Jesus and the Temple Sermon Manuscript

If you remember last week, I looked back at verse 1 where John uses the phrase “in the beginning.” John is clearly calling to mind the symbols and events of Genesis as he tells his own creation narrative. One of the things that I said was John was telling the story of the new creation, the recreation, of the world through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

I believe that John intends his readers to follow a sequence of seven signs, with the water-into-wine story at Cana as the first and the crucifixion as the seventh. This number seven is actually found, guess where, in Genesis one; suggesting that John has selected these 7 signs to draw out and delineate how Israel’s God, through the Messiah, as set in motion the recreation of the entire cosmos.

On Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus stands before Pilate of says “Behold the man.” (John 19:5). Jesus, on the cross, says “it is finished.” Hearkening back to God’s statements of completion in Genesis 1. This finishing was followed by a sabbath, a day of rest. Which is what we find in John 19.

There follows, as in Genesis, a day of rest, a sabbath day (19:31: 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.)

Big Point: Jesus’ public career is to be understood as the completion of the original creation, with the resurrection as the start of the new. The whole gospel is a kind of preparation for Easter, with signs of resurrection to be expected at several points.

The first of the signs, indeed, carries its own hint: the wedding at Cana took place ‘on the third day’. The response of Jesus in the temple was that he would raise the temple on the “third day.”

So, last time I went over many of the ways in which Jesus, sums of the long story of Israel in himself, he embodies Israel, and the story of Israel is retold around him. Just as a way of reminder Matt: 2:15, Hosea 11:1.

So, before we can jump into our text and explore what is precisely going on, we need to stop and consider the function and importance of the temple: two quick points:
First, the Temple was regarded as the dwelling-place of Israel’s covenant god:
Quote: The Temple in conception was a dwelling place on earth for the deity of ancient Israel … The symbolic nature of the Jerusalem Temple … depended upon a series of features that, taken together, established the sacred precinct as being located at the cosmic center of the universe, at the place where heaven and earth converge and thus from where God’s control over the universe is effected.

Quote: Second, the Temple was of course the place of sacrifice. It was the place where forgiveness of sins on the one hand, and cleansing from defilement on the other, were believed to be effected. This can be seen dramatically in descriptions of what happened when the sacrificial system came to an end in ad 70:
The destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. made an end of the whole system of sacrificial expiation, public and private, the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement. The loss was keenly felt…

So, let us take a look at John 2:13-22.

Ok, there are several things going on, and to draw them out, we need to travel around the gospels a bit to see some of the things Jesus says about the temple. Luke 19; Matt 24.

Luke 19: The gospel of Luke has an interesting section in chapter 19. In verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces judgement on her, and the temple (same as Matt. 24 but much shorter). Immediately after in 45-48 Jesus cleanses the temple. There can be no doubt that the cleansing of the temple and the pronouncement of judgement in the preceding verse are inseparably linked to one another. I think Jesus is acting out the judgement that is to come; and expressing his disapproval at what the temple had become. Many people see this action, and Jesus’s statements about the temple, whether they were misunderstood or not, as the primary factors that led to his crucifixion. Notably, this is what is brought up at Jesus’s trial; and also, when people are preaching the gospel in Acts 6, Jesus is portrayed as the one who talked about the temple being destroyed. Luke 19:48 is followed immediately by the chief priests and scribes coming to him and challenging his authority to cleanse the temple. This was extremely offensive to them. Jesus’s response is “by what authority does John the Baptist baptize?” John the Baptist was claiming that God’s people were not recognized by their temple or torah observance, not at this critical time; no, instead, they are going to be recognized by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins in preparation for their Messiah.

Matthew 24: Jesus’s disciples ask him when the temple will be destroyed, and his reply is that “this generation” (24:34) will not pass until all that Jesus had predicted came to pass. Within a generation (app. 40 years) the temple was destroyed by Rome. Jesus, here in Matt. 24, connects “the sign of his coming” with the destruction of the temple. The coming of the Son of man is a clear allusion to Daniel 7; which speaks of the vindication of the Son of Man. In good apocalyptic style, all sorts of imagery is used by Jesus to invest these future historic events with theological significance. If we accept that the conversation is centered around the “sign of Jesus’s coming” and the “time of the temple’s destruction,” then we are in a pretty safe place to understand that Jesus is explicitly putting the sign of his coming (Gr. erchomenon) together with to the fate of the temple; so that, if the fate of the temple turns out to be what Jesus said it would be, then Jesus will be vindicated in his ministry and prophetic role. In support of this: the words “this generation” refer to the current contemporary generation in every other instance that it is used; it always refers to the people who are living at that time. Jesus says that everything that he had predicted before 24:34 would happen in “this generation.”

What is very important to note here is that Jesus associates his vindication as the Son of Man, the vindication that that he did what God expected of him, via the destruction of Jerusalem. So when the temple was destroyed, this was God’s stamping again (after his resurrection) his approval on everything that Jesus had been claiming about his own life and ministry in relation to his critique of the temple.

So, Jesus is not merely setting out to clean up the temple, and rearrange a few ornaments: he intends to symbolize the imminent destruction of the Temple sharply and physically through his actions. So he was enacting God’s judgment on the temple so that when it was destroyed, his actions would be vindicated as in line with God’s desire to see the temple destroyed.

So what is the point of all of this: God People are being “REDEFINED.” HANDOUT.

What is the arch composed of before Christ, in the Old Testament: 1. Circumcision, 2. Dietary Laws, 3. Temple Observance. These are the things that mark out who is numbered among the covenant people of God. Within the covenant people of God you have both: those who are Not Truly Saved (NTS); and those who are Truly Saved (TS).

If a husband gets married to a woman, with the intention of committing adultery the day after the marriage; is the marriage a real covenant? YES! Or else, adultery would no longer be adultery. The question guy who gets married has to answer is whether he was and will be sincere in his marriage vows; or if he will be insincere and be a covenant breaker; either way he is in the covenant. This same reality is seen in the Old Testament. “They praise [God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [Him].” They were circumcised, and they were following the dietary laws; this does mark them out as being “in the covenant;” it does not mean that they are necessarily truly saved.

Jesus, thus, is coming in and redrawing these covenant boundaries around himself instead of circumcision, dietary laws, and temple observance. The people of God are being redefined around their faith in and allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. Now, those who confess faith in and allegiance to Christ and his authority via baptism initially, are marked out as “in the covenant”; as the person who goes through the ritual of marriage is now married; the question remains however if the person is sincere or not; either way, the person is “in the covenant.”

This will go a LONG way in recounting the hottest dispute in the early church. In Acts 10, and 15 along with much of Paul’s writings; one of the recurring themes is the teaching that the Gentiles are not under any obligation to undergo circumcision, or follow the dietary laws, or go to the temple; because they have received God’s Spirit as full participants in the new REDEFINED people of God by faith in Jesus the Messiah alone (of course this faith is expressed in every individual through baptism, and subsequent surrender of the ‘yoke’ and teachings to Christ).

So: what were the Jews so angry about in the early church: well, Jewish Christians, especially Paul, were claiming that circumcision (for example) was ok for Jews to do, but it emphatically no longer counted for anything (1 Cor. 7:19) because God’s people have been redefined around Jesus and no longer around torah-observance.

What is the point? The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the renewal of all of creation.

God is creating a new humanity in and around the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God. God in Christ has so redefined who his covenant people are in the Messiah that now Gentiles have found themselves in the family of Abraham (Gal. 3); in that single family through which God has always intended to bring salvation and renewal to the whole world.

The first day of the week a strange event had happened as this prostitute went to the tomb where Christ was buried. Many people, in order to deal with the fact of the empty tomb in history have formulated hypotheses that claim that the authors of these 4 gospels in our bibles were fabrications that were made up to make people believe that Jesus rose from the dead even though he didn’t. The major problem here is this: in the first century, and on for quite a while, the testimony of a women as an eyewitness was inadmissible in court and general opinion. If someone were trying to fabricate a story to get thousands of people to believe, what is otherwise a hard to believe story; the very last thing they would do is have a woman, prostitute to boot, as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ. This hypothesis fails.

Mary was the first to see the firstborn of the new creation; the risen Christ. What she saw was striking. Jesus’s body was like, and not like our own. He said to the woman “don’t touch me” because he had not yet ascended. But, to Thomas, he said “touch me.” He walked on the road to Emmaus and no one recognized him; yet he bore the scares by which he can be identified. He moves in and out of locked rooms, appears and vanishes; and yet, he is sitting by a fire eating fish with his disciples.

See many people think the goal of creation is for everyone to go to heaven. The fact is however, that the goal is for heaven to come here to earth, and for their to be a union of the two. Jesus’s body existed in both the heavenly and earthly realm at the same time. The world that God’s people will inhabit will be world in which God’s dimension and our earthly dimension are one. [In that world we will judge angels Paul says, this is because they are merely spiritual beings, and we will be both heavenly and earthly.]

Conclusion: God is creating a new humanity. These new humans and they only will inhabit God’s new world. Jesus is the first new human; and he has given us the Spirit of the age to come and so connected us to the source of this resurrection life. We are called now to live out the new humanity, the new ethics of the age to come. Why should I not have lustful thoughts in my mind? Because, God is creating in me a new humanity, a new way of being human, and by his Spirit, I am to be an agent of renewal in this world; living out now, the way of life that will characterize the world to come. God is at work recreating the world, and I am to be the sort of human that will inhabit this new world; indeed, the church is God’s agent within which God will bring this renewal. If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION. We are the new temples. We are the place where God will deal with the sins of the world, we are the carriers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone contains the renewing power necessary to accomplish God’s purpose. We alone are the place where God’s presence flows into the world. If God’s will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven it will be through the New Temple: the Body of Christ: The Spirit filled Church who proclaims and embodies the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, open commensality, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple: all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Jesus came to Jerusalem the place was, so to speak, NOT big enough for both him and the Temple together. The claim which had been central to his work in Galilee was that Israel’s god was now active, through him, to confront evil and so to bring about the real return from exile, the restoration for which Israel had longed; and that Israel’s god himself was now returning to Zion in judgment and mercy. The house built on sand, however—the present Temple and all that went with it, and all the hopes of national security which clustered, as in Jeremiah’s day, around it—would fall with a great crash. And on the other side: New Creation would come walking out, leaving behind an empty tomb, and so inaugurating a new people, who by His Spirit, God will reconcile peoples from all nations to himself, and finally raise us all with resurrection bodies in the new heavens and earth. The question for us: will we live out the new humanity that has been redefined around Jesus?

The story of Israel: RETOLD
The people of God: REDEFINED
The Presence of God in the world: REINTERPRETED
The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the restoration of all of creation.

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