The apostle Paul loved his people, the Jews, enough to have wished himself cursed and cut off from Christ for their sake. “My greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel,” he said, “to be saved.” But not everyone shared his concern. Roman forces soon afterward destroyed Jerusalem, and many of the beleaguered survivors fled to Europe as refugees. Eventually Spain became a great center of Jewish learning, arts, science, and finance. Maimonides, the “second Moses,” helped establish in Spain a Golden Age of Jewish life. But during the 14th and 15th centuries, sentiment again turned against the Jews.
The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 established a state church with little sympathy for Jews. Isabella wielded great power. She was active in government, strict in morality, and devout in formal religion. Vowing to rid her land of unbelievers, Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition. Heretics and Jews were rounded up, interrogated, and tortured without mercy.
When the Inquisition failed to forcibly convert Jews, Ferdinand and Isabella determined to expel them, and on March 31, 1492, the royal couple signed an edict giving Jews three months to leave Spain. One hundred fifty thousand Jews, stripped of homes and possessions, left the land that had been their home for nearly 1,500 years. The last Jew reportedly left Spain on August 2, the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples, the saddest day in Jewish history. Ironically, the very next day, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to discover the New World.
Not everything done in the name of Christianity is Christian. Genuine believers resort to prayer and preaching and love, not persecution, to fulfill the Great Commission. And genuine believers harbor a deep love for the Jewish people, remembering that Jesus Christ himself was Jewish. Like Paul, our heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites is that they might be saved.
I am a follower of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a witness to my conscience.… I would gladly be placed under God’s curse and be separated from Christ for the good of my own people. They are the descendants of Israel.… (Romans 9:1,3,4a)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). March 31.