Mourning Temple Destruction
Acts 22:22- 24
Tisha Be’av, “the ninth of Av” on the Jewish calendar,is an annual fast day when Jews remember the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in AD 70. This year record breaking numbers of Jews, 1263, visited the Temple Mount in spite of the recent security issues at this holy place that is supposed to be free for Christians, Jews, and Moslems to worship.
It’s ironic that two thousand years ago it was the issue of Gentiles supposedly defiling sacred space at the Temple that fueled the ethnic pride that almost got the Apostle Paul killed. Today, Palestinians seek to block Jewish access and even many rabbis argue against going up to the Temple Mount because of the impossibility of achieving ritual purity. One thing is agreed upon. The place continues to be explosive and though Paul used every technique he could in defending himself—the right dialect, racial solidarity, a first-rate rabbinic training, zealousness for the Law, and a direct revelation from Heaven to justify his mission—none of it mattered. As soon as he mentioned the word “Gentiles,” his defense was over and violent ethnic hatred took over.
“The Jewish crowd listened to Paul speaking from the Antonio Fortress steps right up to the point when he mentioned the LORD’s command, ‘Go because I am sending you far away to the Gentiles.’ Then they began to yell, ‘Away with such a man from the earth! He isn’t fit to be alive!’ As they were screaming, tearing off their robes, and throwing dust into the air the Roman tribune gave the command to bring him into the barracks. ‘Whip him and find out why this crowd is crying out against him like they are.’” Acts 22:22- 24
According to this inspired account, the “good guys” are not those acting in ethnic hatred and the belief that their group had exclusive rights to God’s presence.
A week ago I sat next to Gary Cook, the pastor of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church, at a table exploring diversity in the Body of Christ around the world. He came out of retirement to pastor a church whose average age was over seventy. Instead of shutting their doors, they opened them wider. Now their church has become an International Church where ethnic congregations from all over the world meet. As I left the building, the place was literally buzzing with life.
LORD, thanks for Gaston Oaks’ open heart to the diversity Jesus created when He tore down the walls between Jews and Gentiles. Help me to remember that because of my sin I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to live, but Jesus died in my place because you so love the world. Destroy the ethnic pride in my heart that can block this love.
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