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66 A.D. - Jerusalem's Christians Flee To Pella

Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the combined efforts of several Roman Legions conducting a long siege. Yahweh did not protect His chosen people, nor even the Holy Temple that they had built for Him. The Jewish wickedness of that time had grown far too extensive, and they had crucified His son Jesus, the son He had sent as their long awaited Messiah and Savior. The Jews had rejected Jesus, just as Jesus during His 3 1/2 years of teaching and ministry had verbally rejected the behavior of the leaders of the Jewish people.

Jesus had found the behavior of the Priests and Scribes to be evil, self serving, and far from their Father and Maker's intentions for them. He had rebuked them loudly and publically for this, while performing amazing miracles right in front of them, so that they would know who it was who rebuked them.

Instead of repenting, they plotted to kill Jesus, and when they enacted their plot, Jesus submitted to this atrocity. In front of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate a crowd of the Jewish common people - whipped up into a frenzy by their Priests and probably demons as well - shouted out that Rome must crucify Jesus. And Jesus was crucified.

As a badly whipped and beaten Jesus drug His own heavy cross to the place called Golgotha (place of the skull) on a hill called Calvary people think, it was an outsider, not a fellow Jew from Jerusalem or nearby, who helped him carry it when he gew too tired. The man was named Simon, and was from the North African nation of Cyrenaica. He converted to Christianity because of this experience, and went on with his sons to become a pillar and leader of the Christian church of Antioch. That was the first church where followers of Jesus were called 'Christians'.

There in Antioch Simon would be fondly known by a nickname roughly meaning 'Blackie' because of his darker complexion, some old writings say. So if the black Christian community is proud of Barack Obama being President, that's great. But I hope they are even prouder of this man, Simon, who reached the high station of being the only man known to have physically helped the Lord in His most difficult hour. As for those who gave the Lord drinks of various liquids as He hung on the cross, is it helping to extend the life of one hanging to die on a cross? Maybe they count as helpers, or maybe not.

Yes, Jerusalem sealed it's fate in those days and hours. They had often killed the prophets that God had sent to them in the days of old, not wishing to be told that their deeds were evil. Not wishing to change, even if God warned them to. Now they had killed God's Son, after beating Him and mocking Him.

Jesus, while still alive, had fortold a great future destruction of Jerusalem. He told the people he was speaking to on that day that their generation would not pass away before this occurred. And most of His followers would have been retirement age (60 - 80 years old) when the destruction came to pass. They'd have been elders, but mostly still alive.

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In about 29 A.D., during His ministry, Jesus once drove out a great number of demons from a posessed man. The Demoniac of the Gadarenes, the man was called. He was a locally famous posessed man there in the region of the Gadarene people. His strength was so unreal that he broke chains! It seemed he couldn't even be bound - people had tried. He lived wild among burial tombs, and sometimes harmed his own flesh until it bled. He was mad as a Viking berserker, it sounds like! A man like that would be well known of and famous over a pretty large area.

The Gadarenes, who the scriptures identify as raisers of pigs, are unlikely to have had many practicing Jews among them. A gentile people maybe. Back in the days of the Assyrian conquering and deportation of the Northern 10 tribes, around the 720's B.C., many foreigners had been moved into the area that Assyria had moved Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh out of. This area was on the East side of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. This land was once Og and Sihon's land. But in ancient days Joshua had conquered it. Perhaps these people were some of those Assyrian transplants, since Og and Sihon's peoples were completely killed off.

'Gadarenes' implies some possible connection with the tribe of 'Gad' though, and Gad had once lived there in that region. Was it only geographical, or were these people fallen away Israelites who no longer obeyed the Jewish dietary laws?

When Jesus and the Apostles got out of their boat upon landing at the shore of the Gadarene people, this Demon posessed man ran up to Jesus and the Apostles.

Jesus ordered the posessing spirit to identify itself, and it called itself 'Legion', saying that they were many spirits, not just one, dwelling inside of the man.

Jesus ordered them out. They begged to be allowed to enter a herd of thousands of swine, rather than be expelled out into the open, where they would (according to some old beliefs on the matter) need to find a host or perish.

Jesus allowed them, and they entered the swine herd, but then the swine herd ran over the cliff and perished in the sea. Thousands of dead swine floated in the sea - a herdsman's fortune!- but the man who had been made crazy by all of these demons now was sane, and sat willingly near Jesus's feet.

And the local people, running to see with their own eyes what the swine herders were telling them, plainly perceived the magnitude of what Jesus had done. The sea would have been awash with dead pigs. The crazy demon-filled man once so fearsome to them now sat docile and sane at the visitors' feet.

Later, when Jesus made another trip to this land, they would eagerly gather to hear His teachings because of this days events. But today, they only asked him to leave their country, because he had brought disaster. Was each hog worth the equivalent of $100.00 to $300.00 US? If so, then Jesus had cost their region nearly a million dollars. But they weren't about to try to harm Jesus!! Not after what He had done. It was obvious to all that this one had great power, such as they had never seen.

Jesus left when they asked Him to. The former Demoniac man asked if he could go with His Savior. But Jesus basically told him :

'No. But he should instead go out and tell people what happened - what was done for him.'

Jesus left, and this man faithfully carried out his assignment, because he was grateful for what was done for him by Jesus. He travelled in the region East of the Jordan River, a region called Perea in some periods of time just about then. And in this region were 10 important cities, which were, as a group, called 'the Decapolis' (the 10 Cities). He told people in these cities about Jesus, and of what Jesus had done. And they would have heard this story confirmed by many from the region where it happened, once they began to ask if it was true.

And the Demoniac spread the news so thoroughly that the next time that Jesus returned to the area, crowds of people came and eagerly listened to His teachings. It had become fertile ground.

And, about 40 years later, it would matter quite a great deal that the people of this region had met Jesus, learned to fear and respect Him, and had embraced him. There were 10 cities in the Decapolis. One of these was named Pella. And when the Roman's came to destroy Jerusalem in 66 A.D., under command of Gaius Cestius Gallus, it was to the region of the Decapolis, to the city of Pella, that the Christians fled!

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It was 66 A.D.

A Roman General named Cestius surrounded the city of Jerusalem with a great many Roman troops. The Jews were rebelling against Rome again, and Rome was tired to death of them. The Romans were done fooling around with the Jews. Inside Jerusalem, there were giant numbers of people, hiding from the Romans.

This was because it was a safe and strong walled city to which country people, seeing the advancing Roman army, had fled. And secondly, it was full because Cestius's army had appeared at the time of one of the great Jewish feasts when everyone came in to Jerusalem to be at the Holy Temple.

For about 150 years the Romans had ruled over this stubborn and difficult Jewish people. They had endured many small rebellions and some larger ones. They were just tired of them. They had decided to make all-out war against the Jews, to humble them once and for all.

Inside the walls, people were of mixed minds. Some thought God would save them by a great deliverance, as He had sometimes done in ancient days. Others thought that God had sent them many signs that He was displeased with them in recent years, and didn't believe that God would help them against the Romans now.

But after Cestius had surrounded the city, having made ready to lay siege to it, he suddenly surprised everyone by lifting the siege, and marching his army off. What his full intentions were I've not yet learned. Opinions seem to differ, and tend to favor him wanting to avoid a long and ultimately embarassing siege against a well defended city, when there were other battles being fought in Israel in more direct fashion.

To the Jewish fighters inside of the walls of Israel it appeared that God may have struck fear into the hearts of their enemies yet again. When they had waited long enough to make sure that it wasn't a ruse to draw them out, they were ecstatic. They determined to press the situation, and their army left the city to follow, find, and destroy these 'frightened' Romans.

The Jews did, as a fact, catch and destroy this Roman army, near Bethoron (Beth Horon). About 5,300 Roman soldiers and 480 calvary died when Eleazar Ben Simons led his Jewish troops against Cestius in battle. They even stole the Legions 'eagle' standard, which was a Legion's own particular battle emblem on a tall pole. A huge insult to the might of Rome.  A great shame to the particular Legion that lost it. 

Such a victory against the well trained Romans was quite a military accomplishment, but in buoying the Jewish confidence to the point that they thought they could whip the Romans anywhere anytime, it ultimately worked to their destruction.

But, at that time in 66 A.D., inside of Jerusalem's walls, was a population of Christians that wanted no part of war or violence for any reason. And they had been divinely warned to leave the city, because it would be destroyed - and they with it if they stayed.

So, when the Jews sallied out and over the horizon to catch the retreating Romans, there was their golden chance - their window of opportunity. The more patriotic and militant men among their Jewish countrymen were gone, chasing the enemy. And no one in the countryside would hold them back because there really wasn't anyone in the countryside. Everyone was hiding within whichever walled city they thought was closest and safest.

The Christians left out the gates of Jerusalem and to the north, around 50 miles, then they crossed eastward toward the Jordan River and across it, and then to the city of Pella, where they took refuge for quite a time. It was about a 70 mile trip by the trails they likely used. (according to maps I found of their suspected flight path, which are probably only estimates.)

And so, that's how it came to be that, so far as various old writers knew, there weren't any Christians killed within Jerusalem a couple of years later when the Roman soldiers, angry at the destruction of nearly an entire Legion of their brothers, laid long and bitter siege to Jerusalem, eventually breached the walls, and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, destroyed their homes, and burnt God's temple to the ground, even prying the stone walls apart in search of melted gold.

But God not only allowed it, but brought it about.

As Titus, the general in charge of the siege (and eventually the Emperor of Rome) said 'It is no great accomplishment to defeat a people abandoned by their God.' Even some of the Romans by then knew of God's power.

When an obedient people wait in faith, in times of dire need, counting on God and Jesus for their rescue, there really is no safer people. Who can steal God's children from His hand? No one takes a sheep from Jesus unless it is part of some plan which more greatly serves God's kingdom than the survival of that sheep. And Jesus's followers have been warned, even promised, that they will have problems and trials on this side of their death, but eternal life on the other.

Jesus is the single way offered to man to obtain salvation, as Jesus himself stated.  But just knowing who He is will not suffice to save your soul.  Jesus's enemies know who He is. 

Being a heck of a guy or a great lady  will not suffice to save you.  You are well liked among men, but men don't cleanse the sinner.  Only Jesus is able to.  And Jesus requires that you believe His teachings, repent of your sin, be baptized in His name, and give the rest of this worldly life to Him, so that He can use you to reach others, and so that you can share in His sacrifice by giving yourself to the welfare of your fellow man just as Jesus gave Himself for you.  Persevere in this, and with faith, we are told that we can obtain salvation despite our inability to ever reach the standards for behavior that would qualify us to live in the purity of Heaven, God's own home. 

Seize your chance, believe the Son of God sent for you, the fallen sinner!  Commit to Jesus with your life.  He and the Father have loved you since the beginning of all time, but so precious a gift had to be given in order to save you that there will be great anger towards you if you spurn that gift.     

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website