Fellow blogger and Wascana Fellowshipper Mervyn Steadman has introduced me to a website that provides preaching/teaching resources. Refreshingly, the author explains, “The biblical teachings on this site are not protected by copyright. Anyone can use them as he or she sees fit to promote the kingdom of God.”
The author, Yves I-Bing Cheng is an M.D. with an M.A. in Christian Ministry (Counseling) from Briercrest Seminary. He seems to work with Pasteur (Pastor) Eric Chang in a church in Montreal, and he reworks material from his French-speaking pastor into exegetical studies in French and English.
I used one of his studies this week in Wascana Fellowship to explain what Jesus meant when he said, “Destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days.”
We are probably all aware that Jesus was not referring to the physical temple in Jerusalem. We have probably been taught that Jesus was referring to his own body being resurrected.
Dr. Cheng notes that there are a couple of exegetical problems with that understanding. The most important one is that nowhere else in the Bible is Jesus’ body referred to as a “temple.” Certainly the bodies of believers and the collective body of believers are both referred to as the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” but not Jesus Himself.
The whole section in John 2:13-22 is introduced by the incident of Jesus clearing the temple of the moneychangers and merchandizers. The disciples understood this in terms of a phrase in Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” Therefore, Christ’s zeal for God’s “house” must figure prominently in the following passage about rebuilding the temple.
In verse 21 his disciples eventually realize that “he was speaking of the temple of his body.” In English this phrase immediately makes us think that Jesus’ physical body is in view here, but the Greek version from which this is translated is not necessarily so clear. It is up to the translator to figure out what naiou tou somatos autou, “the sanctuary of the body of him” means.
Cheng and Chang suggest that the way to understand “the temple of his body” is to see it as a reference to the church, just a Paul sees it in 1 Cor. 3:16 and Eph. 1:22-23. The techical detail is available at this study.
Jesus’ zeal was for a temple that is not built with hands, but rather for the people who were becoming a new creation in Him. The Temple authorities tried to put him to death in order to kill the church in its infancy. Three days later Jesus revived that church by coming back to life as its Messiah and King.
As a thought for further reflection: One of our fellowship, Evelyn, mentioned something whose depth I did not realize until later. The Temple was provided for by none other than David, Jesus’ direct ancestor. In other words, the temple was a “house” designed by Jesus’ “father” David.
I originally thought this might be getting away from the point until a couple of days later, when I considered the passage in 2 Samuel 7 that talks about the house for God. In response to David’s desire to build a “house” for God, God tells David of a “house” that He will build for David. This play on words in 2 Samuel 7 features all four meanings of “house”: temple, dwelling, household and dynasty.
The Apostle John is well known for using double-entendres in his wording within his gospel, so why should it surprise us if this is yet another instance?
Jesus’ zeal for the house of God turns out to be a zeal for you and me to enter into eternal life. It is a zeal to save what is being destroyed and restore what is lost.
If His heart is in us through the Holy Spirit, His zeal for the lost will begin to permeate our lives, too.