Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 2020
Our Gospel selection for the day is quite chilling. It is completely prophetically accurate, and it has ramifications for the present day as well.
Let us examine its prophetical aspects. Christ foretells the destruction of Jerusalem as he predicts accurately, the events to come: “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Jesus is describing the devastation the Romans would inflict on the city in 70 a.d., after the Jews revolted again under Roman rule. It is completely accurate, for we know from history that the Romans built fortifications around Jerusalem and besieged it for about four months. The future Roman Emperor Titus led the campaign personally.
Flavius Josephus, the Roman-Jewish historian, acted as mediator when talks were attempted between the warring parties. Problems arose when the Zealots wounded one of the diplomats with an arrow, adding to an already chaotic situation inside the city. In addition, the Zealots suffered from a lack of cohesive leadership. At one point, they even destroyed their own food stocks to solicit divine aid and to motivate their own followers.
Josephus recorded the dire events: “[Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited.”
In short, the destruction was complete. Jerusalem was destroyed again. The revolt was put down. The final idolatry of the Jews was finished, it seemed, as the bitter fruit of their rebellion came forth. Thus, Jesus’ words were prophetic and exact. The Jews’ rejection of Him meant they would attempt to handle affairs on their own, as the Zealots sought earthly power and independence on their own terms. We must ponder, is there a consequence of rejecting Jesus?
This is a vital question for all ages. If we are not aware of the “time of our visitation”, do we run the risk of losing our fellowship with Christ. It would seem so. It is a progressive process.
If one rejects Christ (God), one becomes ruled by self-will. Self-will is absent guidance of the Holy Spirit, and thus the moderating effects on our riotous natures. There is no “bridle” on us, so to speak. Thus it was with the 1st century Zealots. So, it is with the radicals of Antifa and BLM today. Watching a live broadcast of “demonstrating” (rioting) in Beirut earlier this week, it seemed as if a lot of Lebanese kids were just interested in tearing something down.
Human nature and human will without the regulation of God always falls in the ditch on one side or the other. The Zealots sought autonomy and freedom at any cost. They were immoderate and disorganized. They fought fiercely, yet without any real results except their own destruction. In the end, their efforts and sacrifice were futile. Antifa and BLM share similar characteristics yet are different in some respects. Whereas the Zealots lacked cohesive leadership, there is some organization behind today’s radical groups. For example, while claiming to be “spontaneous, peaceful” protesters, evidence has been found that shows just the opposite. Piles of bricks and inflammatory devices have been found at many “protest” sites. The group in Portland, Oregon has been rioting for over 65 days. As a result, we are seeing a housing boom as many families flee to the suburbs nationwide, further eviscerating the inner cities.
We must ask, who is funding these groups? How can these people survive without jobs or income? What are their goals? Unlike the Zealots, who wanted freedom from Roman rule, what do Antifa and BLM want? It is not clear, except to foster anarchy.
What might have been a better course of action for the 1st century Zealots? It is, as Christians know, to submit to earthly authority until God changes the situation or creates a godly revolt. For example, the American Revolution was certainly not peaceful. It involved arms and great sacrifice of life and property. Yet, its underpinnings were godly.
The Declaration of Independence clearly states the source of all liberty is God, and that under Him, all men are created equal. It also states that all men are “endowed by their Creator” with certain “unalienable rights”, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was always clear that God was at the center of things and from His Power comes all earthly power. One must wonder if the Zealots held similar beliefs, or if they felt they could seize power in the name of Zionism alone.
The same can be said for Antifa and BLM. There is no allegiance to God in their charters. They are controlled by forces much darker, even Satanic. As Christ once told us, “Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.” We realize that their aims are not godly.
Beloved, there is a lesson here for us as well. We are fortunate to have a constant reminder of the “time of our visitation.” That is, we can know Christ and fellowship with him weekly, daily, and moment-to-moment through the Holy Spirit.
It the blessing of Pentecost that God has poured Himself out on all mankind. Let us always be cognizant of our blessings and give thanks for them. Let us not ignore the time of our visitation.
It is the precious gift of God, and a foretaste of our blessedness to come.