John 2:13-22

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series

September 9, 2018



We’ll be turning to the continuation of our verse by verse study through John. And we arrived this morning at John chapter two, verse 13. The passage that we’ll be considering this morning is commonly known as the passage in which Jesus cleanses the temple. And I’m really looking forward to this time together this morning.

Let’s pray together.

Our Father, we are, first of all, thankful that you are and that you speak and that you save and that you teach. This morning, we are thankful that, as you are, and as you have spoken, you’ve given us your word. And as you redeem and save and teach, you reveal all things in your word. Father, we pray to be not only knowers of the word but doers of the word. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

As we’re following in the Gospel of John, we come this morning to John chapter two beginning in verse 13. As a boy raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by Christian parents who had me in a Christian church, I was in every dimension of church activity a child could conceivably be involved in. And that, of course, meant Sunday school. And back when I was a boy, it also meant the equivalent of Sunday school at night called training union. And then there was vacation Bible school. And as I tell people, I grew up in a Southern town, in a Baptist family in the 1960s, which meant that you did not merely attend your church’s vacation Bible school; you attended every church’s vacation Bible school. And so by the time you reached a junior high, you were quite Bible-schooled.

But some of you will remember the numbers of those who are included in these memories (I recognize will recede year by year). But some of you will remember the art that the Baptist Sunday school board used to provide for children’s Sunday school. These were color pictures, about 16 by 20, that were done by an enormous team of illustrators for the Sunday school board. This was a very important role. And actually those who are interested in American art look to the biblical representations of these stories and to what’s called Protestant Sunday school art as a particular genre of realism in art in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the 20th century, of course, you have full color plates. And so it was in living color that we saw these pictures of biblical themes, and most of them were quite Pacific. They were quite calm and quiet peaceful.
But the picture that I can remember, and this tells you something about the power of memory, I can remember the picture of Jesus cleansing the temple, and what stood out to us as children, preschoolers, and then school-aged children was, this was a scene you could only describe as violent.

There’s no other way around it. The Protestant reduction of Jesus to the sweet Jesus system, cinnamon tablets, doesn’t fit this biblical passage. This biblical passage is … Well it’s more Clint Eastwood in one sense than what you see from other respects and other biblical accounts and other art representing those biblical accounts. Now that doesn’t mean that those artistic representations were entirely helpful, but it does mean that even those who had to depict this passage in art understood this was going to be a different kind of picture than Jesus calmly teaching in Galilee. Or Jesus saying, “Let the little children come unto me.” It’s a different picture.

We look to the text of Scripture in order to remind ourselves of the texts and to read it word by word and line by line, beginning in verse 13. “The Passover of the Jews was at hand and Jesus went up to Jerusalem and the temple. He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away, do not make my father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ 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.”

Now this is where Christians have often failed to recognize something that every first-century Christian, either Jew or Gentile, could not fail to recognize. I’m just going to assume that most of us in this room would be classified as Gentiles rather than as Jews, and thus, there is a huge question for us that we often don’t ask, but we have to ask it in this passage. Over the course of the past several years, I’ve taught many of you in this room, verse by verse and word by word, through Genesis and Exodus for, not weeks or months, but years. Why would Gentiles spend so much time studying the books of the Jews? That’s their story. Is it our story?

Of course, this raises a host of issues, but think of it this way: we don’t understand what’s going on in this passage unless we understand the centrality of the temple to Judaism, and the fact that we are not a part of that picture as Gentiles. This is a much bigger issue than most Christians tend to think about.

Recently, there was a controversy within evangelicalism (to which I responded) in which a prominent preacher has suggested we need to unhitch the church from the Old Testament. And I sought to identify the massive errors in that statement or in that argument. But why? Well, first of all, because Jesus represented, interpreted and taught about who he was entirely in terms of continuity of the Old Testament, that the pattern is, promised and fulfillment. We put “Old” and “New” because there is an old and a new, but Jesus made very clear that the church that he was establishing would be established upon a continuity between Israel and his church, a continuity between the old covenant (and covenants) and the new. And the New Testament tells us how we are to interpret all of this. First of all, in the words of Jesus himself, who teaches us by his own references to himself and to his work by Old Testament reference. And he helps us to understand by going all the way back to Abraham. I think of the ram hidden in the thicket and then follow through the entire sacrificial system and through the prophets. And Jesus clearly identifies himself as the one who was promised. Matthew makes this point in his Gospel by saying. “These things occurred in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” The apostle Paul gives us the example of how to make Christian gospel arguments in 1 Corinthians 15, when he said for, “I delivered unto you what I also received as a first importance, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures and that God raised him from the dead according to the Scriptures.” And when Paul was using that phrase, “according to the Scriptures,” in 1 Corinthians 15, he was speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures. And of course we have the entire New Testament presentation of what it means for us to be included as Gentiles right down to the fact that the wall of hostility has been removed.

The temple of which we are reading in John chapter two is the temple in Jerusalem known as the second temple in Judaism of this era and thus second temple Judaism. We would be allowed only into the court of the Gentiles, the outermost court. It’s really outside the temple, but it’s part of the temple mount. And we would be allowed there. We would be allowed no further if as Gentiles, we will be allowed to get close to the temple proper, but we’re not included. We’re not inside. We’re included now. By God’s grace, we’re included now, because everything that went on in this temple reached its fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The rending of the veil in the temple was the end of the entire cult, the entire practice, the entire faithful act of Judaism in the sacrifice of animals. It all came to an end and its fulfillment in the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. But that hasn’t happened yet, but it’s happening in the near horizon. And the action that takes place this day takes place in the court of the Gentiles.

The text begins by telling us that it was during the Passover. The Passover of the Jews was at hand in the Gospel of John. As you follow the cycle of the Gospel, there are three different Passovers that are mentioned. There’s the Passover in general, which all Jews would have understood, but there are three specific annual observances. The Passover that occurred in John’s Gospel, the Passover of the Jews, was at hand and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, what does that tell us? Well, it tells us that Jesus was, as it is consistently demonstrated throughout the Gospels, living as a faithful Jew in obedience to the law. Now, again, that’s important for our salvation because both in his active and in his passive obedience, Christ perfectly fulfilled the law in all its respects.

It’s important for us to notice this. This is an act of faithfulness on Jesus’s part. As a son of Israel, he is doing exactly what he should do in going to the temple. So he goes to the temple. It’s up, given the temple mount to Jerusalem in the temple. “He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and the money-changers sitting there.” Now let’s just ask a question, because the general impression that I gained as a child was that these people were engaged in illicit activity, predatory business practices. That’s not the main offense that we should see here. There are two basic forms of business that are going on here in the court of the Gentiles. One was the selling of animals for sacrifice. Now you have to understand that this was a matter of some convenience and sometimes necessity. You would travel the requirement to go to the temple. And of course there are different sacrifices to be made. According to the Old Testament, if you’re a husband and a wife with children, and one of those children is a boy, then you have a presentation at the temple. You have a sacrifice to be made. You have annual sacrifices to be made. You have the Passover. That’s a lot of animals to carry all over Israel and Judea.

So it was a matter of convenience, sometimes a matter of necessity. If you would need an animal for the proper animal for sacrifice, you need to buy it somewhere. And so it’s really not a surprise that there were those who came close to the temple right into the quarter of the Gentiles in order to make those sales possible.

There’s one another business going on here, and that’s money changing. That’s changing into the currency necessary for the temple contracts. These were the money changers. That too was not only generally a matter of convenience, but something of necessity. So what’s the problem here? This is not really illicit business. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that they had filled the court of the Gentiles. Jesus will elsewhere say, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer.” This is where the Gentiles should be allowed to come in order to pray. And you have to realize what this means. What would it mean that a Gentile would show up in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, in Jerusalem? What does that mean? It means that the Gentile knows that the God of Israel, he is God. And so this is a Gentile getting as close as a Gentile can get to the worship of the One he knows as the true and living God. But he is the God of the Jews, and the sacrifice and atonement being made inside that temple is not for him. It’s not for us. It’s for the Jews.

That’s the shocking realization. I think that does not come to most Christians. I think most Christians reading a passage like this don’t pause to think for a minute that we’re out of this picture. We’re completely out of this picture. We’re those waiting somewhere trying to get into the court of the Gentiles. We can’t get into the court of Gentiles because of the money changers and the sellers of animals. Even if we got into the court of the Gentiles, that’s as far as we can go. This is not about us. Of course it is about us, but that’s the very point. We only know it is about us because Jesus is there. That’s the only way we know that this is about us, because otherwise this wouldn’t be about us at all. And the sacrifices that are going on inside the temple, that sacrificial system that goes on over and over and over and over again, that sacrificial system is about an atonement being made for sins, but not ours. We’re out of the picture. But here we are only in the second chapter of the Gospel, that is, the Christian Good news of John. And we’re being told of Jesus cleansing the temple.

Have you ever thought about the fact that if this temple still existed and if Jesus hadn’t come, we’d be in the very same predicament right now? Atonement would be being made for sin, but not ours.

The animal sacrifices would continue there in the temple. Even the temple, described here, if it were to exist right now, those sacrifices would be going on. And if Jesus had not come, we would just not be included. Part of this is physicality, isn’t it? Because the sacrificial system, as God made very clear in the Scripture, requires a place. The sacrifices were to take place in one place in this place, in the holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place inside the temple. When we were studying word by word through Exodus, we saw the tabernacle and how it was established by God in order to create a tent in which he would meet with Israel. And there the sacrifices took place on that bronze altar. And that was a picture of what would happen in the temple, but in the temple itself, there’s now a permanent place, a most holy place where the sacrifices are made. In the case of the Most Holy Place, it’s on the day of atonement. And otherwise in other places in the temple, the sacrifices are being made in order that sins might be forgiven. But not ours. The place is very important. The responsibilities here of the sacrificial system meant that only a relatively small fraction, a tiny fraction of humanity, can be included in this.

Anyway, there’s an astounding kind of realization. If you’re dealing with a spot one place Jerusalem, you’re dealing with one temple on one mount, and you’re talking about one cycle of annual sacrifices. And if you’re talking about all the necessity of coming to Jerusalem, and the responsibility of, for instance, as you saw with Jesus, when you have a firstborn son, you go to make a particular sacrifice. That cannot be the world’s population. That there can be only a relatively limited number of people in the world has to be a small, shall we say, national or tribal identity. It’s just Israel.

The Lord says, “I didn’t choose you because you’re the most numerous of all the peoples of the earth but because you’re not.” This is like what we read in 1 Corinthians 1 where God says, “I chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” Israel was not chosen because it was the mega power, the one true and only superpower of the age. No one would have considered Israel such. That was God’s purpose. That was his point. But the point I want us to think about is that when you’re looking at the temple, it includes only a very few of all the world’s population. Only a very few. And they’re identified by the fact that they are Jews, and their fulfillment of their responsibility is physical and having to get to the temple in order to fulfill this responsibility. This is really radically different than most of us think about.

The New York Times just a few days ago ran an article on the overwhelmingly daunting math of Islam. This shows you how big things go on in the world that we don’t think about. Usually in Mecca was the annual observance of the Hajj, one of the seven pillars of Islam where faithful Muslims are to go and make the pilgrimage to Mecca. At one point last week, there were 1.7 million Muslims there in Mecca and a total of maybe 3.3 million who would be there in the course of the time. About a quarter are just from Saudi Arabia with others coming from all parts of the earth. But it is considered to be as one of the seven pillars of Islam a responsibility, a sacred responsibility, to make this pilgrimage. This is what faithfulness depends upon according to Islamic theology and according to the Koran. What’s the problem? Math. That’s the problem.

So it is the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the house of Saud, that claims and has been recognized as having stewardship of the two holy sites of Mecca and Medina for quite a long time now. They’re daunted by the math. Here’s the New York times description of the math: “But even at a rate of 3 million people per Hajj, it would be impossible for all the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims to perform the Islamic duty of the pilgrimage in their lifetimes. In fact, for all the Muslims who are alive today to perform Hajj, it would take at least 581 years.”

I found that really interesting. 581 years, just for all of the Muslims living today, to make the Hajj. Now that’s just Islam. That’s the Hajj. Let’s take it back to Israel. Not that many people can be involved in this temple worship. That’s the math. That’s the math of the temple. You cannot include very many people in this. We’re out …except for Jesus. And this is Jesus in the Gospel of John, in his public ministry, showing up at the temple. How does he appear in the temple?

“He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’”

This is what we remember. Jesus cleanses the temple. “Cleansing” is an interesting word there. Jesus is saying, “Get out of here, take your pigeons and go.” There’s a cleansing to its purpose, which was the main concern of Jesus. The main concern of Jesus was not that someone was selling these things that had been going on for as long as anyone could remember. It was a matter of convenience, sometimes a matter of necessity. But what had happened is that it had moved inside of the temple precincts. And this business had now moved inside, crowding out the Gentiles from the court of the Gentiles. It was turning the house of God into a house of trade, not into a house of prayer.

Imagine you’re a first-century Jewish man, and you see what has happened here. You are filled with outrage because you know what the court of the Gentiles is for you. You know it is to be a place of prayer. You know it’s a sign of God’s intention for what is happening inside the temple to be beyond Israel. It’s because the court of the Gentiles is a sign of the promise that God gave to Abraham. “And you, and in your seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” So the court of the Gentiles is a sign that God has a saving purpose that is actually beyond Israel and what is taking place inside that temple right now. There’s a promise that something bigger is promised.

So you’re a first century Jewish man, and you’re filled with umbrage, but hey, you’re just a man.The temple is not your authority. You go there, but you’re not in charge there. It is an entire structure of Jewish authority that is in charge. And by the time you get to this passage in this period of second temple Judaism, you’ve got an entire authority structure of priests and, of course, organized into the Sanhedrin as a ruling council.

So if you’re outraged, what would you do for redress of grievances? Well, you’d have to go to the priest, you’d have to go to the Sanhedrin and I guess try to make your best argument. That’s what Jesus doesn’t do. Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead, he forms a whip of cords and he starts driving them out. And then he refers to the temple in a way we must not miss: “Take these things away. Do not make my father’s house a house of trade.”

The act itself certainly catches our attention. And that’s one of the problems with the way we might read this passage is that we would look at the action because the action is really dramatic. Going back, even to those Sunday school paintings, this act generally is dramatic. This is a violent scene. This is not Jesus saying, “You know, guys, I think this is not the proper use of the court of Gentiles. I’d really like to suggest you move your business outside.” No, this is outrage. This is an act of violent outrage. This is not the Jesus of liberal Protestantism who is always sweet. This is not the Jesus of reductionistic Christian sentimentality. This is the Jesus who is the outraged Son of the holy father. “This is the father’s house, my father’s house. And it is being abused.” He goes back. He goes back to the founding purpose of the temple. “This is not its purpose.” And he drives them out.

And the violence is not hidden in the passage. “He found those who are selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and the money changers sitting there, and making a whip of cords he drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen.” Wouldn’t you like to see that? I’ll admit I would. I would. I would like to have been there. Jesus, using a whip of cords to drive out.
This is one man, one whip. But look at all that He accomplished. He drove them all out. And not only that, he drove the animals out. Biblical commentators, by the way, are divided over trying to make the argument that the whip was simply intended for the animals, or the whip was intended for all. I’ll just say it appears to be rather indiscriminate. It appears to have been a quite effective instrument of divine wrath.

And then just to make the point about the money, he pours it all out. Now this has got to be one of those dramatic scenes you just imagine because those who love money, love money. And we know that one of the greatest temptations that falls to humanity is to love money. And the one thing we can’t stand is to see money wasted or just cast about. Especially when the coinage then was the value itself. And there it goes.

“He overturned their tables….” Something else you have to keep in mind is that what Jesus is doing here would not necessarily have been understood, even the way we’re describing it here, by those who observed it. We’re reading John chapter 2, verses 13ff. So we’re following in a sequence, and we know who Jesus is as Jesus enters the temple precincts and the court of the Gentiles and does this. But let’s just imagine you are merely an observer, and you see this man go in, make a whip of cords, and then create absolute mayhem.

The thing to keep in mind is this was what was going on there authorized by those inside the temple. This was authorized by those who were performing the sacrifices. This is authorized by those who were the rulers of Israel. And so this is not only just the scene of one man entering into the picture and creating a whip and overturning tables and chasing both the people of business and their animals out and turning over the money. This appears to be a solitary act by an unauthorized agent. That’s the point isn’t it? This could only be authorized and could only be right if the one who is here is an infinitely higher authority than the ones who were inside the temple.

It is he who can use the first person possessive singular speaking of the father. “My Father’s house….” This is one of those astounding revelations where all of a sudden you realize he is either mad, insane, or he is the Son of God.
The options are so few. We’re only a few verses into the second chapter of John and you’re going to have to decide who this is. Is this an unauthorized interloper? Is this a lone religious zealot? He would be claiming heresy, blasphemy, if he speaks of God in this way. And he would not be the Son of God.

This becomes really, really, really important in what follows, because here you see the insanity of people who are trying to figure this out. And here’s the real insanity: it’s missing what this means. Missing what is taking place here. Who missed it and who got it? Well, let’s look at the passage. In verse 17, we read, “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” Wait just a minute. Who’s “me”? Who’s “me” here? Well, this is Psalm 69:9. “For zeal for your house has consumed me,” writes David. “And the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. Zeal for your house has consumed me.” This is David. So when the disciples remember that the scripture said “zeal for your house shall consume me,” they remembered that statement from David in the Psalms. And they realized this is what’s happening before our eyes.
What is the connection with David? Messiah. The one who is promised, who would come, who would reign on David’s throne. You realize what’s taking place here? It is as if the disciples recognized, “Oh, I get it now. If David were here in the flesh, he would do this.” Isn’t that interesting? If King David were here and he saw this mess, King David would know what to do. He’d do something like creating a whip out of cords and chasing all these people away because zeal for the father’s house has consumed him.

By the way, when did the disciples remember this? This is interesting. John doesn’t specify when the disciples remembered. Did they remember it right then? Maybe they remembered it right then that would be nice. That would be good if the disciples remembered it right then. But John doesn’t tell us they remembered it right then, only that they remembered it. And this is just a good affirmation to us that it took the disciples a while to figure these things out.

But isn’t it also an encouragement that in figuring them out, they figured them out from the scriptures? And by the way, this whole idea about unhitching the Bible from the old Testament, had the disciples done that, they wouldn’t have even known to make the connection between David and Jesus, between David and David’s successor, Messiah, anointed one, Christ.
Well, it gets even more interesting. The scene shifts just a bit in verse 19. Let’s actually look beginning of verse 18. “So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’” Let’s just stop there for a moment. The four Gospels together, present human beings asking some of the most stupid questions imaginable. And there’s something very reassuring about the fact that human stupid questions are so accurately represented.

And here’s the important part of the preceding verse. The disciples remembered Psalm 69:9. So when they remembered Psalm 69:9, and they saw what had just happened, they made the connection. We don’t know exactly when they made the connection. It might’ve been right, then it might’ve been later, but they made the connection. “Zeal for the father’s house has consumed him.” Okay. The Jewish authority, because that’s what it means here when it says the Jews, the Jewish authorities clearly have not made that connection. The connection that the disciples made, they have not made. Hold that in mind. So what do they see?

Well, they don’t appear to be, first of all, offended by what happened. They appear to be offended by who did it. What sign do you give in order to validate what you just did? Over and over again in the Gospel of John, of course, as we have already seen as in the first sign that that Jesus gave, it was the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. That was a sign. What is a sign? It’s John’s word for miracle. It’s a better word than miracle for us. It’s a better word because sign is exactly what’s most important. The miraculous act, the supernatural act performed by Jesus, is in its essence and in substance a sign. That’s what it is. It is itself what cries out for attention and explanation and belief. That’s it. Because when it happens, you’re going to have to come up with some explanation for how it happens. And the only rational explanation is he did this because he is the very son of God. That’s the sign. Every single one of the signs points to the fact that no human being can do this, save the one who is Lord over creation. And who could be Lord over creation except the one who is the very son of God? Colossians, for instance, will make this exceedingly clear.

But the amazing thing that is repeated over and over again is just how often the sign will take place. And then the people who will come next come up and say, “What’s the sign that proves that sign?” Just think of the feeding of the 5,000, as we shall see when you get to John chapter five and John chapter six. And so what happens the day after? “What sign are you’re going to give us?” “Wait, I just fed yesterday 5,000 men and not numbered women and children. That’s the sign. And of course, in other places, it becomes clear that Jesus himself is just the sign.

But now they show up and they demand a sign. You got to love this. We’re only two chapters into John and already the great human experience is divided between those who saw what happened and remembered the scriptures, and those who saw what happened and demand a sign. Those are the two basic human responses. They’re they are. Notice what Jesus says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’” Now, this is shocking. It’s not perhaps shocking to us because we’re familiar with biblical language, but we need to unfamiliar ourselves as best we can for a moment and just thinking about what Jesus is saying. Because he doesn’t say, “I’m not going to give you a sign, you morons.” Instead, he says, “Okay, you asked for a sign. Well, here’s a sign. You destroy this temple and I will build it back in three days.” Well, that’s, that’s astounding. It’s astounding because this is the second great temple. Sometimes it’s called the Herodian temple. You’ll recall that the temple had been built by Solomon, but it was destroyed by invaders. And it has taken Israel generation after generation after generation to be able to have the political stability and the wealth to be able to rebuild this temple. And they did rebuild that temple. And as they remind us here in this passage, it took 46 years to build that temple. It takes a very long time to build a temple like this. And if you’ve been there, you would understand why, because it’s not just a little hut on the top of a hill. It’s this massive plaza, this massive court. You’ve got to build up the hill itself. You’ve got to make the way possible. You’ve got to level the ground for the perfect symmetry of the temple. It’s as if you’re dealing with hand tools and giant stones. It took 46 years. Jesus said, “okay, okay. You asked me for a sign. I’m going to give you a sign. You tear this temple down and I will build it back in three days.” In missing the point entirely, the Jews then said, “It’s taken 46 years to build this temple and you will raise it up in three days?” But verse 21 says, “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.”

Again, there’s more here than a fast reading of scripture would reveal. The Jews said it’s taken 46 years to build this temple. And you have to understand what this temple represented for Judaism. What did this temple represent? It represented the reestablishment of the cultists of the sacrificial system. It represented the reestablishment of the place where on the Holy of Holies, that most holy day, the priest, the high priest would enter into the most holy place with that blood that he took necessary for the forgiveness of sins and the atonement and the delay of God’s judgment and wrath for the entire nation of Israel. If that doesn’t happen, Israel bears the wrath of God. The idea of that temple being destroyed is the worst nightmare of the Jews in the first century. And of course it will be destroyed in AD 70. It’s a real threat. It’s the greatest threat to Israel. Israel’s greatest fear is that something will happen to this temple. That’s the greatest fear. And we can understand why in a sacrificial system, just read the logic of the Old Testament. If this temple isn’t here, it is not just a matter of the fact that we can’t go to church.

And so it’s a matter of the reality that our sins will remain upon us. And Jesus says, “Well, I’ll give you a sign. Tear this temple down, and I’ll build it back in three days.” The horror of this is beyond what we would read as Gentile Christians reading this. This is horror to those who heard Jesus speaking. And so when they speak back and say, “It’s taken 46 years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days,” it’s like panic, panic in the heart, even to envision this temple might be destroyed.

But then notice the turn. “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. You don’t pass that quickly. “The temple of his body”? So let’s put ourselves in the position of the disciples now in this passage. What sense does that make? You’ll notice that here John tells us helpfully, this is very helpful, that it was later. It was after the cross and the resurrection that they remembered that Jesus had said this. And then they understood it. Because they didn’t understand it when Jesus said it. They didn’t. They understood it later. Because what did it mean on this day when Jesus spoke of the temple of my body? Put yourself sympathetically in the place of the disciples for a moment, that had to be one of those things that you hear, and you say, “I’m going to have to think about that. I cannot comprehend it right now.”

We’re told that Mary, you’ll recall, pondered these things in her heart, even as the angel had spoken to her in Luke. We understand that isn’t that the way it is with us sometimes with scripture? Let’s just be honest. Sometimes we read a passage of scripture and we go, “I don’t understand that. It’s bigger. I can tell it’s bigger than what I’m getting. I’m going to have to work on this. I’m going to have to ponder this.” Jesus said, “Then he was speaking about the temple of his body.” But Jesus doesn’t explain that, John does. He was speaking about the temple of his body. What would happen in his body? Well, on that night he was betrayed in that Supper, he passed the bread and then he said, “This is my body broken for you.” And when he passed the cup, “This is the blood, my blood, which I will shed for the remission of sins.” He was saying, “This is the sacrifice. This is it. Everything the temple, everything the tabernacle, everything the Tent of Meeting had pointed to, all the covenants, all the promises, they’ve all been pointing to this. The act of atonement is not going to take place in the temple. The act of atonement is going to take place in my body, in the temple of my body. So Christ’s body is the temple of our atonement. It was in that body that our atonement was achieved. Full atonement for sin, full substitution. It was in his body that propitiation was accomplished.

Now, fast forward, just a moment to where we are told that our bodies are to be the temples of the Holy Spirit. So even as we are Christ’s because of the atonement accomplished in the temple of his body. O body is not a body of atonement. It’s a body of glory that redefines what it means to be redeemed humanity as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the one in whom the holy spirit is present.

His disciples remembered that he had said this “when therefore he was raised from the dead. And they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had spoken.” So that’s how we end. So what was the response of the disciples? When they connected the dots, they believed the scriptures. So that’s the model for us. This is what we do. Right now, we’re not with Jesus as he cleanses the temple. We’re not with Jesus as the disciples were after the crucifixion and resurrection, when they are looking back to when Jesus said this and they understand that’s what he was talking about. Here we are in 2018. But the question is, what is our proper response? And it is exactly the response the disciples gave here. “His disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

It’s only because Jesus, in his body, was the temple that accomplished salvation that explains how we are included in this at all. We are included as Gentiles who were far off, who’ve been now brought near, and our access was not gained by Jesus, merely that we could get into the Court of the Gentiles. But the act that took place in the Holy of Holies never did atone for our sins. It wasn’t that Jesus made it possible for us to get from the Holy of Holies into the court of Israel. It’s that in his body he accomplished full atonement in the temple, not in Jerusalem, this temple of stone, but in the temple of his body.

Let’s pray.

Our Father, we are just so thankful for every word you give us. And Father, we’re so thankful for this word, from the Gospel of John today. We pray that in the temple of our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit, we may glorify you as redeemed people. We believe the scriptures and everything Jesus has said. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.