In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
Now in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord. Then Baruch read from the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house, to all the people.
–Jeremiah 36:1-3, 9-10 (NASB)
For this our heart has become faint, for these things our eyes have grown dim. For Mount Zion, which has become desolate; foxes prowl over it. But You, O G‑d, remain forever; Your throne endures throughout the generations. Why do You forget us forever, forsake us so long? Restore us to You, O G‑d, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.
–Lamentations 5:17-21 (Tanakh)
This year, the 9th of Av or Tisha B’Av begins at sundown on Monday, July 15th and ends on sundown on Tuesday the 16th. There is no more tragic day in the history of the Jewish people than Tisha B’Av. You can click the link I provided above to read the chronicles of this day of mourning for Israel, but I wanted to provide an additional perspective.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
–Luke 21:20-24 (NASB)
When the Romans laid siege upon Jerusalem, when they breached her walls, when they utterly destroyed the Holy Temple, how many remembered these words Jesus spoke some forty years before? How many bewailed the tremendous loss, even as Jews all over the world have mourned for their losses since that time? What does the Kotel mean for millions of Jews today? And of the disciples of the Master who lived in the days of destruction, what happened next?
At its height, the Jerusalem community of disciples numbered around ten thousand. Several thousand of these spent the war years in Pella. Their migration back to Jerusalem probably did not happen all at once…
There is a three-week period of preparation for commemorating Tisha B’Av but what happens after the fast is over? Go on with regular life? Prepare for the coming week’s Torah reading? Anticipate the Days of Awe and the return of autumn?
After each tragedy, there is a long period of mourning and slow recovery. In the case of the vast majority of Jews after the destruction of Herod’s Temple, they must have struggled to understand how life could go on? How could they make the sacrifices commanded according to Torah? How could they worship God?
As Jewish history continued to unravel forward in time, almost all of the Jewish people were exiled from their land. Holy Jerusalem was renamed by the Romans “Aeilia Capitolina” as yet another insult to the Jews. Only a tiny remnant of Jewish people clung to life within the borders of Israel. According to Lancaster’s commentary, this included Jewish disciples of the Master.
Jewish disciples of our Master continued to live in Pella and the surrounding area at least into the fourth century. In his fourth-century treatise against heresies, Epiphanius complains about the Nazarene “heresy” which he describes as Jewish believers in Yeshua “who remain wholly Jewish and nothing else.”
But much past the fourth century, we must concede that the number of Jewish disciples of Jesus dwindled to few and then none. Like the Temple, Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people, Jewish faith in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah went into a long exile and seemed completely lost forever.
But God is gracious. Nearly two years ago, on his blog, Rabbi Joshua Brumbach published a history of Jewish Rabbis who lived during the past several centuries who were also believers, and “who remained wholly Jewish and nothing else.” Both the first and second parts of Rabbis Who Thought For Themselves provide the beginning flickers of illumination after great darkness. Gentile Christianity has flourished in the centuries between the Temple’s destruction and the modern era and Judaism, though suffering greatly, continues to survive and even to thrive in various areas of our world.
But there has always been an enormous disconnect between the two.
That wound is very slowly healing.
In a very real way, Christians and devout Jews are all waiting for the same thing: the coming (or return) of the Jewish Messiah King. Our “visions” of just who is coming (or coming back) and what he will do are quite different, but the Messiah exists as an objective fact, regardless of our beliefs and dreams.
The world herself has been grieving for nearly two-thousand years awaiting the return of the Prince of Peace and the King of Righteousness to stop the bleeding, cease the wars, feed the hungry, and to bring repair and shalom to this broken planet…
…and to her broken people.
Thus said Cyrus king of Persia: Hashem, God of Heaven, has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has commanded me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of His entire people — may Hashem his God be with him, and let him go up!
–2 Chronicles 36:23 (Stone Edition Tanakh)
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
–Revelation 22:20-21 (NASB)
May Messiah come soon and in our day, and may he heal the broken and the broken-hearted.