Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it. 2:13-22


In his account of Jesus' cleansing of the temple, John seeks to teach that Jesus fulfills all that the temple stands for. He is the living temple of God and we may come into the presence of the living God through the resurrected Jesus.

The passage

v13. A devout Jew is to "appear before Jehovah" at the feast of Passover to commemorate the salvation of the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. John records three visits to the temple by Jesus, this being the first.

v14. In one of the outer courts, probably the court of the Gentiles, sacrificial animals were on sale and money changes exchanged foreign coinage into Tyrian coinage, at a fee of course. Only Tyrian coinage was permitted for use in the temple offertory and this because it was of superfine quality.

v15-16. Making a whip out of strong reeds, Jesus set about driving the traders out of the temple precincts. Unlike Mark, where the traders are described as a "den of robbers" (thieves), the issue here is over their trading in "my Father's house" - it's not a shop.

v17. Quoting Psalm 69:9, albeit with a change of tense, the disciples recognize in Jesus' behavior messianic qualities - a passion to honor, even at personal risk, the dwelling place of the divine.

v18. The Jewish authorities are most likely aware that a market in the temple precincts is anything but proper and that Jesus' denouncing of the practice has messianic overtones, cf., Zech.14:21. Yet, if Jesus is the messiah, possessing the authority to perform such an act, the authorities want a significant miracle to conform his authority and thus, his messianic credentials.

v19. Jesus offers a sign, but to his hearers it is a dark saying, and fairly dark to us as well. It is probably an example of New Testament short-talk; "if you continue on your present path, you will bring about the destruction of this temple." Jesus' word's were realized in 70AD. As for the raising up of a new temple, it is Jesus himself. The fact is that the deity no longer dwells in the temple, but rather in Jesus. The sanctuary at Jerusalem will be destroyed, but a new sanctuary exists in the risen Christ.

v20. The authorities miss the point altogether and assert that it is now some 46 years since the reconstruction of the temple by Herod the Great and they are not inclined to pull it down to see if Jesus can rebuild it in three days.

v21. John now explains the meaning of Jesus' mysterious saying. The reconstructed temple that Jesus is speaking about is his body, a building "not made by man", Mk.14:58.

v22. Only after the resurrection and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (cf. 14:26), were the disciples able to understand the meaning of Jesus' mysterious words. It was only then that they "believed" his words and the scripture that they rested on.

The house of the Lord

"Zeal for your house will consume me."

There is an interesting pseudo scientific theory floating around that inanimate objects, such as stone, can absorb, or better, record significant events that are played out beside them. The theory is used to explain ghosts. A haunted house has simply recorded some horrific event in the past and replays it when triggered by a particular set of environmental factors. It's true isn't it, that some houses we enter give us a warm sensation, a happy feeling, while others leave us with a chill up the spine?

Church buildings are often warm and comforting. Maybe they have absorbed something of the wonder and beauty of all that is played out in them Sunday by Sunday. Maybe it's just that the building triggers special memories, a christening, a dedication, a marriage, even the farewell. Of course, it's common to speak of the church as the sanctuary of the Lord, his dwelling place, his shrine, temple. If that were so, there would certainly be a special buzz in the building, but of course, God's dwelling place is in a building not made by hands.

Jesus knew well that the Shekinah glory, the radiant presence of God, once resided in the Jerusalem temple. Even the memory of this fact fired his zeal to cast the traders out of the temple precincts, yet the temple's destruction was still inevitable. The "Father's house", the temple, is now a building not made by hands. The divine resides in another sanctuary, the very person of Christ. Yet, as the stones of the temple mount must face destruction, so also will Christ face destruction. Zeal for the divine sanctuary will take Christ to the cross, but unlike the temple of stone, Christ will rise again within three days. That day is now, the day "when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth"

So, Jesus is for us God's temple, and we can come into his presence anywhere and at anytime. But what about our church building? Is there nothing special about it? When two or three gather in worship in adoration to our risen Lord, an amazing miracle is enacted. The presence of the divine, in and through the risen Lord, is realized in the midst of his people. At that moment, the Lord's new sanctuary is in the midst of the gathered body of Christ, and the divine presence is made manifest in word and sign, made manifest in the gospel proclaimed and in the sacraments enacted.

So, although our church building is not the Lord's Sanctuary, it houses that sanctuary, Sunday by Sunday, and so it is for us a special place.


1. Is it important to maintain our church buildings, and if so, why? If not, why not?

2. With the tendency to centralize Christian worship, many of our small branch-church buildings are being sold off to serve as private homes. What do you think about this trend?

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