Raze This Temple | John 2.19-22
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said,
“It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:19-22 | ESV
Jesus had his own response ready. He told them, “Raze this temple and in three days watch me raise it.” The Jewish leadership scoffed. “Forty-six years it’s taken to build this temple. And you – in three days you will raise it?” But Jesus was verbally pointing to the “temple” of his own body, not to the building blocks of the temple complex – but they missed it. The disciples didn’t, however. At least not in the end. Later when Jesus was raised from the dead, they remembered Jesus saying this and they put two and two together, and they totally banked on this powerful combination of ancient Scripture and Jesus’ spoken word. MAV
“I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals. For there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing the latter may be – a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or of a street walker, is more interesting to me.” ~ van Gogh
On at least one or two other occasions Jesus is directly asked for a sign. Once he says, “No sign for you” (essentially) and another time he says all they’re getting is a Jonah sign which serves as another direct telegraphing of death and resurrection (Jonah in the fish three days and nights, the “Son of Man” in the earth three days and nights). They, of course, were asking for something tangible, clear-cut, ostensible, hands-on, see-it-now-with-their-own-eyes-like-parting-the-Red-Sea kind of demonstrations. Jesus leaves them with enigmas and parables (though to those who stick with him till the wee hours of the morning, they just might catch a glimpse of him moon walking on the water). Here Jesus not only leaves his inquisitors with an parabolic enigma, he leaves them with a provocative image and word that they hold on to and throw in his face again at his trial. In fact years later they still seem to be at it, accusing Stephen of preaching a Jesus “who will destroy this holy place.” Jesus doesn’t seem to mind provoking people. And this will only get worse. Jesus’ inquisitors shared the temple fixation commented on by the prophet Jeremiah five centuries previous: “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord!!!” (See Jeremiah 7). Their Holy Place was everything. Everything. They would kill to protect it. And they did. So what chutzpah from a thirty-year-old rabbi from Nazareth to use as his signage “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” In my own free MAV rendering, I couldn’t resist the rhyme and contrast of “raze” and “raise,” but the Greek word is literally “loosen” or “break apart,” the picture being that of stones in a building literally being pulled apart until all you have is a pile of rubble. Provocative in the extreme to these temple guardians. And they never forgave him for it. Clearly Jesus didn’t motion to the temple complex since he wasn’t talking about that, but neither, I think, did he literally point to himself. He only pointed verbally and let the ambiguity ride allowing their misunderstanding to stand (notice he makes no clarifying comment in response to their incredulity at his rebuilding the temple in three days). And it’s only after the resurrection that his disciples have their own “a-ha! moment” and work all this out.
The story is told of a wealthy man who traveled half way around the world to see Mother Theresa. Upon meeting her, she asked what he was seeking. “Clarity” was his answer. “I seek clarity.” Mother Theresa observed him for a moment and then answered with a smile, “I have never had clarity. I have only had trust. So I will pray that you find trust.” Here’s our lesson. It is clarity we seek as we cling to our temples of religion or science (or distraction in our temples of sports and entertainment). But it is trust we need, and trust he will give us – if we can see beyond the stones of our own sureties.
What “temple” have you been clinging to for meaning and protecting at all costs? How might he be challenging you to let it go and trust him?
Lord, remind me daily that you dwell in the cloud, and in the thick darkness; that it is your glory to hide and conceal, even as it is mine to seek it out, to seek You out. Give me the grace to surrender my cherished certainties so that in losing them I may truly find you as I receive the gift of trust. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.