Summary: Jesus objects to the way the Jews are treating the temple - as a marketplace not the House of God
Two weeks ago, we looked at John’s account of Jesus at a wedding in Cana. And now this week, he’s travelling on to Jerusalem for the Passover. But before we look any further, please pray with me.
I have a riddle for you. Why is a metcard like an Old Testament temple? What do the two things have in common? They both represent old systems.They were both used for a certain purpose, but now the method has changed and they've been replaced by a new system. So, given that the Old Testament temple, much like a metcard, is no longer in use,
it seems like it wouldn’t matter that much to us what Jesus said in John’s account that Sophia just read. We don’t worship in a temple anymore, we don’t make animal sacrifices to God anymore. But I can tell you, Jesus’ words to these 1st century believers relate directly to our lives as God’s people.
But before we think about what Jesus did and said in the temple, let’s ask ourselves another question. What did everyone else do and say in the temple? Why did Jews in the first century even go to the temple? What was the point of it? One reason people went there was to offer sacrifices to God, to experience God’s forgiveness and to repent of their sin. Another reason was to meet with each other and to learn from Jewish teachers. And another was to draw near to God- it was his dwelling place. But really, the temple had 2 purposes. It was the place where you went to sacrifice to God and ask forgiveness, and it was where you went to meet God in his dwelling place and to learn about God from other people. For the people Jesus is talking to in John’s account, the temple is the centre of their life. It’s a sacred place and a place they’re very familiar with.
Which is why it’s a bit abrupt and, perhaps even a shock, when Jesus says this: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus actually says he’s going to destroy God’s meeting place. He doesn’t think the temple is worth much at all. Maybe he thinks the thing is poorly built. So poorly build that he could do just as good a job in only 3 days. Or maybe he has something else in mind altogether. Something other than an impressive building. "The Jews then said, 'This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?' But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” John’s account says that after Jesus was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said in the temple. So Jesus has destroyed the temple and rebuilt it in 3 days. But what did he rebuild it as? What did he have in mind when he talked about destroying the temple? It’s right there in verse 21. Jesus is predicting his own victory over death. He’s hinting at the time when people will come to Jesus as the place where God dwells, not the temple.
So now I want to think for a while about the temple primarily as God’s dwelling place, and the place where we meet with and learn from other Christians. Jesus’ body is now the place where we go for everything that God’s people once went to the temple for. But what does that mean for us, almost 2,000 years after Jesus left the Earth? If Jesus’ body is the place where God dwells, then where is Jesus’ body? With Jesus now in Heaven, not on Earth, the temple seems less accessible than ever, right? So how can Jesus’ body be the Temple? He doesn’t mean his physical body, because that he took with him. He didn’t leave it here. And don’t think we don’t need a temple any more.
Because now, the same as always, God’s people need to confess to God and ask forgiveness, and they need to meet God where he dwells and learn about God from other people. So where do we go instead of the temple? The first answer that comes to mind might be – church. We go to church regularly, just as the people in John’s account went to the temple. But is church the same as the temple? Do we sacrifice things to God when we come to church?
No, though we do remember Jesus’ sacrifice. Do we just enter God’s presence when we come into this building here, and leave it when we go out? No, God doesn’t dwell only inside the church building. So, actually, the church building isn’t our equivalent of the temple at all. And it’s not what Jesus was talking about in John’s account.