About one hundred years after the death of Jesus, the Jews living in Jerusalem made their final stand against those who would occupy their holy city. This time it was the Romans.
At first, there was a mere movement, led by Simon bar Kokhba, a militant Jew that refused to fall under the heel of the evil empire.
Reportedly charismatic, undoubtedly devout, and wise in the ways of war, the bar Kokhba led a rebellion that steadily grew. In the year 132, when the most prominent rabbi in Judea proclaimed that Simon bar Kokhba was the long awaited Messiah, the ranks of the rebels grew more quickly.
They had good reasons.The Romans had destroyed the Temple again., For Jews this was not just a building that had been knocked down. It was the destruction of the only place on earth where they could worship Yahweh God.
We know that for the Jews in Jerusalem one hundred years earlier, the great hope was that when the Messiah came, he would lead them with the sword. He would turn the Romans out of Jerusalem, and would be known for His might.
This is why so many of the Jews missed it, when the Messiah did indeed ride into Jerusalem. There was no white steed, standing up on it’s back legs, front legs churning, while his rider brandished a sword of might, and a crown of gold. No, he came simply, and rode a donkey.
And so he was missed, by many men and women. Good people, devout Jews who only wanted their city back, and to rebuild their temple so that they could worship their God.
They had rejected Jesus as the Messiah and accepted bar Kokhba for the similar reasons. Military might, the restoration of their beloved temple, and a land of their own should not be too much to ask from the God that you love, and remain faithful to.
They wished to shake loose of their foes and the shame of living beneath under culture…again. The Romans had even renamed their country. Judea was now Palestine. Removing the history of a people cuts deeply into their dignity.
And so the faithful Jews made their move, and drove the Romans out. For a while; two years or so. No doubt their victory was a source of great pride and celebration.
Tens of thousands of roman soldiers were killed. bar Kokhba reclaimed Judea as an independent nation. Life was good again.
But Hadrian and his army returned. They were led by their best general, and four times more soldiers than would be needed to decimate the Jews..
Six hundred thousand Jews were killed. All of the remaining Jews were kicked out of Jerusalem, and the name of the city was changed to Aelia, which was Hadrian’s middle name. The city was plowed under, and a pig was carved into the gate. Any Jew caught in Jerusalem was crucified immediately.
Simon bar Kokhba was not an evil man, nor was he a fool. He set out to save the city that in the end he helped to destroy. He wished to return Jerusalem to the Jews, not have them murdered by the hundreds of thousands and the remaining cast out.
Those good people that did not see the true Messiah when he came to Jerusalem were not godless fools.
They were devout believers. They were caught up more in their own hopes and desires and beliefs, than they were about the wishes and plans of God.
One hundred years later, others followed one who was not the Messiah, full of the belief that they could destroy their enemies, and God would bless them for it.
For each, by stubbornly holding onto their own beliefs of what the Messiah would do, they missed him.
I hate when I do that, don’t you?
My decisions about the Messiah and His will for me will not affect an entire people. But my willingness to go about the work of struggling to discern who He is, and who I am, will make all of the difference for me…for ever and ever.