John 2: 18 – 25 A prophecy of the resurrection.
In my previous post, Jesus had just driven the traders out of the temple courts. He’d done it violently, upsetting the tables of the money changers and driving out the animals with a whip. Not surprisingly, there were repercussions.
The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you give us to prove your authority to do all this?’
Jesus was interfering with their livelihood. What right did he have to do this? Did he represent the temple authorities? Or the Romans? Or was he a prophet? What was his authority?
Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’
The temple in Jerusalem was the focal point of the Jewish religion. Although the site on which the building stood had been sacred for at least 1000 years, the structure referred to by St John was relatively recent. It had been commissioned by King Herod and had stood for well under 100 years at the time the events described by St John took place. It is perfectly possible that people present in the temple courts that day would remember its construction. It had taken years to build – possibly not the forty-six years stated in the gospel, but certainly a decade. It was an imposing edifice.
They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’
The destruction of the temple would have been nightmarish to the hearers. It would have meant the loss of nationhood in a final subjugation to Rome. The statement by Jesus played on that fear, in a way that made his statement of rebuilding it in three days seem completely ludicrous. There’s no mention of laughter in the gospel, but I imagine that people would have laughed out loud with incredulity – and apprehension.
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.
Here, St John uses a flash forward. He jumps ahead of the story he is telling to make a point. ‘…his disciples recalled what he had said.’
He is telling us that the principal witnesses to Jesus, his disciples, heard and remembered that during this incident he prophesied his resurrection. Would they have remembered such an oblique prophesy if the resurrection had not taken place?
I shall be looking especially for evidence of the resurrection. It is absolutely central to my faith. It demonstrates that God brings redemption and victory out of the very worst situations.
But there is a long way to go to the resurrection and we are still in Jerusalem for the Passover
Now while he was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Who were these people to whom Jesus would not entrust himself? We’re not told, but imagination may fill in some of the gaps.
Jesus was becoming well known; people saw him performing signs. All sorts of rumours would have been spreading. There were different political groups in Jerusalem; some of them may have sought Jesus’ endorsement. There were the Zealots; I daresay they would have been delighted to have Jesus’ support, possibly even as a figurehead for the movement. We know, because St Luke tells us in his gospel (Luke 23: 8), that Herod, installed by the Romans as the puppet ruler of Galilee, had long wanted to see Jesus.
All of these seemingly offer the potential for power and influence, but Jesus didn’t commit himself to any of them. It would have been at best a distraction, and at worst, a trap.
‘He knew what was in each person.’
Please purify my heart that I may respond to your love by obediently following Jesus, in whose name I pray.