Saturday, July 15, 2006

Destroy This Temple

I mentioned yesterday that I had noted two things about the whole cleansing of the temple discourse in John's gospel. The first had to do with the propriety of commerce of any kind in our churches. Today I want to focus on a second aspect of the cleansing of the temple.

Let me explain. I am referring to the portion of John 2 where Jesus is being questioned about his activity in cleansing the temple. Such a cleansing was not automatically a bad thing, but it was exceptional. It was the sort fo thing that would be taken on by a prophet from God the likes of which would not have been seen for many decades if not, indeed, centuries. The people questioning Jesus were wanting to know about Jesus credentials as a prophet for cleansing the temple.

Jesus' response is a bit confusing to those speaking with him. He effectively lays out a challenge; if they want to know about his credentials, then all they have to do is "Destroy this temple" and Jesus will raise it up in three days. This, presumably, would be a sign that would confirm his credentials.

The inquisitors assumed that by "this temple" Jesus was referring to the physical temple. IN fact he meant his own body. A few things are stirred in my mind as I consider this.

1) Although "the Jews" did not immediately call what they probably assumed was a bluff on Jesus' part, they ultimately did. They would eventually kill Jesus, thus destroying the temple of his body, and Jesus did raise it up in three days.

2) There seems to be a connection between the actual temple and the temple of Jesus' body, one that actually plays up the deity of Jesus. The temple in Judaism was very much the special place where God made His presence felt on earth. But Jesus is God made flesh. That means that when Jesus refers to His body as the temple he is saying that in his flesh you have God's presence uniquely manifested. That speaks both to the incarnation spoken of in John 1 (especially about revealing the Father), and to his statements equating seeing Jesus in the flesh with seeing the Father in John 14.

In a very real sense then, we should think about Jesus as a replacement for the Temple under the New Covenant.

One might be tempted to think that this should make what happens in our church buildings less important, but I am inclined to think in exactly the opposite way. We are now the temple of God on earth, both individually and corporately, manifesting the presence of God. (1Co. 3:16; 1Co. 6:19; cf. Eph. 2:22). What happen in us, around us and to us as we gather for worship then becomes at least as important, if not moreso, sine the temple of Jesus' day was but a shadow. We embody the reality that the shadow was pointing to.

It is worth thinking about, anyway.

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