Reflection from the Roman Colosseum
By Aubrey Vaughan, Jul 8 2014 01:25PM
Back in June as a family we went to the historic city of Rome every step that you took you were literally looking at centuries of history. We visited some amazing places like the Roman forum, the catacombs, Saint Peters Basilica, the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon to name but a few, it was all breath taking.
But the one location in particular made me pause for quiet reflection was the Roman colosseum.
The Colosseum started to be built under Emperor Vespasian in 70AD and was completed in 80AD under his successor and heir Titus who lead the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 70AD. During this siege historian Josephus claims 1.1million Jews were killed and 91,000 enslaved and brought back to Rome along with the riches of the temple.
The Arch of Titus near the colosseum was built in commemoration of this conquest, it depicts, the Jews being brought back to Rome along with the temple riches. It was these enslaved Jews who were actually sent to work on the building of the Coliseum.
The Coloseum was used for entertainment purposes for the Roman masses it held gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts , re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on classical mythology. And with the rise of the early Christians in the 1st century it was a place where countless Christians were tortured and killed either thrown to wild beasts, stoned, burned and crucified or put to the sword by the gladiators.
These Christians were known as ‘Martyrs’ men and women who were put to death for their faith.
The Word ‘martyr’ comes from the Greek word translated “witness” the first known martyr was Stephen as recorded in the book of Acts in the Bible, stoned to death in Jerusalem A.D 35. All but one of the Apostles faced a Martyrs death and countless Christians followed this fate at the Colosseum.
We might think that this is something of the past but Christians are still being persecuted & martyred for their faith in Christ today.In fact more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all the previous centuries combined. 171,000 Christians were martyred in 2005 alone. (International journal of missionary research). Of course Prayer and action is needed to fight against such injustices, but these atrocities hardly ever make the news today.
But should we be surprised? After all Jesus did say in (John) 15:20 ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Jesus also said in (luke) 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. This literally meant a way of suffering for the Christ follower.
Christians throughout the centuries are called to follow in the footsteps of a suffering God who was persecuted & murdered on a cruel Roman cross, in our suffering, He identifies with us, God suffered.
We are often closeted from the realities of this type of Christian faith in the West unlike other parts of the world. But there is a subtle change even in our own country with the ever increasing erosion of Christian values, an increasing isolation and antagonism towards Christians in the public sphere, as secularism pervades society and its thought, there comes with it an increasing intolerance towards Christian thoughtt and lifestyle.
As a result some professing Christians simply conform to the pattern of the world, rather than being a witness to the truth and a transforming influence in society. Yet Christians are not just called to be nice people but are called to testify to the saving truth of the gospel, whatever the consequences, to follow Christ. To die to yourself and in the midst of your trials to show the grace, love and forgiveness of God available to all who repent.
For even as Jesus hung upon that cross, before those who had placed him there. He cried out, (Luke) 23:34 “ Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”
Jesus was sacrificed at the dictates of the cruel authorities but it was also the plan of God (Acts2:23). Jesu freely gave his life. He was sacrificed in our place, the death of Christ would be the means to pay the price for our sins, to redeem individuals & on the third day he rose from the tomb, conquering death as proof, it had been acomplished and eternal life awaits.
This is what these early Christians believed & experienced as a result they were prepared to be martyred to become witnesses, rather than renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. All Christian martyrs throughout the centuries are a great cloud of witnesses to those who remain that the way of a Christian is not simply happiness, health and wealth, but the way of persecution, of suffering and even a martyrs death.
As I paused for reflection at the Coliseum this truth was brought to my heart. That as Christians we walk this path too, its not a path for the faint hearted, but as we do walk it we have the opportunity to deny ourselves, to suffer and be witnesses to a watching world the grace, the forgiveness and to the love of God available to all, even to our persecutors.