Approaching the Real Temple
Christopher B. Harbin
1st Kings 8; John 6:56-69
First Century Judaism was very much focused on their temple. They looked back to the Temple built by Solomon as the greatest achievement and testament to Jewish faith in Yahweh, God of Israel. Herod's temple did not display the same grandeur as Solomon's. It was still supposed to be a hallmark and a firm foundation for faith. The temple was supposed to draw all peoples from all over the world to the presence of Yahweh, per Solomon's statements at its dedication. Jesus never seemed to give it nearly so much importance. What is its due place?
From the days of the Exodus through the wilderness wandering to the establishment of monarchy in Israel, the tabernacle was central to witnessing the presence of God. It was supposed to reflect God's dwelling in heaven, as though a reflection of the "true temple" in the heavenly courts. Yahweh's presence was deemed visible in the smoke of the altar and the fires that were never to be extinguished.
These signs were pointers for the presence of God in the midst of the nation. They called on the people to recognize God's presence and their need to honor, revere, and serve Yahweh who was nearby through the temple or tabernacle, accessible there through prayer, incense, sacrifice, and offering. While other nations called on their gods to appear to them in dreams, visions, and signs, Yahweh was deemed to be continually present in the holy of holies, expressed in the cloud of smoke continually filling the air.
Jesus did not especially downplay the temple in his day, but neither did he accord the temple the same importance that others gave it. The message in his words and actions at times may even strike a conflicting note, as on the one hand he drives out merchants from the temple when they interfere with people approaching God. On the other hand, we find him telling his disciples that the stones of the temple will be ripped apart and pointi ...
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