Read Luke 21:5-38
As the dwelling place of God, it would probably seem like a special sort of blasphemy to hear Jesus say that the Temple would be destroyed. Many scholars think that Jesus “speaking against” the temple was one of the final straws in the “indictment” against Jesus that resulted in his trials and death on the cross. It solidified the popular understanding of Jesus as an anti-temple establishment figure. The Romans would crucify Jesus to make a statement that insurrection would not be tolerated for a Roman colony, especially one constantly waiting like tinderbox for the spark of violent revolution, a spark that would eventually come as a Zealot uprising. But for the Jewish leaders, Jesus was that kind of spark. If the people lost faith in the temple and the establishment that supported it this would be more than economically costly, it could inevitably tear down the Jewish society and its way of life.
To even imagine the destruction of the Temple would be painful for Jewish people for whom the Temple was the closest thing to the embodiment of God. In John’s version of the Olivet Discourse John clues us in to something reflected on later, that Jesus was talking about his body as the true Temple of God. This is significant in at least two ways, one being that God really did have a body and one that would be violently struck down in the violent flogging and crucifixion of Jesus. If they had recognized Jesus for who he was they would have been been just as horrified, for the “temple establishment” was so far from the heart of God that it was they themselves, out of sense of protecting the name of God, would be the real culprits in defiling and defaming the true temple of God.
The second significant issue is Jesus prophesying about the actual destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. After a two year siege and a period of starvation leading many Jews to both cannibalism and suicide, Titus broke the seemingly impenetrable wall of Jerusalem. He destroyed the Temple and went on to finish off the Zealot rebellion at Masada. But Jesus knew this day would come, as well as warned about the coming persecution. He warned his disciples not to get caught up in this conflict, to hide in the mountains. He warned the church not to get caught up in “this worldly” violence. He protected the church from certain destruction and spared them countless misery.
What does all this say about the justice of God? We see a view of justice in which religious leaders who have lost their way are confronted, and in which the church removes itself from the violent nationalistic struggles of angry people who would try to call the Kingdom into being through violence. God’s justice responds to violence, not with threats and fear, but with dedication and love. God was on a mission to take hearts of stone and make them hearts of flesh, to reveal for the world the temple of God was no longer a temple of stone, but a temple made of human flesh. Both would be broken, one temple would be broken out of spite, the other out of love; one temple cleansed sin through sacrifice temporarily, the other cleansed sin once and for all.
For Group Gathering:
Discuss the two temples alluded to in Jesus’ warning about destruction. Examine 2 Chronicles 7:11-22, the dedication and warning of the very first temple reading it out loud taking turns with each verse. Reflect on the following queries:
Queries for group discussion
- How does the first temple account foreshadow Jesus’ coming as the new Temple of God?
- How might the church better live out the idea of being made of living stones and of people whose bodies are now temples’ of the Holy Spirit?
Close in prayer asking God for direction as to how to better reflect God’s presence as an ambassador for Christ and “touchstone” of the Living Temple of God.