redefining sacred space around himself

This collection of passages captures several key theological ideas about the temple as well as the human offices of king and priest. Christ comes to replace the temple with Himself: becoming the perfect temple, king and priest. This is all clearly connected to the idea that Adam was also a king given the task of tending and protecting the temple-garden (including the jobs of protecting it from evil as well as conducting further planning and planting). We also encounter the overarching idea that “creation was itself a temple, the Temple, the heaven-and-earth structure built for God to live in.” Many basic and overlapping truths:

The same is true when we consider the other great “royal” aspiration: to cleanse or rebuild the Temple. We regularly refer to the striking action Jesus performed in the Temple as his “cleansing of the Temple.” We don’t, perhaps, always realize that any such action was staking an implicitly royal claim: it was kings, real or aspiring, who had authority over the Temple. It was Israel’s kings or would-be kings who planned it (David), built it (Solomon), cleansed it (Hezekiah, Josiah, Judah the Hammer), rebuilt it (Zerubbabel, Herod the Great), and hoped to defend it (Simon bar-Giora) or to rebuild it once more (Simon the Star).

…So when Jesus came into the Temple and performed another dramatic action, driving out the money changers and the dealers selling animals for sacrifice, this too would have been seen within a web of prophetic allusion and symbolism. Jeremiah, after all, had famously smashed a pot at the same place (Jer. 19), symbolizing the coming judgment. But what was Jesus intending to communicate? What did he mean by his action? Like many others, I have become convinced that Jesus’s dramatic action was a way of declaring that the Temple was under God’s judgment and would, before too long, be destroyed forever.

…The joining place was visible where the healings were taking place, where the party was going on (remember the angels celebrating in heaven and people joining in on earth?), where forgiveness was happening. In other words, the joining place, the overlapping circle, was taking place where Jesus was and in what he was doing. Jesus was, as it were, a walking Temple. A living, breathing place-where-Israel’s-God-was-living. As many people will see at once, this is the very heart of what later theologians would call the doctrine of the incarnation. But it looks quite different from how many people imagine that doctrine to work. Judaism already had a massive “incarnational” symbol, the Temple. Jesus was behaving as if he were the Temple, in person. He was talking about Israel’s God taking charge. And he was doing things that put that God-in-chargeness into practice. It all starts to make sense. In particular, it answers the old criticism that “Jesus talked about God, but the church talked about Jesus”—as though Jesus would have been shocked to have his pure, God-centered message corrupted in that way. This sneer fails to take account of the fact that, yes, Jesus talked about God, but he talked about God precisely in order to explain the things that he himself was doing.

…If Jesus is acting out a vision—astonishing, risky, and one might say crazy—in which he is behaving as if he is the Temple, redefining sacred space around himself, something equally strange and risky is taking place in the realm of time.

…Creation was itself a temple, the Temple, the heaven-and-earth structure built for God to live in. And the seventh-day “rest” was therefore a sign pointing forward into successive ages of time, a forward-looking signpost that said that one day, when God’s purposes for creation were accomplished, there would be a moment of ultimate completion, a moment when the work would finally be done, and God, with his people, would take his rest, would enjoy what he had accomplished.

From Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright.

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