The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
|Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867.|
While this meeting of the council is being held, Christ is in the Court of the Gentiles preaching to the vast crowds of people filling the great Temple area. There he delivers these sermons given in the Gospels, denouncing in fiery words the Scribes and Pharisees, the infidel priesthood, and healing all diseases. The Eternal Father's voice from the Shekina for the third time gave testimony of his mission, but that strange Oriental characteristic, that unbending stubbornness of the Hebrew in religious matters, made them say it was an angel who spoke to him or that it thundered. Twice before, at his baptism, and during the
In a Nitrian monastery in lower Egypt, in 1843 and 1847, were discovered ancient Syriac documents, now in the British Museum, which throw light on this question. Eusebius, the celebrated historian, cites them as being preserved in his day among the archives of Edessa. Baronius, Tillmont, Cave, Montague, Grab, Dr. Wright, and other famous writers consider them authentic. They are written in the Aramaic spoken by the Jews at the time of Christ. We give them for what they are worth. King Abgar of Edessa, with other peoples on the east of the Euphrates, had heard of the wonderful works of Jesus Christ, and of the miracles he had performed in Judea. This king was afflicted with an incurable disease, which was wasting him away, and he wrote a letter to Jesus, which he sent " by the hand of Hananias the Tabularius," who was either his secretary of state, or, as he is called in the documents, a Sharir, " a confidential servant." Abgar was the fourteenth king of this name, and was called Abgar Uchomo, that is " Abgar the black," because, as some say, he suffered from the black leprosy. We are not surprised that the story of Christ's wonderful works had traveled even beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris, for the Gospel tells us that " His fame went through all Syria." (Matt, iv, 24) This is the letter Abgar wrote to Christ:
"Abgar the Black, sovereign of the country, to Jesus the good Saviour, who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, Peace. I have heard about Thee, and about the healing which is wrought by Thy hands, without drugs and roots. For it is reported, Thou makest the blind to see, and the lame to walk, and Thou cleansest the lepers, and Thou castest out unclean spirits and demons, and Thou healest those who are tormented with lingering diseases, and Thou raisest the dead. And when I heard all these things about Thee, I settled in my mind one of two things : either, Thou art God, who hast come down from heaven and doest these things, or that Thou art the Son of God and doest these things. On this account, therefore, I have written to beg of Thee, that thou would weary Thyself to come to me and heal this disease which I have. For I have also heard that the Jews murmur against Thee, and wish to do Thee harm. But I have a city, small and beautiful, which is sufficient for two."
" Copy of those things written in reply by Jesus by the hand of Hananias the Tabularius to Abgar sovereign of the country:— "Blessed is he that hath believed in me, not having seen me. For it is written concerning me, that those who see me will not believe in me, and that those will believe, who have not seen me, and will be saved. But touching that which thou hast written to me, that I should come to thee—it is meet that I should finish here all that for the sake of which I have been sent. And after I have finished it, then I shall be taken up to Him that sent me. And when I have been taken up to Him that sent me, I will send to thee one of my disciples, that he may heal thy disease and give salvation to thee and to those who are with thee."
Then follows a long and detailed account of how the the Apostle St. Thomas sent Taddeus, one of the seventy-two disciples, and how Abgar was healed and converted with nearly the whole nation; the wonders the Apostle performed and the churches he established; the Mass he composed in the Babylonian language which the Babylonian Christians still use in our day. We find also that when the Holy Ghost came down on the Apostles, each one was given the knowledge of the language of the nation he was destined to convert, and Thomas received among other tongues this of Edessa and the surrounding peoples. (Syriac Documents. Story Concerning the King of Edessa, Book I., Chap. 18, Eusebius of Caesarea, etc.)
As the Lord and his disciples sat that Monday on the south flank of the Mount of Olives he foretold the destruction of the city by the Romans and the destruction of the world at the end of time. One prophecy is interwoven with the other so as to combine them both together, that men seeing the first fulfilled may believe in the other which is yet to come. They are sitting where the Fourth Roman Legion encamped when Titus took the city, and from where hostile armies looked down on the city, about a third of a mile from the eastern walls, with the deep Cedron valley between.
We drew the attention to a fact which astonishes us. The greatest calamity which ever fell on a people in human history was the destruction of this city, and the death by war, famine, and misfortune of more than 1,100,000 Jews.
There is nothing in the annals of mankind like the story given by Josephus who was an eyewitness. Even Titus, used to wars and carnage, lifted his hands to heaven and protested to the gods, that he was not responsible for the calamity, for he had asked them often to surrender the city, but he was met always with that stubborn, unbending, Semitic, Jewish character. Such was the punishment of the whole nation which had killed their Messiah.
The Sanhedrin condemned Him that day, but they were afraid to arrest Him while he was preaching in the Temple, for they feared the people. These persons were strangers who for the most part did not belong to the Holy City. They were pilgrims from Galilee, the north of Judea, and visitors from all parts of the world who had come up to the number of nearly 3,000,000 to celebrate the great Easter feast of the Passover. They did not understand or enter into the local quarrels of the Jerusalem Jews and of the priesthood. They had seen His wonderful works in the Temple, they had heard about His miracles, they had seen Lazarus alive, and his arrest would have raised a great disturbance.
His " time had not come," and there were other things to do to fulfil the prophecies. He did not return to Bethany that night, for they would have arrested him there if they had found him.
Near the top of Olivet, about three hundred feet below the spot from which He ascended, there was a little grotto in the dry limestone rock. Bushes and trees hid the en trance. Like the caves of Judea it was dry and warm. In it were four tables, benches and beds. It perhaps be longed to some disciple, who lived in it while tending his little farm of olives, figs, pomegranates and dates. For Olivet was all covered with fruit-trees and gardens before the Romans cut them down to make war-engines during the siege.
It is now a little underground church called the Grotto of the Credo, because there it is said the Apostles assembled after the ascension and composed the Creed, each Apostle forming an article of belief. The first bishops of Jerusalem mention this hiding-place; during the first ages pilgrim ages were made to it, and it has ever been recognized as the hiding-place of Christ from the tenth day of the month of Abib or Nisan, that Monday, till he came forth on Thursday to celebrate the Passover, the Last Supper.
Within the same inclosure, but higher up, is a fine building, erected by a French Countess, called the Chapel of the Pater Noster, having the Lord's Prayer in thirty-five languages of the great nations of the earth engraved on its walls. There the Lord taught his Apostles the Lord's Prayer. A little distance below is the Church of the Dominus Fievit, where He wept over the deicide city. To the south, about four hundred feet, is the entrance to the tombs of the Prophets, where deep down in the soft whitish limestone are carved the places for numerous bodies. There were buried the great prophets, who had foretold His whole life, acts, and words, hundred of years before He came. But Israel put most of them to death because they reproved them for their sins.
In that grotto, down about fifteen feet below the surface, in that long cave extending north and south, the Lord and his Apostles took their supper and slept that Monday night. Early Tuesday morning, after breakfast, with his disciples, he returned to the Temple, where he preached and healed all day. His sermons preached that Tuesday, how he denounced the Scribes and Pharisees, and foretold the destruction of the Temple, the ruin of the Jewish nationality and government, the calling of another nation to carry on the government of his Church, may be found in the Gospels.
Tuesday night he returned again to the grotto, and passed the whole day, Wednesday, in a retreat, preparing for his death. The Jews looked for Him everywhere, searched Bethany for him, but they could not find Him. We have no records of the instructions he gave his Apostles all that time he was hidden. But we suppose he opened their eyes to the wonderful types, figures, signs, and symbols of Temple services, feasts, personages and words relating to him in the Old Testament. To give them now would make this work too large.