Are guarantees important to you? When you shop for an item to purchase, do you read the fine print in the contract and the guarantee forms? Maybe you can recall a time when you didn’t read all the fine print and wish you had. We all desire proof, not only that things live up to their claims, but also that people live up to the claims they make. The most fantastic claim that any person could possibly make would be the claim to be God. Jesus Christ wasn’t the first Person to make that claim, and there have been many others who have claimed it since then.
In the previous passage of Scripture, John 2:12-17, the Lord Jesus cleansed the temple. While doing so He declared: “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” By His actions and His words, the Lord Jesus was fulfilling an Old Testament prophesy and declaring Himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Now we see their response.
I. THE REACTION OF THE JEWISH LEADERS (verses 18)
In verse 18 the leaders of the Jews said to Jesus, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things.” They used that same expression at the end of Jesus’ ministry, in Matthew 21:23. They were angry, and probably shouted those words at Him. It may have sounded something like this: “Who do You think You are! Who gave You the right to do the things You just did.” They ask Him for a sign. I guess they felt they had the right to put Jesus to the test. After all, they considered themselves to be the guardians of the Jewish faith. I wonder whether or not they were trying to (incorrectly) apply God’s words to Moses in Deuteronomy 13:1-3. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder comes true concerning which he spoke to you saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the prophet or dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” But Jesus was not a prophet or a dreamer, He was God Himself!
The problem was that the Jewish people were always looking for signs and miracles. What Jesus says to them in reply is the greatest of all signs or miracles.
II. THE PREDICTION BY JESUS (verse 19)
Jesus’ answer to the Jews who were questioning Him was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” It was a statement they misunderstood, but they would never forget it. Three years later they quoted it at Jesus’ trial, and even used it to mock Him while He was on the cross. The word translated “destroy” is a permissive imperative in the Greek. His listeners didn’t realize it, but Jesus was giving them permission to kill Him in order that He might pay the price for the sins of the world. This was a new insight for me.
There are two Greek words that were used when referring to the temple. The Lord Jesus chose to use the word “naos”, a word that could also be used to refer to the human body. Speaking of the temple, Jesus said “I will raise it up”. The Greek word used here, “egeiro”, literally means “to rouse from sleep”. It occurs 141 times in the New Testament, and 70 of those usages refer to the resurrection. Obviously, Jesus didn’t point to Himself or make any other kind of gesture to indicate clearly to them that He was referring to His body. I don’t think that Jesus wanted them to understand what He was saying. Even His own disciples didn’t understand the meaning of His statement until after His death and resurrection. Can you ever remember receiving the following response when you asked someone a question: “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it!”? I think those words also apply to this situation.
Often during Jesus’ public ministry, the Jewish leaders asked Jesus to give them a sign. But He refused to do so, except for the sign of Jonah, which depicts death, burial, and resurrection. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
C.S. Lewis popularized the argument that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic, or the Lord. Watchman Nee also expresses this argument clearly in his book, Normal Christian Faith:
“A person who claims to be God must belong to one of three categories: First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. You can only choose one of these possibilities.”
III. THEIR MISUNDERSTANDING (verses 20-21)
Judging from their response to Jesus’ remark, the Jewish leaders must have thought that Jesus was a lunatic. Their answer to Jesus is: “It took forty years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” They thought He was talking about the temple in Jerusalem. Josephus, the Roman historian, said that about 18,000 workmen were employed in that task, and that the temple wasn’t finished until 64 A.D. They are saying to Jesus, “You’ve got to be crazy if you think you can rebuild that massive, ornate structure in just three days!” Little did they realize that Jesus was going to do something even more astounding. He was going to bring His own dead body back to life after three days in a tomb!
The originator of a new religion came to the great French diplomat, Talleyrand and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend”, said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.” I don’t think he took that advice! Talleyrand must have recognized that it is the resurrected, living Christ that holds Christianity together and draws people to it. As the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15:14 and 17, “And if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain . . . . and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
IV. THE DISCIPLES’ RESPONSE (verse 22)
In verse 21, the apostle John affirms that Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body. But John did not know that at the time. He says in verse 22, “When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this (over three years earlier); and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.” They didn’t understand until they saw Him in His resurrected body three years later.
What is the “Scripture” that they believed? It must have been Psalm 16:10 because the apostle Peter quoted it at Pentecost (Acts 2:31), and the apostle Paul quoted it at Antioch; (Acts 13:35). Psalm 16:10 says, “For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.” That “mysterious” verse had been solved and fulfilled.
A little boy once taught his Sunday School class a lesson about the resurrection of Christ that they understood immediately and would never forget. Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several other eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences, according to an article in Leadership magazine. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.
The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought L’eggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. After running through the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh.
Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid!” “That’s not fair!” “Somebody didn’t do their assignment!”
Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”
“Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” the student retorted. “There’s nothing there!”
“I did so do it,” Philip insisted. “I did do it. It’s empty, the tomb is empty!”
Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar, not with flowers but with their Sunday School teacher, each to lay on his casket an empty pantyhose egg.
Like the empty pantyhose egg, the Lord Jesus used the picture of the temple (His body) to describe His violent death that would be followed by His glorious resurrection from the dead (the empty tomb). This is the second picture that John records in his Gospel. The first picture was that of the Lamb of God, the unblemished substitute who would be sacrificed to pay the price for our sins. There is also a third picture which John gives in chapter 3 of his Gospel.
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The Lord Jesus’ description of Himself as a “temple” brings to mind several images from the Old Testament. The tabernacle in the wilderness was just a tent until it was consecrated and the Spirit of God came and filled it. Then it became the Tabernacle of the Lord, and the Shekinah glory shone out from within. The people saw it and worshipped God who now dwelt there. The temple of Solomon was just a beautiful building until it was consecrated, and the Spirit of God filled it. Then it became a temple where people were drawn together to worship the Lord.
Just as Jesus described His body as a temple, our bodies are temples also. Who, or what. is being worshipped in your “temple” (your body, your life)? Who is being glorified in your body? It’s not enough to believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins. It’s not enough to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, God incarnate. Those things are important to believe, but believing those things to be true is not the formula for becoming a child of God. There is also the need for consecration: repenting of our sins and devoting our lives to Him. Is your body (your life) an outward testimony of forgiveness and joy because of the death of Christ for you? Is your body (life) an outward evidence of victory because of the risen Christ who reigns in you, and the Spirit of God who fills and controls you? As the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 6:19-20. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” Becoming a Christian is not a rental agreement or a lease. It is a permanent transfer of ownership of our lives to God our Creator. You couldn’t be in better hands, and the enjoyment never ends! I hope this is your experience. If not, I hope that you will make that choice and experience the wonderful, life-changing results very soon. You will be eternally glad if you do, or eternally sorry if you don’t. God wants you to be His, and the Lord Jesus paid the price to make that possible. If it is still unclear in your mind, please go to my “About page” where the Scriptures are given, or leave me a comment so that we can talk about this decision, and so that any questions might be answered.
Welcome to this finished work-in-progress, John 2:18-22. Please come back soon. I am temporarily leaving my study in John’s Gospel to study and prepare a message for Christmas. I have in mind an unusual message, but one which is very appropriate for this time of celebration. After I gather the Scriptures pertaining to these events and develop an outline, I’ll start putting this sermon online a bit at a time as the work progresses. Thank you for visiting. Please also visit other completed sermons on this blog-site if you are interested. May we be receptive and eager as Christ reveals Himself more fully to us.