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Hebrews 7:1-3 – NT


Matthew 23:37-39

From David on, Jerusalem was the center of religious, political, and cultural power for the nation of Israel.  As such, it was the center of God’s unique presence and redeeming work in the world. 

I have often succumbed to the modern temptation to scoff at the idea that there should be any real link between the divine and a particular place or item.  This manifests in an attitude of disdain towards the many nations and creeds perennially at war over Jerusalem and other places in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

But this dogmatic materialism (or, rather, platonic dualism) ignores the very real history of Jerusalem as a place chosen by God for His redeeming purpose. 

Chesterton has a great book called The New Jerusalem, in which He presents a travelogue/notebook of his reflections upon visiting Jerusalem in aftermath of WWI and the handover of the region from Ottoman/German hands into French/English ones.  It’s worth a deeper discussion at another time, but I want to quote extensively from it today because he has much to say, as you might imagine, on the unique character of this ancient city.  (All but the last of the following quotes, which is from Everlasting Man, are taken from this book.)

When his train first pulls within sight of the hilltop city:

For suddenly, between a post of the wagon and a wrack of rainy cloud I saw it, uplifted and withdrawn under all the arching heavens of its history, alone with its benediction and its blasphemy, the city that is set upon a hill, and cannot be hid.


From this height, after long histories unrecorded, fell the forgotten idol of the Jebusites, on that day when David’s javelin-men scaled the citadel and carried through it, in darkness behind His coloured curtains, the God whose image had never been made by man.  Here was waged that endless war between the graven gods of the plain and the invisible God of the mountain; from here the hosts carrying the sacred fish of the Philistines were driven back to the sea from which their worship came.  Those who worshipped on this hill had come out of bondage in Egypt and went into bondage in Babylon; small as was their country, there passed before them almost the whole pageant of the old pagan world.

On the character of this city to deal in absolutes and extremes:

This popular spirit may take a good or a bad form; and a mob may cry out many things, right and wrong.  But a mob cries out ‘No Popery’; it does not cry out ‘Not so much Popery,’ still less ‘Only a moderate admixture of Popery.’

It shouts ‘Three cheers for Gladstone,’ it does not shout ‘A gradual and evolutionary social tendency towards some ideal similar to that of Gladstone.’ It would find it quite a difficult thing to shout; and it would find exactly the same difficulty with all the advanced formulae about nationalisation and internationalisation and class-conscious solidarity.  No rabble could roar at the top of its voice the collectivist formula of ‘The nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.’ 

The mob of Jerusalem is no exception to the rule, but rather an extreme example of it.  The mob of Jerusalem has cried some remarkable things in its time; but they were not pedantic and they were not evasive.  There was a day when it cried a single word; ‘Crucify.’  It was a thing to darken the sun and rend the veil of the temple; but there was no doubt about what it meant. 

On the incongruence of this city’s status as divinely chosen with the modern impulse to dismiss such ideas as feeble superstition:

In other words it comes back to that very mystery which of all mysteries the modern world things most superstitions and senseless; the mystery of locality.  It works back at last to the hardest of all the hard sayings of supernaturalism; that there is such a thing as holy or unholy ground, as divinely or diabolically inspired people; that there may be such things as sacred sites or even sacred stones; in short that the airy nothing of spiritual essence, evil or good, can have quite literally a local habitation and a name.

Lastly, from Everlasting Man, Chesterton’s image of Jesus’ life as a purposeful journey with a distinct destination, Jerusalem:

We are meant to feel that His life was […] a sort of love affair with death, a romance of the pursuit of the ultimate sacrifice.  From the moment when the star goes up like a birthday rocket, to the moment when the sun is extinguished like a funeral torch, the whole story moves on wings with the speed and direction of a drama, ending in an act beyond words.

Therefore the story of Christ is the story of a journey, almost in the manner of a military march; certainly in the manner of the quest of a hero moving to His achievement or His doom.  It is a story that begins om the paradise of Galilee, a pastoral and peaceful land having really some hint of Eden, and gradually climbs the rising country into the mountains that are nearer to the storm-clouds and the stars, as to a Mountain of Purgatory.

He may be met as if straying in strange places, or stopped on the way for discussion or dispute; but His face is set towards the mountain city.  That is the meaning of that great culmination when He crested the ridge and stood at the turning of the road and suddenly cried alond, lamenting over Jerusalem.

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