This Temple series has neatly landed the part about Jesus on Christmas Eve; I couldn’t be more pleased about this timing 🙂
Jesus is recorded multiple times, (in Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58, and John 2:19) to have said “destroy this Temple and I will raise it up again in three days.” The Pharisees whom he was addressing generally grumbled at this wild claim, and generally cited how long it had taken the recent renovation and repair work on the Jerusalem Temple had taken. Only John’s gospel account provides the further commentary, “But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”
In John 1:14, we’re given a more subtle temple proclamation: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Greek behind the word “dwelt” is more literally “pitched his tent” or “tabernacled” – the verb form of the word σκηνή. So we are shown that in this person named Jesus, the presence of God is there. Of course, Jesus was himself God, so from that angle the Temple imagery for him seems a little redundant. But it’s nevertheless an important realization – this presence of God in humanity was a new thing from history’s point of view, and opened the door to whole new concepts of Temple that the Old Testament prophets could only foretell with lavish imagery.
Like the Ark and the Jerusalem Temple, the temple of Jesus’ body can be understood to have layers. The very fact that Jesus was in a human body disguised his deity from everyone. Angels had to announce his identity to Mary, Joseph, and others. John the Baptist had to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus himself had to demonstrate his deity through his authoritative teaching, miracles, and death and resurrection. His human flesh, like the goatskin cover over the Ark of the Covenant, necessitated a special act of revelation to show what was inside. Even Jesus’ human nature was a stumbling block for people to recognize his divinity – the circumstances of his humble birth and even more humiliating death caused many to abandon him, and still reject him to this day. But amidst his body and humanity is his deity, revealed through prophecy and miraculous signs, and there we fully see the presence of God, the Word made flesh.
Outer layer: his physical body
Middle layer: his human nature
Inner layer: his divine nature