Friday, December 30, 2016

Suffering with Him

Jesus enters the world as we know it as it truly is. He enters a very human world, a world with human evil, human foolishness, and human suffering. He did not enter a sanitary world, or even a sanitized community of believers. If you've ever read the gospels, it's clear that the people of God and the land in the first century were both thoroughly polluted and in need of cleansing. Jesus came into that world--the world of evil, foolishness, and suffering as we still know it today. 

By entering this world, Jesus was willing to get his hands dirty in the muck and filth of humanity, and even suffer at the hands of the wicked. His suffering then led to scandal, exile, and death. From this paradigm, spokesmen for the Christian cause sometimes say that Jesus is connected with all of humanity's suffering, and that the incarnation gives meaning and purpose to "our" suffering. 

This is what I want to comment about.

I want to make very clear from the outset what Jesus did not do in making this "connection". What he did not do was suffer for the sake of suffering itself, or welcome scandals for the sake of being associated with the scandalous. He suffered because he preached repentance from sin and faith toward God in a world so perverse and lawless that God's very own people would crucify him for it. Jesus was scandalized because he exhorted his own people to forsake the perverse traditions of that generation and of their fathers. He was scandalized because he preached against the moral relativism of his generation, and led people to embrace the singular way of truth, justice, mercy, and peace. 

It is purported that Jesus wasn't afraid to hang out with the scandalous. Jesus was willing to "connect" with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners. From this, allegedly, we learn that we who also live scandalous lives have this same connection with Jesus, because that's what his ministry was all about: connecting with the scandalous. He even suffered the shame of a scandalous life and death in order to show the world how purposeful and meaningful "our suffering" is.

Depending on what one means by that, that could be complete ethical nonsense.

Jesus' solidarity was not with fools or suffering-people in general, but rather the faithful first century remnant of his disciples who were willing to follow him and suffer for righteousness' sake, for the sake of the truth spoken by his prophets and just-ones. His solidarity is with those who turn away from evil and foolishness, and turn toward Him, never looking back. His solidarity is with those who have "washed their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates" (Rev. 22:14). Their robes were bloody, and needed to be washed, because they were willing to be martyrs for the sake of the truth spoken by Jesus' prophets and just-ones. Their robes were spotted by the sins and injustice of others who hated Christ and his following of disciples. If our lives as Christians remain scandalous for the sake of actual injustice and falsehood and foolishness and evil, Jesus will say to us on the day we bow before his throne, "Outside with the sexually immoral and murderers and adulterers, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood" (Rev. 22:15). 

In other words, Jesus did not enter a very human world of evil, foolishness, and suffering in order to show perpetual solidarity with the lowliest of sinners. He stooped down to that low level to wash the feet of his disciples, not the feet of disciples of Apollo, Cybele, Diana, Baal, or even Caesar. He stooped low to wash his disciples, and to make better disciples. He stooped low and showed solidarity with the lowliest because he loved humanity, and wanted humanity to receive purification from him. Jesus did not and does not love sin, and by extension, those who habitually and unrepentantly sin (I John 3:6, 9). Sure, if we say that we have no sin at all, then the truth of Jesus Christ does not dwell in us (1 John 1:8-10). But the belief that we will not or cannot sin at all is a very different belief than the one revealed by Christ's apostles, that we ought not and are now able to not make a habit of it. The incarnation gives meaning and purpose to that very specific type of suffering--a cruciform one, one which looks like Jesus's suffering through obedience. If his disciples suffered for the sake of their own injustices, their own falsehoods, and their own foolishness, that suffering is their own fault, and Jesus wants nothing to do with it. But if we suffer in his name (i.e. as "Christians") for what is truly just and right, and for what is absolutely true, and for what God has revealed to be wise and good, then Jesus welcomes us to the tree of life.

But that's part of our problem, right? Instead of conforming our thoughts and our ethical standards to God's revealed standards, we question his revelation. In our own subtle, serpentine manner we think, "Did God really say that?" Instead of forsaking what God demands us to forsake--our foolishness, our relative and lax moral standards--we want Jesus to accept our foolishness and laxity. We want to remain what we are now, and we want Jesus to accept us for what we will always want to be, even if we want to remain infantile. When we read the gospels and think that Jesus wants solidarity with the foolish, sin-filled world he entered, we are the ones who are mistaken. He does not. Jesus entered this fallen world in order to raise sinners up with him, from death to eternal life. He stooped very, very low, not to "connect" with us where we are, in order to remain where we are, but to tell us face to face, eye to eye, in flesh and blood, "Repent!" and "Go and sin no more!"

That brings up the last problem I want to address: guilt and pity.

I can't tell you how many Christians I know who wallow in their own guilt and self-pity. They constantly sin and fall into foolish ways of thinking; and they admit it; they wallow in it. They think they can't escape it. And to claim otherwise--so it is thought--is blasphemy; it's allegedly contrary to "the gospel."

But is it really contrary to the gospel, to think and live as though you have been delivered from slavery to sin and foolishness? Is it really contrary to the "good news" that Jesus says to us, "Go and sin no more!", and he really expects us to do that? I don't think so. And I think that it's the height of spiritual arrogance to excuse ourselves from trying, as though no matter how hard we try we're not actually able to do so. 

But then one might respond: "Because we will sin in the future, at some point, we might as well rest content in being who we are, wretched fools saved only by the grace of God."

Here's what I have to say to that: Grow up. Stop thinking like a child, and forsake such childish ways of thinking. If he saved you from your sins, he delivered you from enslavement to sin. You don't have to wallow in some imaginary bondage to sin. If you're still enslaved to sin, as though there is nothing you could do to stop it, then Jesus did not save you. You don't have to remain a fool, and he doesn't want you to.    

Now, someone might respond to these claims of mine by suggesting that Jesus expects perfection from us. And to that I respond, "No". That, to me, seems like another excuse to rationalize away one's need to "sin no more." The truth revealed in Scripture is that Jesus expects us to grow up. Jesus expects all of his children to increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, just as he did (Luke 2:52). If we have true solidarity with him, that's what our lives ought to look like. Once "saved" from bondage to sin, we mature from childish ways to mature, godly ways. Jesus expects us to become equipped for the work of ministering to other sinners in need of godliness, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of "mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:12-14).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"If interested"

Commenting on Zechariah 12:1-3, Didymus the Blind (313-398 A.D.) makes all of the historical connections presented so far in this series, regarding Jesus' prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Didymus wrote:
An oracle of the word of the Lord on Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heaven, lays the foundation of earth, and forms a spirit of a human being in it: Lo, I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold for all the people round about and in Judah; there will be a siege against jerusalem. On that day I shall make Jerusalem a stone trodden on by all the nations; everyone who treads on it will mockingly mock it, and all the nations of the earth will gather against it. 
The prophet Zechariah prophesies the fate of Judah and Jerusalem and its inhabitants after the crucifixion of Jesus, receiving his message from the Creator of everything, who stretches out the heaven lays the foundation of earth, and forms a spirit of a human being in it. 
...The one who stretches out heaven lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of the human being in it threatens to devastate and destroy the city and region of the Jews on account of the crimes committed by those guilty godless deeds against the savior who has come. They inflicted the cross and scourging, remember, on the one who gave his life as a ransom, removing the sin of the world--and this despite his coming for the salvation of all. Now, what is the awful fate he forecasts for the Christ-killers? Lo, I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold and Judah for all the peoples round about so that they will no longer have a basis and security because they will be abandoned by the one who laid its foundation and protects it.
...Before the abandonment and surrender, remember, the city to which this refers was a house and inheritance and beloved soul; but later he said of it because of its impiety towards him, "Lo, your house is left to you in ruins."1
...The awful fate that was threatened befell both the material Judah and its capital, which in fact was destroyed to the point that there was no longer stone standing on stone.2
...On approaching Jerusalem the savior had said this would happen to her: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if even you had only recognized the things that make for peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes: your enemies will come upon you, surround you, and throw a rampart around you,"3 so that you will be abandoned and dashed to the ground, with all then hostile nations encircling you, and so you will be seen to be desolate. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies," Scripture says, remember, "you will know that its devastation has come near."4 The killers of the Lord had actual experience of this when the Romans overpowered them, destroyed their cities, and enslaved them; they were taken off into captivity or, rather, uprooted from their motherland, and so no longer had their own land or country, but were taken to every quarter of the earth. 
In reference to the wrath that had at last befallen Judah and its inhabitants, an historian, one individual from those who actually experienced it, wrote an account in many volumes of them and their places,5 so that the fulfillment is indisputably visible both of what the savior said and of what Zechariah uttered in prophetic mode, beginning with the verse I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold. When the threshold was reduced to shaking and the city subjected to a siege, all the foreign nations scornfully entered and trampled on it like an unclean stone, no longer approaching it as a shrine and sacred surface, showing no respect or performance of due rites of expiation and purification. They mockingly mocked it like a ruin, with everyone from that time coming to it to "plough it like a field."6

Commenting on Zechariah 12:10, he wrote:
Having fallen foul of grievous misfortune, the Jews, after gaily murdering the Lord, were in the grip of severe pangs of grief as if grieving for a dear departed and lamenting a firstborn son; "wrath has overtaken them at last,"7 the result being that their homeland has been ruined and they have been enslaved and forced to wander throughout all the earth. It is possible to learn from the present text itself that it was by the decree of God's providence that they were subjected to this for the sacrilege they committed in subjecting the savior of all to crucifixion.8

Commenting on Zechariah 14:1-2, he wrote:
There is reference to days of the Lord when harsh and punitive actions are taken on the guilty, as sense you can find confirmed in many places. ...After the verse saying, Lo, days of the Lord are coming, when your plunder will be divided in your midst, the Lord immediately says he will assemble all the nations against them to battle, as happens on a day of engagement; the nations are assembled for military action in the assault on Jerusalem. 
Such things befell them, resembling the savagely inhuman fate of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea when the Jews were captured by the nations on account of the guilt incurred by the killers of the Lord. "The nations raged, the people informed vain and futile plots, the kings took their stand, and the rulers came together in concert against the Lord and against his Christ. God ridiculed and mocked them, in wrath speaking against them and in his rage confounding them."9 So the apostle writes to the same effect about those who killed the Lord and the prophets and persecuted the apostles: "God's wrath has overtaken them at last."10 It was noted above as well that a Jewish historian, Josephus by name, truthfully and precisely described the disasters befalling the nation, including starvation and other misfortunes much worse than that; the searcher after good can meditate on it if interested in reading directed to learning and the fear of experiencing the same fate.11

1.  Matt. 23:38; Luke 13:35
2.  Matt. 24:2; Luke 19:44
3.  Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41-43
4.  Luke 21:20
5.  This is a reference to Josephus, who he will reference later on in his commentary.
6. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) pp. 286-290
7.  A reference to 1 Thessalonians 2:16
8. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) p. 301
9.  Psalm 2:1-4
10.  Another reference to 1 Thessalonians 2:16
11. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) pp. 319-321

"What you are saying is obvious"

Origen (184-254 A.D.) makes a few passing comments in his homilies on Luke's Gospel, illustrating his keen awareness that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as his "visitation" (which is the main point of this series).

Commenting on Luke 19:41-45, he wrote in Homily 38:
When our Lord and Savior approached Jerusalem, he saw the city, wept, and said, "If only you had known on that day what meant peace for you! But now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with earthworks. These are mysteries that are spoken. If God reveals their significance, we hope we can open to you what is hidden. ...No one suffered such persecution on account of justice as the Lord Jesus did, who was crucified for our sins. Thus, the Lord exhibited all the beatitudes in himself. For the sake of this likeness, he himself wept, because of what he had said: "Blessed are those who weep," to lay the foundations for this beatitude, too. He wept for Jerusalem "and said, 'If only you had known on that day what meant peace for you! But now it is hidden from your eyes,'" and the rest, up to the point where he says, "Because you did not know the time of your visitation." One of the hearers might say, "What you are saying is obvious, and indeed has been accomplished in Jerusalem. For, the Roman army surrounded it, destroyed it, and exterminated the people. And a time will come when a stone will not be left upon a stone in this city." Now I do not deny that Jerusalem itself was destroyed on account of the crimes of its inhabitants.1

And in another fragment of a homily about Luke 19, he wrote:
In the hardening that has happened to a part of Israel, "until the full number of Gentiles comes in," there is hidden from the eyes of Jerusalem "the things that belong to her peace." She did not know them, and this in the day of Jesus' visitation. But days are coming upon her when her "enemies will cast up a wall" around her, and what follows. 
This is the sense of the words: since you did not recognize your peace, namely myself, you were handed over to your enemies. Now, since peace "has been hidden from your eyes," you have no peaceful thoughts, nor do you love what has happened, but you look to contradiction. "Days will come upon you" in which "your enemies" will lord it over you--and intelligible enemies instead of sensible ones. For, externally, the Jews were conquered by Romans, but internally by unclean demons. Thirty-five years after Christ's Ascension the city was conquered by Romans.

1.  Joseph T. Lienhard, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Volume 94. Origen. Homilies on Luke, Fragments on Luke (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996) pp. 156-7
2.  Ibid. pp. 221-2

Monday, September 5, 2016

Highlighting the rapidity of disaster

Commenting on the book of Daniel, Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus (423-457 A.D.), clearly interpreted the "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Daniel's prophecy as foreshadowing a future, first century fulfillment of the "abomination of desolation" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. This, of course, is another example of what I've been showing throughout this series: the early Christian Church saw Jesus clearly prophesying about the Jewish wars and the factions which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Theodoret wrote: abomination of desolation on the temple: as a result of this sacrifice not only will the other sacrifice cease but as well an abomination of desolation will be inflicted on the temple--that is, that formerly venerable and fearsome place will be made desolate. A sign of the desolation will be the introduction into it of certain images forbidden by the law; Pilate was guilty of this by introducing into the divine temple by night the imperial images in violation of the law. The Lord also in the sacred Gospels foretold to his holy disciples, "When you see the abomination of desolation..." He said this to highlight the rapidity of the disaster about to overtake them.1

Likewise, in his commentary on the twelve prophets, Theodoret makes similar connections. When discussing the prophecy Zechariah about the Lord's feet standing on the Mount of Olives (14:4), he describes the fulfillment of such promises as the victory given to Jesus as the Lord of armies, even of the Roman armies as they surrounded the apostate, anti-Christian Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. He wrote:

"On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem from the east." From where he ascended into heaven, from there he gives the victory to those fighting against the Jews. He then says the mountain would be divided into four parts, one going to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. ...By "mountain" he refers to the cohort of the enemy divided for the purpose of besieging Jerusalem, some occupying its eastern part, some its western, others guarding the north, others the south.2 

1. Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on Daniel (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 257-8. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) pp. 174-175

2. Ibid. p. 203. Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Twelve Prophets. On Zech. 14:4.

"A Clear Proof"

St. Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople from 858-886 A.D., referenced Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24 while describing the Jewish wars of the first century. Clearly he understood Matthew 24, at least verses one through seven, as being fulfilled in the first century (as I've been showing throughout this series). He wrote:

The city [of Jerusalem] suffered so grievously from famine that the inhabitants were driven to all kinds of excesses; a woman even ate the flesh of her own son. Famine was succeeded by pestilence, a clear proof that it was the work of divine wrath, in fulfillment of the Lord's proclamation and threat that the city should be taken and utterly destroyed.1

1. Photius of Constantinople, Bibliotheca, 47. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) p. 172

Confounding by His predicting

Paulus Orosius (375-418 a.d.), a Catholic priest, historian, and theologian, and a close friend and student of St Augustine, recorded a seven-volume history of important events in life of the Christian Church. In one of his works he quotes Matthew 24:6-9 as a prediction of Jesus, warning first century Jewish believers about the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian and Titus. This of course, fits neatly into what I've been saying throughout this series, namely, that the early Christian church believed and taught this seemingly "preterist" view consistently. Orosius wrote:

But when at that time the city of Jerusalem had been captured and overthrown, as the prophets foretold, and after the complete destruction of the Jewish people, Titus, who had been ordained by the judgment of God to avenge the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, as victor, holding a triumph with his father, Vespasian, closed the temple of Janus. Thus, although the temple of Janus was opened in the last days of Caesar, nevertheless, for long periods of time thereafter there were no sounds of war, although the army was in readiness for action. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, then, in the Gospels, when in those times the whole world was living in the greatest tranquility and a single peace covered all peoples and He was asked by His disciples about the end of the coming times, among other things said this: "You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. Take care that you do not be alarmed, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be pestilences and famines and earthquakes in various places. But all those things are the beginnings of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." Moreover, Divine Providence, by teaching this, strengthened the believers by giving warning and confounded the unbelievers by His predicting.1

1. Roy J. Deferrer, trans., Paulus Orosius: The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. FC 50: 289-90. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) p. 171 

Athletes of Piety

Other writers of historical works have confined themselves to the written tradition of victories in wars, of triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of generals and the valour of soldiers, men stained with blood and with countless murders for the sake of children and country and other possessions; but it is wars most peaceful, waged for the very peace of the soul, and men who therein have been valiant for truth rather than for country, and for piety rather than for their dear ones, that our record of those who order their lives according to God will inscribe on everlasting monuments: it is the struggles of the athletes of piety and their valour which braved so much, trophies won from demons, and victories against unseen adversaries, and the crowns at the end of all, that it will proclaim for everlasting remembrance.1

1. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5.praef.3-4; cited in Aaron P. Johnson, Eusebius: Understanding Classics (New York, NY: L.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd.; 2014) pp. 100-101

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Written for the sake of remembrance, became permanent"

Continuing in this series about the early church and their awareness that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.,  Lactantius (250-325 A.D.) comments about the ascension of Jesus and the prophesies foretold beforehand:

But when He had made arrangements with His disciples for the preaching of the Gospel and His name, a cloud suddenly surrounded Him, and carried Him up into heaven, on the fortieth day after His passion, as Daniel had shown that it would be, saying (Daniel 7:13)“And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days.” But the disciples, being dispersed through the provinces, everywhere laid the foundations of the Church, themselves also in the name of their divine Master doing many and almost incredible miracles; for at His departure He had endowed them with power and strength, by which the system of their new announcement might be founded and confirmed. 
But He also opened to them all things which were about to happen, which Peter and Paul preached at Rome; and this preaching being written for the sake of remembrance, became permanent, in which they both declared other wonderful things, and also said that it was about to come to pass, that after a short time God would send against them a king who would subdue the Jews, and level their cities to the ground, and besiege the people themselves, worn out with hunger and thirst. Then it should come to pass that they should feed on the bodies of their own children, and consume one another. Lastly, that they should be taken captive, and come into the hands of their enemies, and should see their wives most cruelly harassed before their eyes, their virgins ravished and polluted, their sons torn in pieces, their little ones dashed to the ground; and lastly, everything laid waste with fire and sword, the captives banished for ever from their own lands, because they had exulted over the well-beloved and most approved Son of God. And so, after their decease, when Nero had put them to death, Vespasian destroyed the name and nation of the Jews, and did all things which they had foretold as about to come to pass.1

1. Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV (Of True Wisdom and Religion), Chapter 21. Found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Translations of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Volume VII

Origen against the decrees of Fate

In his massive work, Preparation for the Gospel, Eusebius of Caesarea provides refutations of various philosophers who advocated the “decrees of Fate” over against the foreknowledge of God revealed throughout the Scriptures. And to do so, at one point he quotes Origen (185-253 A.D.), who apparently considered Luke 21:20 as evidence that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem (as we have seen throughout this series). Origen wrote:
And why need I mention the prophecies concerning Christ, as for instance the place of His birth, Bethlehem, and the place where He was brought up, Nazareth, and the flight into Egypt, and the miracles which He wrought, and how He was betrayed by Judas who had been called to be an Apostle? For all these are signs of God’s foreknowledge.
*‘Moreover the Saviour Himself says, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed by armies, then ye shall know that her desolation is at hand.” For He foretold what afterwards happened, the final destruction of Jerusalem.1

* Luke 21:20

1. Eusebius of Caesarea. (1903). Evangelicae Praeparationis Libri XV. (E. H. Gifford, Ed.) (pp. 307–308). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

"That overthrow of Jerusalem is described"

Continuing in this series, there are many more comments about first century prophetic fulfillment to be found among the Church Fathers. Three new Church Fathers (not yet presented in this series) and their comments can be found in this post, below. One is from Gregory of Nyssa, another is from Pseudo-Chrysostom, and the other is from Pope Gregory I

Commenting on Matthew 8:101-13, Remigius (880 A.D.) writes:
By outer darkness, He means foreign nations; for these words of the Lord are a historical prediction of the destruction of the Jews, that they were to be led into captivity for their unbelief, and to be scattered over the earth.1

Commenting on the withered fig tree in Mark 11:19-26, St. Chrysostom (398 A.D.) writes:
Or else, as He did not dry up the fig tree for its own sake, but for a sign that Jerusalem should come to destruction, in order to shew His power, in the same way we must also understand the promise concerning the mountain, though a removal of this sort is not impossible with God.2

Commenting on Simeon's blessing in Luke chapter 2, Gregory of Nyssa (370 A.D.) writes:
But by this he signifies a fall to the very lowest, as if the punishment before the mystery of the incarnation, fell far short of that after the giving and preaching of the Gospel dispensation. And those spoken of are chiefly of Israel, who must of necessity forfeit their ancient privileges, and pay a heavier penalty than any other nation, because they were so unwilling to receive Him Who had long been prophesied among them, had been worshipped, and had come forth from them. In a most especial manner then he threatens them with not only a fall from spiritual freedom, but also the destruction of their city, and of those who dwelt among them. But a resurrection is promised to believers, partly indeed as subject to the law, and about to be delivered from its bondage, but partly as buried together with Christ, and rising with Him.3

Commenting on Matthew 12:25-26 and the kingdom which Jesus spoke of as being divided against itself, St. Hilary of Poiters (354 A.D.) writes:
But the word of God is rich, and whether taken simply, or examined inwardly, it is needful for our advancement. Leaving therefore what belongs to the plain understanding thereof, let us dwell on some of the more secret reasons. The Lord is about to make answer to that which they had said concerning Beelzebub, and He casts upon those to whom He made answer a condition of their answering. Thus, the Law was from God and the promise of the kingdom to Israel was by the Law, but if the kingdom of the Law be divided in itself, it must needs be destroyed; and thus Israel lost the Law, when the nation whose was the Law, rejected the fulfilment of the Law in Christ. The city here spoken of is Jerusalem, which when it raged with the madness of its people against the Lord, and drove out His Apostles with the multitude of them that believed, after this division shall not stand; and thus (which soon happened in consequence of this division) the destruction of that city is declared. Again He puts another case, And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?4

Commenting on Matthew 22:1-14, St. Thomas Aquinas references pseudo-Chrysostom (450 A.D.), saying: 
Or, by the business of a farm, He denotes the Jewish populace, whom the delights of this world separated from-Christ; by the excuse of merchandize, the Priests and other ministers of the Temple, who, coming to the service of the Law and the Temple through greediness of gain, have been shut out of the faith by covetousness. Of these He said not, ‘They were filled with envy,’ but They made light of it. For they who through hate and spite crucified Christ, are they who were filled with envy; but they who being entangled in business did not believe on Him, are not said to have been filled with envy, but to have made light of it. The Lord is silent respecting His own death, because He had spoken of it in the foregoing parable, but He shews forth the death of His disciples, whom after His ascension the Jews put to death, stoning Stephen and executing James the son of Alphæus, for which things Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.5

Commenting on Matthew 12:43-45, the real St. Chrysostom (398 A.D.) wrote:
Or, herein He may be shewing forth their punishment. As when dæmoniacs have been loosed from their infirmity, if they after become remiss, they draw upon themselves more grievous illusions, so shall it be among you—before ye were possessed by a dæmons, when you worshipped idols, and slew your sons to dæmon yet I forsook you not, but cast out that dæmon by the Prophets, and afterwards came Myself seeking to purify you altogether. Since then ye would not hearken to me, but have fallen into more heinous crime, (as it is greater wickedness to slay Christ than to slay the Prophets,) therefore ye shall suffer more heavy calamities. For what befel them under Vespasian and Titus, were much more grievous than they had suffered in Egypt, in Babylon, and under Antiochus. And this indeed is not all He shews concerning them, but also that since they were destitute of every virtue, they were more fit for the habitation of dæmons than before. It is reasonable to suppose that these things were said not to them only, but also to us. If after being enlightened and delivered from our former evils, we are again possessed by the same wickedness, the punishment of these latter sins will be greater than of the first; as Christ spake to the paralytic, Behold, thou art made whole, sin not, lest a worse thing come upon thee.6   (John 5:14)

Commenting on the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14, St Jerome (378 A.D.) writes:
By His armies (in verse 7) we understand the Romans under Vespasian and Titus, who having slaughtered the inhabitants of Judæa, laid in ashes the faithless city.7

And finally, commenting on Luke 19:41-44, Pope Gregory I (590 A.D.) wrote:
By these words the Roman leaders are pointed out. For that overthrow of Jerusalem is described, which was made by the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus.8

1.  Thomas Aquinas. (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 311). Oxford: John Henry Parker.
2.  Thomas Aquinas. (1842). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Mark. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 2, p. 232). Oxford: John Henry Parker.
3.  Thomas Aquinas. (1843). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 88–89). Oxford: John Henry Parker.
4.  Thomas Aquinas. (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 449). Oxford: John Henry Parker.
5. Ibid. pp. 743–744
6. Ibid. pp. 472–473
7. Ibid. p. 744
8. Thomas Aquinas. (1843). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 646). Oxford: John Henry Parker.

All these words were shown in deed

Continuing in my research for this series, I stumbled upon something unexpected. I stumbled upon an opinion by John Wycliffe (1320-1384 A.D.), an infamous doctor of theology and educator of both priests and laity in the 14th century. Below are two excerpts which reflect his belief that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D as vindication for the injustice inflicted upon Jesus. 

The first excerpt is a homily in "old english," followed by my own attempt to update portions of that english translation (the portions highlighted in bold) for english readers today. The second excerpt comes from his work of an imaginative three-fold dialogue, called Trialogus, on a topic he frequently showed concern about: the culpability of the laity in respect to endowments.

Wycliffe writes:

Þe tenþe Sondai aftir Trinite
[A Sermon on Luke 19:41, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity]

Cum appropinquaret Jesus Hierusalem videns civitatem.—Luc. 19:[41]
Þisa gospel telliþ generaly, what sorewe men shulden have for syne, siþ Crist, þat myȝte not do synne, wepte so ofte for synne. For we rede þat Crist wepte þries, and eche tyme he wepte for synne. And so telliþ our bileve in storye of þe gospel, þat Jesus seynge Jerusalem wepte þeron, for þe synne of it, and seide þat if þou knewe þus synne, þou shuldist wepe as Y do nowe, and certis, in þis dai of þee þat shulde be comen in pees to þee, if þou woldist receyve þis day and pees of it, as þou shuldist, for alle þes þingis þat þou shuldist cunne ben now hidde fro þi iȝen. For daies shal come in þee, for synne þat þou shalt do in me, and þin enemyes schulen envyron þee as a palis al aboute, and parre þee in Jerusalem, as sheep ben parrid in a foold, and þei shal felle þee to þe erþe, and þi children þat ben in þee, and þei shal not leve in þee stoon liynge upon a stoon, þat þei ne shal be removed, and þi wallis al distried, and þe cause of al þis shal be þe unkynde unknowynge þat þou wolt not knowe þe tyme þat God bi grace haþ visitid þee. 
Alle þes wordis weren shewide in dede, as Josephus makiþ mynde of hem, how Titus and Waspasian þe secounde and fourty ȝeer aftir þat Crist was steied to hevene, comen at solempnite of Paske, and ensegiden Jerusalem, and distrieden men and wallis uttirly þat þei founden þere. And þis is a pryvy synne wiþ which þe fend blindiþ men, þat þei sorewen not more for synne þan þei done for oþir harm; for þus wille is mysturned, and men failen to serve God. And herefore techiþ Crist hise apostlis þat þei shulden not be aferd for perelis þat shal come for to venge synne þat is done, but þe moste drede of alle shulde be to falle in synne, for þat is worse þan þe peyne þat God ordeyned to sue herof. And þus in foure affecciouns þat ben groundid in mannis wille stondiþ alle mannis synne þat he doiþ aȝens God, for if sorwe and joie of man and hope and drede were reulid wel, his wille were ordeyned unto God, to serve him as it shulde do. After þis telliþ þe storye how Jesus wente into þe temple and caste out boþe bieris and selleris, and seide to hem þat it is writun, Myn hous shulde be an hous of preier, but ye have maad it a denne of þeves. And for a long tyme after he was eche day techinge in þe temple.* And in þis dede þat Crist dide, he techiþ his Chirche to bygynne for to purge his seintuarie, þat ben preests and clerks þerof, þat ben þe moost cause of synne, and siþ purge oþir partis, whan þe rote is distried. 

And þis telde Crists wending into þe temple after þes wordis, as ȝif he wolde seie in his worching, Þe cause of synne þat Y have told is wickednesse of preestis and clerkes, and herfore Y bigyne at þe temple, not to distrie hem in her persones, but to take from hem cause of her synne, and ordeyne þe Churche in temporal goodis as Y have ordeyned hem to lyve. And it is al oon to seie þat þese goodis ben þus sacrid and ȝyven to preestis þat no man may take hem fro þes preestis,* and to seie þat Anticrist haþ so weddid þes goodis wiþ preestis þat noon may make þis dyvors; for preestis ben uncorrigible; but þes defamaciouns shulde preestis flee wiþ al þere myȝt, and preien þat þei weren amendid bi þe ordenance of Crist. For resoun shulde teche hem þat þei ben worse þan frentikes, and so þei hadden nede to be chastisid til þis passion were fro hem. For what man wolde bi resoun, kepyng a man in frenesie, ȝyve him a swerd or a knyf bi which he wolde slee himsilf? or who þat kepte a man in feveris, and wiste wele hou he shulde be reulid, and þat þis mete or þis wyne were contrarye to his helþe, wolde ȝyve him at his wille þis foode þat shulde anoye him? so, siþ preestis have goodis of men boþe of lordis and comouns, and þei disusen hem þus, þei myȝten and shulden by charite wiþdrawe þes brondis þat þus done harme to preestis, and in mesure and manere ȝyve þes goodis to preestis þat he himsilf haþ ordeyned him and hise to have siche goodis. And þis may bi charite be wiþdrawen by þe ȝyvers þerof, siþ no man may do yvel to men and not do good to þe same men, but if he be a quyke fend, þat we shulden not putte to seculers. And to þis ende shulden clerkes traveile and procure þat þis þing were done boþe for love of Goddis lawe and for love of clerkes and comouns, and ȝif þe fend by envie, þat is enemye to charite, seiþ þis þing may not be done by þe lawe þat now is sett, he seiþ þat Anticristis lawe, founden aȝens Goddis lawe, is strenger þan charite, and Anticrist strenger þan Crist. For þis ende shulden clerkes wepe and preie God þat his ordrenance1 were kepte in his strengþe and Anticristis lawe putt abac.2

Here is my translation: 
For days shall come in thee, for sin that thou shalt do in me, and thine enemies surround thee as a palace all around, and bar thee in Jerusalem, as sheep are barred in a fold, and they shall cast thee down to the earth, and thy children that are in thee, and they shall not leave in thee one stone living upon another stone; that then shall be removed, and the walls all destroyed, and the cause of all this shall be those unkind, and unknowing, that thou would not know the time that God by grace has visited thee.
All these words were shown in deed, as Josephus makes mention of them, how Titus and Vespasian, the forty-second year after Christ ascended to heaven, to come at the solemnity of Pascha, and seiege Jerusalem, and utterly destroy the men and walls that they found. 
...After this tells the story of how Jesus went into the temple and cast out those buyers and sellers, and said to them that it is written, My house should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. And for a long time after he was each day teaching in the temple. And in this deed that Christ did, he taught his Church to begin to purge his sanctuary, that had priests and clerks thereof, that had the most cause of sin, and afterward purge other parts, when the root is destroyed.  

Apparently, this prophecy of Jesus in Luke 19, which leads directly into Jesus' confrontation in the temple of Jerusalem in Luke 20, followed by more prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 21, is not the only time John Wycliffe stressed the importance of Jesus' prophecy being fulfilled in the first century. In his Trialogus, he reiterates his concern:


Althea: I am pleased, brother, with your doctrine, because it appears to me, that you inveigh with clearness and force against the avarice of the priests; and as, according to the apostle, 1 Tim. 1, covetousness is the root of all evil, and priests should be the root of all goodness, conveying the laity to heaven, you appear to direct your censures against the source of all sin in the church. But tell me, I pray you, whether secular men are justly liable to rebuke on account of such endowments. 

Phronesis: I am pleased to find that you thus introduce this subject. I have often been hindered from rebuking the sins of temporal lords; and to make amends for such omission, I will state to you the belief I entertain in this matter. And, if God will, it shall come to the ears of such men. 

Believe firmly, and in no way doubt, that herein temporal lords have grievously sinned. And for this cause, I doubt not, many have been suitably punished, in the righteous judgment of God, by the loss of their worldly wealth; for this endowment has given rise to wars, strife, and has brought many secular lords to poverty. And it is only just that they should be made to pay a penalty having respect to that very thing which was the means by which they committed their crime. My reason for so thinking is this, that those who are accessory to a crime, are guilty, as well as those who commit it. But the temporal powers have not only united to confer this endowment, but have consented to it in very many ways; and since such endowment is contrary to the ordinance of Christ, they are herein guilty. 

For if there are six methods of consenting, as enumerated by the poet— “Consentit, cooperans, defendens, concilium dans, Ac auctorisans, non juvans, nec reprehendens,” — it is clear as light, that temporal lords are manifestly guilty, in respect to these six modes, and especially in regard to the last two, inasmuch as they indolently withhold the assistance and rebuke by means of which this injury done to Christ and his church might be rectified. Nevertheless, it devolves on them, for many reasons, to amend this injury done to Christ. In the first place, because they are those who have sinned by the commission of this injury; therefore it is for them to make satisfaction for the sin. In the second place, because God gave the power they possess that they might regulate the affairs of his church, as appears in Romans 13. 

Therefore, that they be not negligent in respect to the use of this power, nor guilty of an abuse of it, they should exercise it in the instance of so great an injury done to Christ, after his own example; for Christ, in rebuking the priests of the temple, made use often of this kingly power, ejecting, in person, the buyers and sellers. And on many occasions, by his sufferings and his reproofs, Christ condemned the conduct of the priests, as may be seen at the time of his seizure and passion. And he afterwards awfully chastised that priesthood, by the hand of Titus and Vespasian his servants, as Luke had prophesied. Isodorus, also, admirably declares this doctrine, as may be seen in the twenty-third decree, q. v. c. Principes Seculi. For if they hold their temporal possessions on condition of service rendered, what service, I ask, could better befit them, than that of vindicating the wrongs done to Christ, and defending so reasonable an ordinance? Forasmuch as it is the same thing to love Christ, and to keep his law and commandments, as is shown in John 14, it is manifest that if the temporal lords love Christ above all things, it is their duty to exert their power in defending his chief ordinance. 

What temporal lord, I ask, would not be offended beyond measure on seeing his own decree reversed? Still more would this be the case, if that reversing were to dishonour his betrothed, and to break up his kingdom. But much more is all this true in respect to the primitive justice of Jesus Christ. Let temporal lords remember, then, how distinguished was the favour which our Lord showed them in his lifetime, without doubt intending that they should make him a return of their service.3

*  Priests are incorrigible.
1  ordenaunce, B.
2  Wycliffe, J. (1869). Select English Works of John Wyclif. (T. Arnold, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 24–26). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
3   De Wycliffe, J. (1845). Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe. (R. Vaughan, Ed.) (pp. 172–173). London: Blackburn and Pardon.