Jesus in the Temple
(Matthew 21.12,13; Mark 11.15-17; Luke 19.45,46)
13 Not long before the Jewish festival of Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. 15So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins.
16Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don't make my Father's house a marketplace.”
17 The disciples then remembered that the Scriptures say, “My love for your house burns in me like a fire.”
18The Jewish leaders asked Jesus, “What miracle will you work to show us why you have done this?”
19 “Destroy this temple,” Jesus answered, “and in three days I will build it again!”
20The leaders replied, “It took 46 years to build this temple. What makes you think you can rebuild it in three days?”
21But Jesus was talking about his body as a temple. 22And when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered what he had told them. Then they believed the Scriptures and the words of Jesus.
23In Jerusalem during Passover many people put their faith in Jesus, because they saw him work miracles. 24But Jesus knew what was in their hearts, and he would not let them have power over him. 25No one had to tell him what people were like. He already knew.
Temples. Holy places. Sacred spaces. We multiply shrines and worshipping places throughout the world in order to commune with the divine. Unfortunately, they often substitute for a true way to God.
With time, and given the human sinful condition, even the Jerusalem temple—built at God’s command—became a place of idolatry and commerce. This was far from being the first time in Israel’s history: the prophet Jeremiah denounced Israel’s faith in the temple rather than in God himself (Jeremiah 7:1-7). Others joined in to warn Israel: “These people praise me with their words, but they never really think about me. They worship me by repeating rules made by humans” (Isaiah 29:13). Quoting from Isaiah, Stephen declared before the Sanhedrin: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Acts 7:49). Neither the tabernacle in the desert nor the temple in Jerusalem was ever intended to restrict our communion with God to one specific place.
Like the Jews in Jesus’ time, we need to be reminded that God’s presence is not confined to a place, or dependent upon observance of precise rituals. Even our church gatherings are no substitute for a personal relationship with God in Jesus.
God’s ultimate glory and authority are manifested in Jesus, especially in his death and resurrection. Contemplating his impending death, Jesus prayed to his Father: “Father, bring glory to yourself” (John 12:28). The ultimate sign of Jesus’ authority is for him to erect a new temple, his own resurrected body (John 2:21).
Seeking to fellowship with the Father and awaiting God’s full presence in the New Jerusalem, let us cherish our communal meetings, but let us also—and mostly—gaze at God’s glory manifested in the greatest sign of Jesus’ authority: his death and resurrection on our behalf.
Glorious Father, Only God, You do not give your glory to idols. Help me deepen my relationship with you in your Son, the true God and eternal life, the one exactly like God who cannot be seen. In the name of Jesus who now sits at your right hand. Amen.