Signs and the Son – Thursday, 34th week in ordinary time – Luke 21:20-28

This is the third and final part of the apocalyptic tract in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 21: 5-28) As elsewhere in apocalyptic literature, we find here references to the eschatological crises of persecution, famine and war, impending salvation and judgment, and exhortations to specific actions in the midst of suffering. There is a mixture here of two distinct prophecies of Jesus and the bringing together of two events: one of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 A.D; the other of the second coming of Christ at the end of the time. One happens within history, the other marks the end of history.

In 66 A.D. a Roman prefect attempted to seize money from the temple causing the Jews to revolt. The Romans acted to suppress the revolt but the Jews ambushed and defeated a Roman expeditionary force, killing 6,000 Roman soldiers. In 70 A.D. Titus brought 60,000 soldiers to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. They built a five-mile long barricade around Jerusalem. Many Jews fled to escape the city but the Romans crucified them to intimidate the population. According to one account they crucified up to 500 people a day. As the siege continued those inside the city carried the dead outside. The Romans appointed someone to count the number: it was 115,880.

Eventually the Romans built an earth ramp up to the top of the walls and used battering rams to break down the walls, and took the city. The temple was burned. It is believed that the gold inlay melted and seeped between the large stones. The Romans tore down the temple in order to retrieve the gold. They brought nearly 100,000 prisoners back to Rome and paraded them through the streets in a procession. In AD 82 they built a massive arch to honour Titus for his conquests which still exists in the Roman Forum behind the Capitoline museums. It has a carving on it of Romans soldiers carrying away the temple lamp stand.

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