Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
All these years I’ve been hearing, “If someone destroys this temple, in three days I will raise it up.”
In other words, everything the Temple of Jerusalem signified would be fully realized in Jesus himself. Jesus could foresee that the destruction of the temple by the Romans was inevitable; surely anyone in Jesus’ day whose vision was unclouded by denial could see that coming. Jesus could also see that there was something better to come.
Perhaps you heard Jesus accurately, challenging his co-religionists with an imperative, “Destroy this temple!” No wonder they’re upset! But how can you argue with this man? One minute, he’s driving money changers, sheep and oxen from the outer court of the temple, complaining that they’re cheapening the sanctuary. But those animals are needed for the sacrifices. And any disruptions in the temple, among the crowds for Passover–isn’t that just what Pilate needs to send in the troops?
Then his next argument is: Destroy this temple. Why is Jesus talking like this? Does he make any sense?
For all the times the Apostle’s faith is shaky, they don’t protest here; Jesus makes sense to them. For all the times the Apostles fail to make connections between Jesus and the Scriptures, now they recall the words of the Psalmist, Zeal for your house will consume me. How does Jesus make sense to them?
Do they understand that we so often intuit God abiding among us but we package the experience to control it? Did they only see, as many of their contemporaries did, that the temple had lost its credibility? Or did they recognize from their own lives, how often we construct what we feel would be beautiful only to learn how illusory it is? Perhaps they knew how we can lash ourselves to a promising potential, refusing to admit its need for redirection. Had they already learned that we must let go of even beautiful things to allow new and vital realities to emerge?
Is that what Jesus is proposing? A new start, as we saw in his baptism and testing in the desert; a vibrant potential, as revealed at his transfiguration. A new beginning. Not just Destroy this temple, but, in three days I will raise it up.