “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Our country was founded on cooperation and agreement. Please make note that the official document title of the Declaration is “The unanimous Declaration of Independence of the thirteen united States of America.” The words unanimous and united are used as adjectives, not nouns. Had the colonies each been divided and fighting against each other, the story of our history might have been closer to that of the history of Jerusalem under Titus. No walls around us can be high enough to protect us from evil if the evil comes from within. Jesus is weeping for us today. Only “In God, We Trust” can save us.

And a Final Message to the Parents of the World!

(Deuteronomy 6:5-9) – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

God expects you to pass His Truth onto the children. It is not easy! Developing the character of a child must not be subcontracted to external educational systems where God is not allowed. If we want a world that is less divisive, it is up to every family to model the proper Godly behavior for their children. Both cooperation and good manners start at home. As Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Contemplations

  • Why is our nation so divided?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is one side very right while the other side is very wrong? Are we being provoked by evil people into hating each other? Is it because we have lost our focal point, God?
  • Is divisiveness being taught in our schools?
    • Ideas to Explore: Where do children learn to hate? Is the breakdown of the family unit providing witness to the divisiveness?
  • Are the influences over society, such as social media, news media, sports, the entertainment industry, and even our political system using divisiveness to gain or hold power over people?
    • Ideas to Explore: Who teaches cooperation in society these days? Who fosters divisiveness? Why?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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