In 1995, I had saved up some funds from my meagre job and had planned to go to France with a high school friend to watch the US or England play in the World Cup. My friend jilted me… and he was the one who was to get the tickets!
I decided to go to France none-the-less, but before the Cup. It was incredibly awesome. One of my favorites was Notre-Dame. It is a massive structure, beautiful, and it’s full of history. Yet it is crumbling down…and fast. There has been a request for $119 million dollars to save it—a real fixer-upper.
Stone may last many millennia, but the building those stones create only lasts as long as the materials holding the stones in place.
Today we’re going to look at another fixer-upper dedicated to God: The Temple. It, too, was in the process of being rebuilt, nearly finished. The Temple was located in Jerusalem. It was the center of Judaism. Why was it the center? Because the Temple, specifically a highly-restricted area within it called the Holy of Holies, was were God dwelled.
The Temple was where every faithful Jew came to worship God—through sacrifice, tax, and learning. The Scriptures were taught at the Temple. The required Temple tax of every male 20-years-old or more was collected there—and it had to be Tyrian coinage. There was always sacrificial worship going on at the Temple, too. And there was no more important holy time than the Passover Feast. Jews from all over the world would come to offer their annual sacrifice.
People traveling from all over the Empire could not easily bring a lamb along with them. So, they would buy the sacrificial lamb in Jerusalem. These same pilgrims also had different coins from different places. In Jerusalem, they could exchange their coins for the Temple-approved coins.
That is the background for today: Jesus is coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. At the Temple he encounters the animal dealers and money exchangers.
What was wrong with the Temple? The Temple, itself, has nothing wrong with it. The Temple was the settled location of the Tabernacle (the Tabernacle followed the Glory of the Lord). But we have to keep in mind that the Tabernacle and the Temple are imperfect copies of the Heavenly Tabernacle (Temple was destroyed twice).
What was the problem, then? The problem was with two groups of people. The first group are the exchangers and sellers. In John, their activities are not listed as evil (the second time Jesus does this, the other Gospels call them robbers). They seem to provide a needed service. The problem is that they are located in the wrong place. Instead of a consecrated space given to prayer and worship, there is the commotion of business. They are in the wrong place and it is sacrilege.
But the business people did not have the authority and power to just set up shop in the Temple. The Levites and Priests had that authority, though. When Jesus chases the traders out, he is confronted by ‘the Jews.’ They ask for a sign to prove his authority (they must have sensed he was a prophet). They never questioned whether they were wrong in their authority to allow traders into the Temple.
Jesus is brilliant in his response! He gives them their sign—well, he offers to give them their sign. “Tear this Temple down and I will rebuild it in three days.” That’s a fixer-upper! The corrupt leadership thinks Jesus is a kook. John says Jesus’ answer even stumped the disciples—they didn’t get it until the Holy Spirit helped them get it.
Ah, but Jesus response is right. They will tear down the Temple of God and Jesus will be raised again in three days time. What has just happened? Where is the Temple of God? Who is the Temple of God? John 14… “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Where does God dwell? In Jesus.
Here, I want to pivot to another temple fixer-upper: us. Hear what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say: 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” And through Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
How awesome is that?! We are God’s Temple…God has seen fit to dwell in us! Talk about a distinction between the right and wrong side of the tracks! When God sets up residence in us, our life will be changed.
Friends, Jesus had a great love for the Temple in Jerusalem—he had a zeal for what it was meant to be. He still has that love and zeal, for you and for us. And at times there are things that may not be good or bad in and of themselves, but when they interfere with God’s Temple, they’ve got to go, they’ve got to know their place. And that goes not just for us, as individuals, but us as a congregation and a Yearly Meeting, too.
I want to tie one more connection into all of this. Just as the Earthly Temple is a reflection of the Heavenly Temple, just as Jesus’ Earthly body was raised to his Eternal body, so are our bodies, minds, and spirits being built into eternal ones. If we believe, if we follow, we are God’s fixer-uppers.
The last part of this section a difference between those followers who truly believe in Jesus and those who only claim to believe, between those he gives himself to and those he does not trust. Our friend Nicodemus will help us to understand the difference next week.
Query: How have you invested in relationship with Jesus (attitude, actions, etc.)?
- The Temple was in Jerusalem and was the most important place in Judaism. It was important because the Temple was where God dwelled…God’s House.
- All Jews came to worship at the Temple from all over the world. They worshiped through sacrifice, taxes, and learning.
- The money exchangers and animal dealers were there primarily to serve those who traveled great distances and didn’t have the required coinage.
- The Temple had nothing wrong with it. The Temple was a Earthly copy of the Heavenly Temple.
- The business traders were wrong because they were in the wrong place to do business. God’s Dwelling is a place of worship, not commerce.
- The leaders were wrong because they allowed the business to happen and when confronted by Jesus, they never thought to reflect on whether they were in the right—they focused only authority.
- Jesus does offer them a sign but they couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. But, actually, they did tear down the temple Jesus was referring to. And that same temple was actually raised after three days.
- The remaining fixer-upper is us! 1 Corinthians 3:16 “We are God’s Temple.” 1 Peter 2:4-5 “We are being built into a spiritual house.”
- Jesus still has a love and zeal for God’s House, you! And there may be times that he gets to cleaning house when inappropriate things/practices worm their way into his home—don’t challenge his authority like those in this episode did.
- Just as Jesus’ Temple was destroyed and raised so he has promised us that we, his Temple, will be raised after it is destroyed.