Reflections for the Week of Sunday March 4, 2018 Third in Lent

Gospel: John 2.13-22 tells of Jesus entering Jerusalem and the Temple and throwing the money-changers out. This has been referred to as an ‘acted parable’ signifying that the Temple is corrupt and would be destroyed, as it was in AD 70. It is interesting to reflect that Ezekiel, a priest and prophet in exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC saw the image of God depart from the Temple (Ezek 10.18,19;11.22-24) before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in BC 586. Jesus coming to the second Temple seems to  represent the return of God in the first century AD as promised in a number of Scriptures including Mal 3.1-4. Jesus finds the Temple still corrupt (a ‘den of robbers’ rather than a ‘house of prayer’). In a scene referred to as the ‘Olivet discourse’ in Mt 24, Mk 13, and Lk 21 Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple within the generation in which Jesus is speaking. Some believe that the book of Revelation is St John’s expanded version of the Olivet discourse.

The case can be made that God has chosen to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple because they refused to acknowledge Jesus the Messiah. Some have called the period leading up to the destruction of city and Temple, the Last Days and the Great Tribulation. They certainly were  virtually the last days of Judaism as it existed in the Old Testament, because without the Temple there was no place for sacrifices and no need for the priesthood. Josephus, the first century historian, in the Jewish Wars, described the destruction of city and Temple and it is truly a Great Tribulation of indescribable horror. Jesus told His followers not to flee to the Temple but to the mountains and most Christians did so and were spared while most Jews fled to the Temple and were killed by the Roman army. Part of Jesus’ message was that if the Temple was destroyed He would raise it up again in three days (Jn 2.19), but He was speaking of the temple of His body (Jn 2.21). Jesus meant that the place where God dwelled with man, where heaven and earth met, was being changed from the Temple in Jerusalem to Jesus the Messiah. In addition Jesus defeated the satan on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus took the satan’s place as the ruler of this world. Fifty days later the Holy Spirit preceded from the Father and the Son into believers in the Son and into the church. The Jewish Age was coming to an end, and  the Kingdom of God, the church, was being born. The Great Tribulation and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were the birth pangs of Christianity. Paul says “…all things have become new” (2 Cor 5.17). The world has a new Ruler, the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven is new, Christ is the new Temple, where God and man meet, human beings indwelt by the Holy Spirt are new, death has been defeated, sins have been forgiven; man’s long exile from God has been overcome by the new Passover and the new Exodus. Because of Christ, man has a new relationship with God; God is now our Father and we are His adopted children. Christians are no longer under the condemnation of the law (Rm 8.1), but Christ has fulfilled the law and has taken its place. When Christ on the cross said, “It is finished”, He meant this new creation was finished, and just as God completed the old creation on the sixth day and rested on the seventh day, so Christ finished the new creation on Friday, the sixth day, and rested in the tomb on the seventh day.

Memory Verse: ..seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator (Col 3.9, 10).

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