19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
JOHN 2:19 ESV
19 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερῶ αὐτόν.
JOHN 2:19 SBLGNT
D.A Carson writes, in his book ‘The Gospel, according to John.”
“Jesus’ enigmatic response was understood neither by his interlocutors (cf. v. 20) nor by his disciples (v. 22). Jesus was inviting the authorities to destroy the temple and was promising to raise it again within three days of its destruction. They were unlikely to call his bluff at the literal level, and they were nevertheless stymied since he was offering them a powerful ‘miraculous sign’ to justify his authority for cleansing the temple.
Indeed, it was a marvellously appropriate sign: anyone who could restore the temple
within three days of its destruction must be judged to have the authority to regulate its practices.
The Synoptists report that at Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, false witnesses
charged him with making the statement, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in
three days will build another, not made by man’ (Mk. 14:58 par.; cf. Mk. 15:29). The
only record of such a statement is in this account provided by John: the Fourth Gospel here provides a detail that corroborates the Synoptic evidence. The destruction or desecration of a temple or other place of worship was judged a capital offence in the Graeco-Roman world. However, the testimony of the witnesses in their report of Jesus’ words did not agree; probably, for this reason, it was labelled ‘false’ (though from the perspective of the New Testament writers it was false in substance because (1) if John 2:19 records the words Jesus actually used, he never said, ‘I will destroy …’ but rather ‘[You] destroy … and I will raise it again’; and (2) what Jesus was referring to had primary reference to his own body, not the temple).”
The word rendered ‘temple’ (naos), found in John only here and the following two
verses, may refer to the sanctuary proper and not to the entire temple complex
(hieron, used elsewhere, e.g. v. 14). However, the distinction between the two terms
is not well preserved in the Greek of this period.
Richard D. Phillips, in his book, ‘John’ writes
“By answering this way, Jesus was asserting that he had the right to do what he did, for the simple reason that he is the Lord of the temple. Likewise, he is the Lord and Head of the church today. Meaning that Jesus is the sole authority whose Word rules the church and its worship.
No dynamic preacher has the right to set aside Jesus’ Word. No pope or bishop or board of elders or a wealthy contributor has the right to dictate to the church of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ church: we are to sit at his feet, study his Word, follow his example, and worship God in trusting obedience to Jesus Christ.
The proof he gives is his resurrection from the grave: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The priests misunderstood, and the disciples understood only after the fact. John tells us, “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (2:22). This statement reminds us to sympathize with Jesus’ original hearers since the truth of his teaching would dawn on even the disciples only after a good deal of time and only when the Holy Spirit had enlightened their hearts. Just as a historical process was necessary for
understanding Jesus’ statement about himself as the true temple, there is usually a process by which most people come to grasp the deeper truths of the Christian faith. This example reminds pastors to be patient, persistent, and especially prayerful on behalf of those they minister God’s Word.
Jesus staked his claim to be Lord of the temple by his resurrection from the grave. The fulfilment of this promise thus proves his identity as the Messiah and the truthfulness of the Scriptures. James Montgomery Boice, in his book, ‘Foundations of the Christian Faith,’ asserts, “The resurrection proved that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be and that he accomplished what he claimed to have come to earth to accomplish.… If it can be shown that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, as the early Christians believed and as the Scriptures claim, then the Christian faith rests upon an impregnable foundation.” Benjamin B. Warfield, in his book ‘The Saviour of the World’, adds, “Our Lord Himself deliberately staked His whole claim to the credit of men upon His resurrection. When asked for a sign, He pointed to this sign as His single and sufficient credential.”
The New Testament proves the truth of Jesus Christ through the eyewitness testimony of his disciples to the resurrection. If anyone knew the truth about Jesus’ resurrection, they did: the Bible records them as seeing the empty tomb and spending time with the resurrected Lord Jesus. These cowardly and often-confused disciples were transformed into bold preachers of Christ’s resurrection—a message for which they willingly suffered all the rest of their lives and ultimately died. To deny Jesus’ resurrection, you must explain how men would act this way for a message that they knew was false and why the Jewish authorities were unable to disprove their public claims to Jesus’ resurrection.
One man who investigated Christ’s resurrection was the great jurist Simon Greenleaf. He was one of the founders of Harvard Law School, and his three-volume Treatise on the Law of Evidence remains the foundation for legal practice in America today. Greenleaf decided to apply his approach to evidence to disprove the biblical claims of Christianity, focusing on the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. However, when he faced the New Testament claims, Greenleaf concluded that the witnesses were so reliable that he would have to accept them in a court of law. His book The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Four Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence remains unrefuted to this day and is a standing testimony to the results when one honestly inquires about Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Jews who asked for a sign when he cleansed the temple, the facts of his resurrection serve for anyone as proof of Scripture. Just as jurors in a trial have a duty to believe sound evidence, the evidence for the resurrection morally obliges us to believe in Jesus.
As Christians today, the reality of what has happened is the testimony of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus has brought in a new era for our salvation and justification for our faith but has opened a new beginning in our path towards righteousness. Unfortunately, churches today continue to disregard this new era of accountability and seek to move along their own views and interpretation of God’s Word. Self-righteous behaviour sets aside compassion and caring for congregations for their own goals under the auspices of ‘what is best for the majority. This false reality contradicts Christ teachings, for every Christain counts in God’s overall narrative. Leaders who seek position and use excuses of not enough time, too busy, sorry I forgot and not the actions of a church for God’s children.
This poor reality is the sad influence of human nature, contrary to God’s will. Jesus tore the temple down, and many of us continue to rebuild false temples of our own sinful nature deceiving and settting aside those who genuinely want to follow him.
Destroy the temple of sin within us and rebuild our life in Christ
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