Have you noticed that, every so often, a construction project captures the attention of a whole nation? In 1988 a 31 mile tunnel was bored under the sea to link England and France. It took 6 years to complete. In 1930 The Empire State building rose above the Manhattan skyline.
Bridges, dams, towers, palaces and seats of power create a sense of wonder as they emerge into the national consciousness adding kudos to the corporate psyche.
Nineteen years before the birth of Christ there was such a project. Although its initial centre was completed in the 7 years it was not fully constructed until 83 years after commencement.
A massive structure, it became known as Herod’s Temple and was the pride and joy of the entire Jewish nation, indeed of Jews everywhere.
Although it was a focal point of the Jewish faith it was not built to the glory of God, it was a project that the unpopular King Herod wanted to use to win favour with his people. Nevertheless he was the prime mover behind this massive structure. Architects were brought in from Rome, Greece and Egypt and thousands of priests became builders in order to work on it.
If you were to visit it then, you would have experienced it as a building with various layers and sections. The outer layer was called the court of the Gentiles and anyone could go into this large space. If you were Jewish you could go further into the next area nicknamed the court of women, not because it was for women only but because that’s as far as a woman can go.
Next were the areas of sacrifice, then places where men and priests could go and, further in, a holy place, then the holiest place behind a huge curtain where only the high priest could go once a year.
So it was a place of segregation, of defined areas, of exclusion zones, barriers, curtains and separations.
Move north and you will find another construction project taking place. One described by Luke as “growing in stature and wisdom”. It was a 33 year project not an 83 year one and it took shape within the 83 year time span of the temple.
By the time the young man Jesus arrived at the court of the gentiles it was full of traders, animals, money changers and racqueteers. So furious was he at what he saw that he systematically cleared the vast area in this national icon of a building. When challenged as to his authority to do this he gave a statement which was over 30 years in the making. “destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days”.
The listeners were again astonished because this national treasure was already 40 years under construction with plenty more finishing projects to go.
Jesus, however, was talking about a different construction project. He was speaking about his body. In this one sentence he deliberately chooses to describe his own body or life as a “temple”.
You can begin to feel the provocation if you imagine him say “destroy this palace”, “destroy this seat of power, “destroy the Empire State Building and I will rebuild it in 3 days”. His words caused the listeners to react very strongly to his approach.
To understand why the Son of Man chose this phrase I invite you to think back to the temple I have described.
It had layers. It had national barriers, gender barriers, priestly barriers, curtains and areas of sacrifice. Right at its heart was an exclusive once-a-year area.
Jesus, however, had been constructing a different type of temple for over 30 years. This temple of his body contained an inner architecture where there was no segregation nor exclusion zones. It contained different definitions of male and female, priest and people. It had, at its heart, a place of sacrifice which was of a different order to the animal offerings of the day. Built by a King, not to bribe people, but to rescue them, it was constructed, not to self glory, but to the Glory of God.
This was his body. This was his inner architecture. This was something completely different. We will look around his inner temple next time. I leave you with one question for this working week.
Which temple does your body most resemble, that of Herod or that of Jesus? Have a look around and see what you find.
Luke 2: 50 – 52
50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
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.
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