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Jesus is the New and Better Temple

Jesus is the New and Better TempleNext Sunday we are celebrating Palm Sunday and will study together the events surrounding the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. I've been thinking this week about His intentionality as He approached the holy city. He deliberately set his face toward Jerusalem knowing He would die there. In fact, there are hints the disciples understood the incredible danger Jesus was putting himself in as they journeyed toward Bethany near Jerusalem in the weeks leading up to crucifixion. Jesus was a marked man at this time. The religious and political leaders in power had already begun to plot how they would kill him. It was Thomas who voiced what all the disciples must have been thinking as Jesus announced they were traveling to Bethany:

So Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we might die with him." (John 11:16)And yet Jesus was not just going to Jerusalem as a stop along the way. He seems to have a specific objective that centers on the temple. His purpose there is revealed in the text we will be studying this Sunday.

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.“It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. (John 19:45-48)
What are we to make of the fact that Jesus intentionally went to the temple and began stirring things up at a time when people were seeking him out to kill him? Wouldn't it have made more sense for Jesus to lay low and stay out of the way until the controversy surrounding him died down and the danger had past? Did Jesus have a death wish? Was Jesus going to Jerusalem just so He could be crucified or was there a deeper meaning to his journey there?

I think the answer is that Jesus is making the point to us that the meaning of the temple finds fulfillment in His redemptive work. Notice that Jesus moves into the temple courts and starts rearranging the furniture.

He is proclaiming His authority over the place.

Remember that He had done it once before at the beginning of His ministry in John 2. In that event He told the onlookers "Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it again." (John 2:19) This statement is a direct foreshadowing of his death and resurrection and a direct correlation of that event fulfilling the meaning of temple.

The work of Jesus fulfills the temple in the following ways:

1. The temple embodies the presence of God. John 1:14 tells us that in Jesus we have "God's dwelling" among us. The literal translation of dwelling is "tabernacle". God's incarnation has now come to us in full fruition with the coming of Jesus. As long as the tabernacle stood, it was reminder that the messiah had not yet come.

2. Through Christ and His work, a new temple is being built up in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

3. The temple was constructed in a way to keep people out. But now because of the work of Christ, all people are invited in, and those who call upon His name are "grafted in". (Eph 2:15,19)

4. We were once separated from God by our sin, but now in Christ the curtain has been torn in two and a new and living way has opened up to us. (Hebrews 10:19-20)

5. Jesus is the fulfillment of the vision of Ezekiel who saw a new spiritual temple out of which rivers of living water would flow. (Ezekiel 47:1; John 7:37-38)

So when we think of Jesus trip to Jerusalem and His subsequent visit to the temple in light of what we now know about His redemptive work within the context of hundreds of years of sacrifices at the temple; and we see now that all of that pointed to the day when the unblemished Lamb of God would be slain and the temple work would be fulfilled, it becomes more clear to us now that Jesus was making a very specific and important statement by walking into Jerusalem and going straight to the temple.

Jesus was not just throwing a temper tantrum. He was making the point that He is the new and better temple!

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