“Something greater than the temple is here.” – Matt 12:6
It’s hard to imagine how shocked and offended Jesus’ contemporaries would have been at these words. This statement no doubt would have been heard as blasphemous. After all, nothing was greater than the temple – not the torah, not the Sabbath – nadda. And I’ll mention two reasons this was the case. First, the temple is where sins were forgiven. Second, the temple is where God chose to dwell.
First, the temple is where sins were forgiven. It’s where animal sacrifices were made on behalf of the people. It’s where forgiveness was found. Only in Jerusalem. Only at the temple. Those were the rules. And Jesus didn’t follow them. He’d routinely declare “your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:6). And his religious opponents would routinely respond “It is blasphemy” (Mk 2:6)! After all, only God could forgive sins, and forgiveness was strictly mediated through the temple. But Jesus saw things differently. He claimed that he was greater than the temple.
Second, the temple is where God chose to dwell. At one point Solomon, whom God puts in charge of the temple-building project, asks the following: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built” (1 Ki 8:27)! And yet Jews in Jesus’ day answered this question with a resounding yes! The temple was God’s home – the chosen container for the Uncontainable God. It’s where heaven and earth overlapped and interlocked. And so imagine what it meant for Jesus to say “before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58). He claimed that we was greater than the temple.
FOR TODAY: Jesus’ claim that he was greater than the temple is radical. Of course, Jesus also said or implied that he was greater than Solomon (Matt 12:42), David (Matt 22:45), Jonah (Matt 12:41), Moses (Matt 5:22), the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), and the Torah (Matt 11:28). What would Jesus say to you? “Something greater than _____ is here.” For today, fill in the blank.