Jesus and the Temple: A temple is a place of forgiveness and fellowship — forgiveness of sin and fellowship with God. Jesus is the true temple, the place where heaven and earth are united and forgiveness and fellowship are offered to all. However, in Christ, you are a temple, too. This shocking reality has huge implications for human beings and human bodies. Recorded on Jul 30, 2023, on John 2:13-25 by Pastor David Parks.
Finding Life in Jesus’ Name is a sermon series on the gospel according to John in the Bible. Have you ever felt unsatisfied with your life? Or, even when things were going well, something was still missing? Many people sense there must be something more. But what?? John, one of the closest friends of Jesus, believed that Jesus came into the world so that we may have life and have it to the full. Jesus turned John’s life upside down, and John claims this new life — marked by God’s power, presence, and purpose — is available for all who believe.
So this month, we’ve started a new annual theme for our preaching ministry that is: Finding Life in Jesus’ Name. And, we’ve said that normally, we’d have a selection of sermon series under this theme from various parts of the Bible throughout the year. But this year we’re doing something a little different. For almost the whole next year, we’re going slowly, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, through the gospel according to John. If you have a Bible/app, please take it and open it to John 2:13. Let’s jump right in.
John 2:13-17 (NIV), “13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”” Ok! Did Jesus lose it? Did he have an anger problem? What is going on here? Well, the setting, according to John, was that it was almost time for the Jewish Passover. This was the national festival that commemorated the time at the start of the exodus out of Egypt when God had the Jewish people sacrifice a lamb and put the blood on the door frame of their houses. Everyone who was covered by the blood of the sacrifice was protected from the judgment of God; they would be passed over. If they weren’t covered by this blood sacrifice, they would be under the same judgment as the Egyptians. When this took place, Pharaoh finally agreed to let the people of Israel, who were slaves in Egypt, go. After this, the Lord commanded his people to continue to celebrate the Passover as one of their national feasts. They were to return to Jerusalem for a week and remember together what God had done to free them from captivity. This was to be a serious time, a holy time. When Jesus went up to Jerusalem (up in elevation), he found the temple and the people in the temple, not in a spirit of repentance, not with broken and contrite hearts; instead, he found a noisy and bustling marketplace. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a marketplace or buying and selling lawful things, but this was not God’s intention for the temple. So Jesus made a whip and drove the animals out and overturned tables and drove the people out, saying, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” Now, the fact that Jesus referred to the temple as “my Father’s house” is significant because no one talked like this. This will be a thread that runs all the way through John’s gospel, but here, we see Jesus clearly saying that God is his Father. In the OT, God is sometimes called the Father of Israel as a nation, but not in this individual, personalized way. Only Jesus calls God his Father. Later, he will get major pushback on this point because people rightly saw that claiming that God is his Father makes Jesus equal to God (which was actually true, but the people didn’t know/believe this yet). Later, the disciples remembered Psalm 69 where it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” and realized that this was what was happening when Jesus cleared the temple. How did people respond? What did they think of all this?
John 2:18-22 (NIV), “18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” So the Jews (maybe the people who were selling or maybe the authorities of the temple) questioned him and asked for some sort of sign that Jesus had the authority to do this. He was acting and speaking as if the temple was his. So, just who did this Jesus think he was? What gave him the right to do all this? This question of authority comes up again and again. And Jesus responds, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Now, before the resurrection of Jesus, no one was thinking about anything very significant happening after three days. But later, John says that after the resurrection, the disciples realized Jesus was talking about his body when he refers to “this temple.” After his death on the cross, Jesus was buried, and on the third day, he rose again. If you destroy that temple, he would raise it again in three days. However, at this time, no one really understood what Jesus was talking about. The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” Clearly, they just didn’t get it. But what does this mean? What is the significance of Jesus saying that he was the temple? To understand this, we have to understand the history of the temple. About 1,500 years earlier, God had made a covenant with ancient Israel at Mount Sinai. This was after the Passover, and the people had been freed from captivity in Egypt. And part of the Law that God had given the people at that time included instructions to build a tabernacle, which was also called the Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle was the main place of worship. It was where the priests made their offerings and the unique power/presence of God dwelled. For about 500 years, as the people of Israel traveled through the wilderness and then settled in the Promised Land of Canaan, they brought the Tabernacle with them. But then, during the time of King David, David had it in his heart to build God a temple. David made provisions for it, but it was actually built during the reign of his son, Solomon. The temple was built in the city of Jerusalem and became the central place of worship for Israel for another 500 years until the time of the exile. Because of their disobedience, God allowed Israel to be conquered and carried away into captivity once again. The temple was destroyed and ceased to function for many years. However, during the reign of Herod the Great, the Roman governor during the time when Jesus was born, Herod decided to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It took 46 years to build, as the people mentioned here, and was a symbol of the national pride and faith of the Jewish people. Ultimately, the temple would be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans in response to a Jewish rebellion. And again, it ceased to function as a place of worship and has ever since. Let’s finish this passage with v. 23.
John 2:23-25 (NIV), “23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”” As we said last week, Jesus performed many, many miracles or signs during his public ministry. It’s just Jesus being Jesus. But John records seven signs in his gospel to teach us about who Jesus is and what the kingdom is like where he is King. We’ll get more of these signs in the weeks ahead. But for now, the people asked Jesus for a sign, and he gave them a cryptic answer that pointed ahead to his own resurrection. And then, he proceeds to do many signs during the Passover Festival, which causes some people to believe as others already had started to believe. However, even as John says that people started to put their faith in him, he didn’t put his faith in them. He certainly knew about their struggle with sin — that is why he came after all. But he also knew how fickle a crowd might be. One day, a crowd might think you’re the greatest person ever, while another day, they might turn against you. Jesus will have a few moments like that that we’ll see in the weeks ahead. So he loved them, he ministered to them, he performed signs for them, but he didn’t entrust himself to them, he didn’t live for their approval or applause, for he knew what was in each person.
Now, before we get to how we might apply this teaching today, I think we need to do a little more work on what it means for Jesus to be a temple. I already gave you a little history of the Tabernacle and then the temple, but we haven’t talked much about the function of the temple or what it was for. The temple was supposed to be a place of forgiveness and fellowship. Forgiveness of sins and fellowship with God. Let’s unpack both of those elements. First, the forgiveness of sins came through the sacrificial system that was foreshadowed by the Passover itself. For the wages of sin is death. But there is life and safety and forgiveness and peace when you are covered by the blood of a sacrifice. So, for 1,500 years under the old covenant, the people of Israel, led by the priests and the Levites, made sacrificial offerings to make atonement or payment for their sins. This practice culminated every year on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Since all the sacrifices and offerings were made in the temple, it was supposed to be a place of forgiveness. Second, the temple was supposed to be a place of fellowship with God. Sin separates. But once the problem of sin was dealt with, then the people could be with and enjoy and worship God in freedom and thanksgiving and joy. God’s presence and power were there. And people gave offerings and sang songs of praise and prayed together and listened to God’s word being read and taught. The temple was a picture of God’s desire to be with his people and dwell with them. It was a place where heaven and earth came together. Theologian N.T. Wright refers to this as the overlapping and interlocking of heaven and earth, of God’s space and our space. But how does all this connect to Jesus? As we work through John’s gospel we will see that everything that the people had done with the temple for 1,500 years, the work of the priests, the whole sacrificial system, the Day of Atonement, everything was pointing forward to the coming of Jesus. Because ultimately, Jesus would fulfill the temple.
John has already been hinting at this. In the Prologue, he said that Jesus was the word of God made flesh who made his dwelling among us. I said then that he literally wrote that Jesus tabernacled among us. Again, before the temple, the tabernacle (tent of meeting) was the place where heaven and earth came together. In Jesus, everything that the tabernacle and temple signified was perfectly fulfilled. What does this mean? Probably many things, but there are two main ways that Jesus perfectly fulfills the temple. Let’s use the dual purpose of forgiveness and fellowship to see this. First, (fellowship) the temple represents the union of God and man, the coming together of heaven and earth. In the person of Jesus, we find one person with two natures: Jesus is fully God and fully man. The theological term for the dual nature of the God-man is the hypostatic union. In Jesus, the Son of God is also the Son of Man. The divine Son from eternity past was also born of the virgin Mary and was laid in a stable in Bethlehem. In his divine nature, when you see Jesus, you’re seeing God. When you listen to Jesus, you’re hearing God. And Jesus says/does things that only God could say and do all the time. But at the same time, in his human nature, Jesus had to grow up and learn to walk and talk; he got tired and hungry and needed to eat and sleep; he faced temptation in this broken world and had to resist the temptation to sin; and so on. He was God, and he was a man. So Jesus fulfills the temple because in Jesus, heaven and earth are perfectly united. Although God is omnipresent, he is everywhere all at once; in the past, God chose to provide a unique manifestation of his glorious power and holy presence in the tabernacle/temple. In a unique way (and maybe a way that we can’t fully understand), God was there. In the same way, Jesus can calm a storm with a word. He can heal the sick or the disabled from afar with just his will. He can command a legion of demons or all the host of heaven, and they obey him. He is the Lord, Master, King, Christ, and God. He had glory in the presence of his Father from before the creation of the world. And he promises his presence to us even to the very end of the age. So, in Jesus, God’s power and presence is found without measure. He is the temple. Heaven and earth overlap and interlock in Jesus. However, there’s a problem, or really a problem for us. Again, sin separates. We can’t be with God or have God dwell with us because of our sin. So, we need the second function of the temple in Jesus of forgiveness. This includes the work of sacrifice, atonement, and the cleansing of sin… [transcript ends here]