John 2:18-22, NIV

18 Then the Jews demanded of him [Jesus], "What miraculous
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 The Jews 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 words that Jesus had spoken.


 

November 30, 2010
After Jesus cleared out the temple courtyard, those in charge of
what went on at the temple wanted a sign (the other Gospel writers
called them miracles) to justify/prove his authority. Jesus mystified
them instead. Why didn't he speak plainly so people could
understand him? Or was it John who made his words sound so incomprehensible? We talk about Jesus' simplicity and his parables
that were so easy to understand--not really. At least not if we are
in a hurry and want to understand--perfectly--right now.

Sometimes I think the only way Jesus made any sense was to
look at him through the eyes of love. Love him first, understand
him later (like the disciples in verse 22). Does that mean faith
must come first, before love and understanding? Openness to an
unseen world, the realm of the spirit. Receptivity to the workings
of the Spirit and the love of God?

The Pharisees had a rock-hard attitude which the life-light of
God couldn't penetrate. Jesus didn't reason with them or debate
his authority. They asked for a sign and he gave them one
(if they could wait 3 years to see it). Those men who confronted
Jesus in the temple didn't want to believe in him anyway, so no
miracle would have satisfied them. His response was bold,
courageous, brief and to the point. It was also ridiculous if you
think about it. They weren't going to destroy their magnificent
temple which took 46 years to build just to see if Jesus could
rebuild it in 3 days!

It turns out Jesus wasn't even talking about the physical place
where they were all standing. Jesus was talking about his body!
It was a common characteristic of Jesus to speak on a higher level
of meaning while his hearers were listening on an earthly level.
If Jesus meant the actual temple it would take a construction crew
to rebuild it. But John said this temple meant Jesus' body and
rebuilding it was accomplished through his resurrection on the
third day after his crucifixion.

John ends this episode abruptly as though it was something
only the disciples could comprehend.

                                                                  More journal entries


June 23, 1982
As was typical throughout the Gospels, Jesus was using physical
objects to express spiritual truths. His listeners thought only of 
what they could see and touch and missed the symbolism of his
language. I always thought Jesus should do more explaining;
if people only understood, they would believe. But it's not true.
The use of cigarettes is a good example of the fact that people
can know something is harmful but still persist in their smoking
habit. Knowledge does not necessarily change behavior.

What is the evidence required for belief in God? How could these
protectors of the faith at the temple be convinced to accept Jesus
as God's man on earth, the one promised by the prophets? How
were the disciples persuaded? Nicodemus enters our story line
in the next chapter--at what point did he begin to believe and why?

When I decided to believe that "God is good and gives good gifts
to me because I am his beloved child", that was an act of faith
on my part, leading to new dimensions of hope, love and
understanding--also to repentance, change and newness of life.
It's something like the chicken and the egg: love leads to faith and
faith leads to love, which came first? I simply made a decision
to believe that these words of Jesus were spoken, not only to
people 2000 years ago, but to me, too.


December 1, 2010
They wanted proof! Was it a struggle for ownership and control?
How does anyone prove their right to authority. The most extreme
way is at the tip of a gun or the point of a knife. But that's not
what God uses to gain converts.
Jesus, where is the proof? Why
should we do what you say? The authorities 
at the temple certainly
didn't give Jesus permission to clear the merchants 
out of the
courtyard.

For some people God proves his authority in the rising or setting
of the sun, in the babble of a meadow stream or the majesty of
a great mountain. Like the patriarch Abraham in Genesis who
looked at the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach and was
satisfied that God would do what God promised to do.

Others need to see miracles of a different kind, as in answered
prayers or by surviving the odds. People who believe they
shouldn't still be alive, but they are. John Wesley, the founder
of the United Methodist Church, was snatched from a burning
house when he was a 5-year old. For the rest of his days he
acknowledged Jesus as the Word and Authority of his life.

What did these religious leaders think they were asking Jesus
to do. Surely something so great or dramatic that it would change
their thinking and direction in life forever. Wouldn't we all like to
see a sign once in a while. A phenomenon the sight of which
would increase our faith, strengthen our beliefs, enable us to give
an answer to those who ridicule, or to tide us over trouble spots.

However, their question seems to be asked from a different motive.
It probably sounded more like: "Jesus, just you try to do something,
anything, that will make us believe in you and trust your authority
in matters of our faith. Go on, make my day!" The final verses in
this chapter may have been spoken with these same guys in mind!
Jesus didn't trust them either; he knew their hearts.

So in response to their request, Jesus spoke in a riddle. If they were
interested in who he was, they could spend their time trying to
figure out the answer. Of course, John tells the reader Jesus was
not thinking about the present, he was looking into the future
when his body would be not only the sacrifice, but also the temple--
a holy place for God, for worship, for deeds of love and mercy,
caring and compassion, grace and truth, death and resurrection.

Jesus is the sacrifice that will do away with all others. Jesus is the
new temple that will still stand when all other temples have fallen.
They wanted proof, and that's what they got.


November 17, 2001
The temple area in Jerusalem will be the focal point for much of
John's gospel. As early as chapter 2, John mentions the Passover
Feast in Jerusalem. Then there was the defiant act of Jesus that
disrupted business as usual in the temple courtyard, accompanied
by the astonishing claim that the temple was his Father's house.
Lastly, a prediction of his death and then something which was
really a stretch for his listeners at that time, his resurrection.
Surely the events of this day will put a nail in his coffin.

What gives Jesus the authority to upset the tradition of buying
and selling sacrificial animals at the temple, the most holy site of
Judaism? John connects his answer to the death and resurrection
of Jesus, the Lamb of God.--No money traded hands; Jesus was
God's gift to the world.

So, too, the church of Jesus Christ is in the business of giving freely
just as God has given to us. It's not about making profits. When
we minister in Christ's name we are to give everything away, our
time, our talent and our treasure. While at the same time also
freely giving grace and truth, mercy and forgiveness, peace and righteousness, worship and praise, gratitude and love.

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