Preparing for the Invasion - #24 - Jesus Reinterpreted the Temple
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
One Sunday morning this past summer I saw a person I did not recognize at
Redeemer. I went to her and asked her name. "Is this your first time with
"I've been here before, but it's hard to get here since I have to
That morning was cold, rainy, and very windy. "Where did you walk
"LaSalle," she said. "When I am in this building I sense the presence of God."
This woman walked 5 miles in the cold, wind, and rain to be in the presence of
For ancient Israel the place to be, when it came to experiencing God, was the
Temple. Observant, God-seeking Jews and Gentiles would travel, sometimes
for hundreds of miles, to the great festivals held in Jerusalem that were
centered around the activity of the Temple. Richard Bauckham writes:
"The Temple was the symbolic center of Jewish faith and it was also the
place where God was accessible to his people in a special way. It was God’s
holy presence in the Temple that made Jerusalem the holy city and Palestine the
holy land. It was God’s presence in the Temple that made it the only place
where sacrifice could be offered." (Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, p.
New Testament scholar Michael McClymond adds:
“The overriding importance of the Temple in first-century Judaism becomes
apparent in the persistence of the Jewish people in rebuilding and maintaining
the Temple and in the large place given to it in ancient literature. Bruce
Chilton notes that the Jewish Temple was renowned throughout the world and was
perhaps “the largest religious structure in the world at that
time.”” (McClymond, Familiar Stranger, 53)
In Jesus's final weeks on earth we see him in Jerusalem, walking daily up the
mountain to teach and stir the religious pot in the Temple
courtyards. Jesus intimately referred to the Temple as "my Father's
house." It was part of his family estate.
The Temple was the House of God,
the spatial locale where God especially manifested his presence. It was always
intended to be a House of Prayer, where the dialogue happened between God
and the people of God. It was a most holy, set-apart place. But, sadly, no
As Jesus the Light of the World stood in the courtyard,
the Temple had become a place of spiritual darkness. Nothing
more devastating could be said than Jesus's words in Matthew 23:13:
to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the
door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter,
nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
BTW, the real meaning of "Church"; viz., the corporate,
wherein the presence of God abides.)
Because of this, Jesus said the Temple is going down. People won't worship God
on this mountain anymore. Not one brick of this magnificent structure will be
left standing. It is hard to grasp the enormity of what Jesus was saying.
Imagine someone walking in the outer courts of the White House in Washington,
D.C., openly proclaiming its impending ruin.
This Temple will soon be gone. It happened in 70 A.D. But the Temple
will remain. Because Jesus has already said, with jaw-dropping self-referential
I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
- Matthew 12:6
I am able to destroy the temple of God
and rebuild it in three days.
- Matthew 26:61
But the temple he had spoken of was his body.- John 2:21
Jesus reinterprets the Temple in terms of his own self. Jesus hosts the
presence of God. As we abide in Jesus, corporately and individually, the
followers of Jesus become portable sanctuaries that host God's manifest
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple
"Whether you are 15 people around a candle and a coffee table or 150
people in a tired building trying to turn it around or 1,500 people on the rise
with plans for another service— regardless of size: if you don’t have the thing
that makes us distinct, you have nothing, no matter what you have. And if you
do have it— what we were made to long for; what makes us a true church of the
one true God— you have everything you need, no matter what you
lack." (Kindle Locations 1003-1006)