God’s Temple: Jesus and the Church
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 2:13-22, 1 Corinthians 3:17
March 04, 2020

Jesus is the fulfillment of many things or themes in the Old Testament. As Christ’s people, we are also involved in this fulfillment. This evening we take a look at how this relates to God’s temple. We take a look at this not just as a matter of theological curiosity, but to reflect upon what difference it makes in our individual lives and in our walk together as Christ’s people. In Jesus’s Name.

When we think of temple, we probably think of a building where God is supposed to be present, where God is supposed to dwell. This was the case in the Old Testament but not since Christ has come, as well shall see.

In the Old Testament, God’s temple eventually became the building that was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon as the son and successor of King David. In the Old Testament reading from 1 Kings 8:22-30, we read the account of King Solomon’s prayer of dedication of that temple.

Solomon referred to the temple as a house for the Lord. He called it the place about which the Lord had said: “My Name shall be there” (1 Kings 8:29 ESV).

He is referring to what the Lord had promised through Moses. The Lord promised Moses that He would one day provide a place where He would put His Name for the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 12:5). He would provide this place because the peoples of the promised land used to worship their gods  “on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree” (Deuteronomy 12:2 ESV).

The people of Israel, however, were instructed to make all their sacrifices and provide all their offerings and celebrate the Passover at the single house that the Lord would provide for His Name (e.g. Deuteronomy 16:2). This single house would counteract the polytheism and idolatry of the religions of the peoples of the land. This single house would show that there is only one God and that He is to be found by us only where He puts His Name. God has a Name by which He is known, and He gives the Name and provides the place for it as He wills. The Name means not only what He is called. It also speaks about what He has done and what He is like and brings with it His presence and promise of relationship and grace.

God locating His Name is critically important. Solomon rightly states that not even the highest heaven can contain God. God in His almighty majesty cannot be contained by anything made with human hands. But this also means that God cannot really be known and found by us if we want to find Him in His majesty. He cannot be found that way with promise and teaching of who He is and what He intends. So God comes among us and creates for Himself a Name and places it for us on earth and promises to be where His Name is and to hear prayers and to forgive where He has placed His Name.

His Name is known in creating and saving action. It is taught in His written word, the Holy Scriptures. God provides it so that faith can cling to it. And through faith in His Name His people can call upon God in prayer and have the confidence that God hears.

The place where God promised to put His Name was to be found in the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). God then promised to King David, that one of his ancestral sons would build the house for the Lord’s Name (2 Samuel 7:13). This brings us to Jerusalem and to Solomon and to the temple Solomon built there.

There was an important aspect, however, to God’s promise to David that is not fulfilled in Solomon’s temple. This aspect was a hint, a slightly open door, that pointed to something greater. God promised to David that he would have a son who would reign on his throne forever. This Son would build God’s true and everlasting house.

The aspect I am thinking about is this little word “forever.” It is critically important. Since Solomon died, and so did all the kings of Judah after him, neither Solomon, nor any other king of Judah, could be this son. Since the temple was destroyed, the temple itself also could not be the everlasting house of God. Solomon and the temple in Jerusalem could only point to some greater house, some greater temple.

When Jesus came on the scene, He said: “Something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6 ESV). What is this something greater?

It unfolds like this. Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover. He goes to the temple. This is the second temple, for Solomon’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians.

He finds sheep and cattle and pigeons in the temple grounds. He finds tables of money-changers who were providing a currency exchange. The currency exchange was so that travelers to Jerusalem from all over the Roman empire could obtain the right currency to be able to buy a sacrificial animal.

Jesus makes a whip and drives out the sheep and cattle from the temple grounds. He overturns the tables of the money changers. The disciples remembered that it was written of the Messiah: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me” (John 2:17).

The leaders of the Jews are shocked and incensed by Jesus’s action. “By what authority do you think you have the right to do this, Jesus. What miraculous sign do you perform to show us that you have the authority from God to do this?”

Jesus gave an answer. Here is the sign, He says: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).

They think Jesus is nuts. They hear the words “this temple,” and they can only think about the building. “You are crazy Jesus,” they say. “It took forty six years to build this temple, and you will rebuild it in three days?” (John 2:20).

But just what exactly was Jesus referring to when He spoke about “this temple?” He pushes open the door that was opened just a little in the promise to King David with that little word “forever.” Jesus rises from the dead and lives forever. He is the everlasting Son of King David.

So when Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples remembered that Jesus had spoken the word to the leaders of the people about destroying “this temple” and raising it in three days. Then it dawned on the disciples that Jesus was not talking about the building made with hands, of stone and mortar and wood and precious metals. He was talking about the temple of His body. The whole fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus bodily, writes the Apostle Paul (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus own body is the temple of God. Jesus Himself bears the Name of God and accomplishes all of God’s purposes of salvation. Jesus Himself is God speaking and acting in His compassion and grace. Jesus Himself is the Lamb of God, who was slain in the stead of sinners, who took it all upon Himself. He is the one in whom forgiveness is accomplished. He clinched it when He rose from the dead. He is the temple where God dwells, and where He establishes faith and relationship with us, where He hears us, forgives, and gives life that can never die. Jesus Himself is God’s everlasting temple, the real deal.

But the wonders never cease in Jesus. This is because in Him, something likewise wonderful also happens. As we are incorporated into Jesus by His word and baptism and faith in Him and in His Name, we become His body. And as we are His body, we also are His temple. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?,” the Apostle Paul asks the Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 3:17). Do you know this, he asks us.

The Apostle’s question may be in rhetorical form. Yet, it points to the reality that Christ’s people are God’s temple through faith in Christ. For the Spirit of God dwells in them. This was true of the Corinthian Christians. It is true of you.

 Take look around you this evening. Do you see your brothers and sisters sitting here. You are looking at God’s temple. Jesus is God’s house. You are God’s house in Jesus.

What difference does it make to know that Jesus is God’s temple for you? I could not possibly identify all of the myriad circumstances of your lives where this can make a huge difference. But you have this assurance. Jesus is there with you in any of it. He is there through His Word and in your heart by faith through His Spirit wherever you are. Wherever you are, therefore, you have God’s temple with you, as this temple is Jesus. Wherever you are, you are God’s temple as Jesus and the Spirit dwells with you by faith.

Jesus becomes your temple as you are gathered with Christ’s people in faith around the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s word and His Sacraments administered according to His Word and the Gospel. You then go out from the gathering assured that Jesus goes with you. As such, you do not have to wonder if God hears and is present with you. God has come to you in Jesus and the word of Christ. You have the faith in Him in which He dwells. Out of this faith you cry out for help. Out of this faith you rejoice in the Son whom God has given to redeem you and dwell with you. Jesus is with you. God’s forgiveness and presence are too.

And let the fact that Jesus is God’s temple and you are God’s temple in Jesus make a difference for you as we walk together with Jesus as God’s temple in our common pilgrimage to the promised land. Let us remember that as we deal with each other, we are dealing with God’s temple, Christ’s body. You all collectively and each one of you individually are God’s temple through faith in Christ. May this promise of the Gospel profoundly shape the way you look at and relate to each other.

What a blessing it is that Jesus is God’s temple and you are God’s temple in Him. May this reality ever grow for you in your lives where you live and work and your lives together as Christ’s people here at Emmanuel.  Amen.



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