Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent (B)
March 15, 2009
Text: John 2:13-22

It was King David who first desired to build a Temple for the LORD. God did not command Moses to build Him a Temple for His dwelling place. He commanded Moses to build Him a tent, the Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle (cf. Ex. 26). This Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God among His people Israel. The glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle wherever the people of Israel came to rest in their wilderness wanderings. This is how Moses reports it: “Then a cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle… Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and the fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys” (Ex. 40:34, 36-38; ESV). The Tabernacle was thus the portable Temple. It was the place of sacrifice and the site of the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat of God, where God was graciously present to rule and guide His people.

But hundreds of years later, King David was bothered that, while the people of Israel had occupied and settled the Promised Land and made permanent dwellings for themselves, the LORD still dwelt in a tent. “Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you’” (1 Chron. 17:1-2). What was in David’s heart was to build a Temple for the LORD God, a permanent version of the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. But it was not to be, not by David anyway. That very night the LORD came to the prophet Nathan and declared, “Go tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day… When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (vv. 4-5, 11-14).

David’s son Solomon thought God was talking about him. Thus Solomon built the great Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and brought up the Ark of the Covenant to be housed in the Most Holy Place, and it is true that the LORD graciously promised to dwell in the Temple for His people, to receive their sacrifices and hear their prayers. But this is not the Temple the LORD promised David’s Son would build. It was but a foreshadowing of that eternal Temple. In fact, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 587 BC when the Babylonians took the people of Judah captive. A new Temple was built on that site by Ezra and Nehemiah and the Jews who returned from captivity, about 537 BC, but even this Temple wasn’t permanent. King Herod replaced this Temple with his own, more magnificent rendition about 19 BC as one of his many building projects. Needless to say, for Herod, the building of the Temple was not a testament to his faith, but a feat to stroke his ego and gain favor with the Jews. But alas, even this Temple was not permanent. It, too, was destroyed, this time by the Romans in AD 70. What Jesus prophesied about this Temple came true: “Truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2). To this day, all that is left of the Temple precincts in Jerusalem is the wailing wall. This Temple was destroyed and never raised again.

But if the Jerusalem Temple is not the house God promised David’s son would build, what is? Jesus answers this very question in our Gospel lesson this morning. The Jews miss it, but thanks to the Apostle John, we do not. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21; emphasis added). He is speaking, of course, about His death and resurrection. Jesus is the promised Temple of God! Jesus is the dwelling place of God with men! It is no wonder that John writes, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (1:14; my translation). Jesus is the fulfillment of Tabernacle and Temple, for in Jesus of Nazareth God dwells in the flesh. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9; ESV). God graciously dwells with His people in the person of Jesus Christ. And though they destroy this Temple of God, namely, on the cross, they cannot destroy it forever. Jesus raises it again in three days. For He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The perfect sacrifice for sin, once, for all time, for all people, is offered up in this Temple made without human hands. Jesus is both Temple and Sacrifice. “Not all the blood of beasts On Jewish altars slain Could give the guilty conscience peace Or wash away the stain. But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb, Takes all our sins away; A sacrifice of nobler name And richer blood than they” (LSB 431:1-2). Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the Sacrifice for your sin. In Him, all your sins have been forgiven, covered by His blood shed on the cross. And in Jesus Christ, God graciously dwells with you.

So it is Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who builds a house for God. And it is His throne that God promises to establish forever. Thus when Jesus enters the earthly Temple during Passover, He has the authority to clean it out of all the filth and greed and false worship that has so contaminated it. He drives out the merchants and the money-changers with a whip of cords and overturns their tables. “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” the Jews ask (John 2:18). In other words, what gives you the authority to come in here and disturb this sacred shopping mall? Jesus points to His body. Jesus is the real Temple. So certainly He can come into the earthly Temple, His Father’s House, and clean things up. Zeal for God’s house consumes Him. The Jews have made the religion of YHWH a mockery. They have forsaken their God, preferring the burdensome sacrificial system and commandments of men to the fulfillment of all sacrifice, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Those who worship the Father in the Temple that is Jesus Christ worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus’ work of cleansing the Temple continues to this very day. For St. Paul calls you a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). You are a temple of the Holy Spirit because you are united by baptism and faith to the very Temple of God, Jesus Christ. You have been baptized into His death and resurrection. Remember what He said, “Destroy this temple, and after three days, I will raise it up.” It is to this Temple, crucified and risen, that you have been united. Thus you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been washed clean of filth and greed and false worship and every other sin in Baptism. Actually, in Baptism, you were destroyed and raised to new life. You were drowned, killed, crucified with Christ, and raised to be a new creation, to live before God in righteousness and purity. And Jesus continues to cleanse you, speaks you clean in His Word and Absolution, and continues to unite you to Himself, to the true Temple, by feeding you a priestly meal, the very Sacrifice that sets you free, His true body and blood. You, a temple of the Holy Spirit, come here to the Father’s house to be united with the very Temple of God, Jesus Christ, destroyed and risen again in three days for your forgiveness and justification.

The dwelling place of God is with men in the flesh of Jesus Christ. St. John describes it this way in the Book of Revelation: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’… And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:3-4, 22). This Temple can never again be destroyed. God has established His throne forever. Because God dwells with us now in the flesh of Jesus Christ, we will dwell with Him in the New Jerusalem for all eternity. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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