Lesson 13: What Happened At Masada?

In America, the “Fourth of July” is not just a date on the calendar, but to us is a phrase that is synonymous with the word “Freedom!” In Israel, there’s a place called Masada that symbolizes for many Jews the fight for freedom as well, a fight that took place there back in 73 A.D.

To find out what happened and take a look at the mountain of Masada yourself, take a look at this short video below.  Then read on to find out how taking a stand for freedom can inspire and impact those around you as well.

So what happened at Masada? This is the place where almost 1,000 Jews committed suicide. As gruesome as it may sound, the truth is that these people were so committed to the idea of staying free that they preferred to die free than to live as slaves.

Although the story of Masada doesn’t appear in the Bible, and the suicidal aspects of the story go against traditional Jewish beliefs, what happened at Masada still makes a profound statement about the lengths people are willing to go for freedom. In some ways, it reminds me of Patrick Henry’s famous words at the beginning of the American Revolution:  “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

But while Patrick’s Henry’s speech was a call to fight for the freedom in which they believed, for the 960 Jewish rebels who had been holed up in the mountain of Masada as a fortress from which they launched their attacks on the Roman Empire, fighting was no longer an option. The Romans had sent thousands of troops to Masada to take back this fortress that King Herod and others had developed over the years. (The word “masada” means “fortress.”)

Because of the steep cliffs that protected Masada from its enemies, the Romans could not simply rush into the fortress to take it back. Instead, they moved tons of sand and dirt over the period of three years to build a siege ramp from the base of the mountain to its top. The ramp, as well as the remains of the Roman camps that were built in those days to house the armies for those three years, can still be seen clearly today.

It was a massive undertaking by the Roman government that finally culminated in the year 73 A.D., within a generation after the time when Jesus Christ had lived and died.

But when the Romans finally reached the top of Masada and broke through the gates, they found that the battle for which they had prepared for so long would not have to take place. The 960 rebels had, days earlier, realized that a fight would not be profitable. And rather than giving up their freedom to worship God in the way they believed, they gave up their lives, dying free, rather than living as slaves under Roman rule.

The story of their faith and how they came to their final end was documented by those who lived inside Masada. Interestingly, as a way to avoid committing wholesale suicide which was against their own teachings, each man drew lots and took turns taking the lives of their own families and friends, until finally only one man remained who alone killed himself.

While there’s nothing scriptural to justify suicide, this story serves as a reminder of just how precious freedom really is, and to what lengths people will go to get it, rather than to live in slavery any longer.

It was the same sort of commitment the men who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence made when they wrote:

“…we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” (from the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence).

And many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence did give up their lives and fortunes because of that pledge of sacred honor to one another.

Christ calls us to do the same.

Jesus frequently invited people to “come and see” what the kingdom of heaven was all about, then challenged them to go deeper and to “come and die” for that kingdom of heaven.

Here are a few of the things that Jesus said about the cost of freedom that could come to those who follow Him:

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

Jesus wants us to be as committed to Him and to the freedom that He offers as were those who were committed to freedom at Masada, as were those who were committed to freedom in America.

There’s a price to pay for freedom that Christ offers. But when you’re following Christ, any price is worth it. And once you’re willing to die for Jesus, you’ll find it’s so much easier to live for Him as well.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You for dying for us to set us free, and help us to be willing to die to set others free as well. And Lord, help us realize that being willing to die for You will free to us to live for You even more.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You're reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

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