Monday, August 26, 2013

Collapse Of The Temple (part 2)

Before one gets further into the record of the Gospels so as to examine Jesus’ dealings with the Temple authorities (remembering that this is an analysis occurring against the backdrop of the collapse of the Philistine temple at the hands of Samson), it is quite useful to peer into the book of the prophet Jeremiah, doing so in order to catch a glimpse of the types of things that Jesus would have been saying in and about the Temple, and how His words would have been received. 

In the twenty-sixth chapter, the Lord God of Israel is said to have spoken to Jeremiah, delivering instructions to him as to what to say to the people of Jerusalem and Judah on the Lord’s behalf.  The Creator God says, “Tell them that the Lord says, ‘You must obey Me!  You must live according to the way I have instructed you in My laws.  You must pay attention to the exhortations of My servants the prophets.  I have sent them to you over and over again.  But you have not paid any attention to them’.” (26:4-5) 

Similar things are to be heard from Jesus.  He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus is found to be lamenting and saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you!” (Matthew 23:37a)  In addition to that, one can read the “Parable of the Tenants”  in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which reflects the theme of the rejection of the Creator God’s prophets.  As is reported, this parable produced anger on the part of the temple authorities (chief priests and elders), as they realized, apparently quite astutely, that it was spoken about them. 

Returning to Jeremiah, one continues to hear the covenant God speaking and says “If you do not obey Me, then I will do to this temple what I did to Shiloh.  And I will make this city an example to be used in curses by people from all the nations on the earth” (26:6).  As Jesus consistently points to Himself, His ways, and His kingdom as the locus of a needful obedience, and as one considers the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple that came about at the hands of the Romans, one would do well to hear His voice in these words out of Jeremiah. 

What is said to have been the experience of Jeremiah as a result of the words of the Creator God that he is reported to have delivered to the people of Judah?  It is said that “The priests, the prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah say these things in the Lord’s temple.  Jeremiah had just barely finished saying all the Lord had commanded him to say to all the people.  All at once some of the priests, the prophets, and the people grabbed him and shouted, ‘You deserve to die!’” (26:7-8) 

It is possible to see that this was not at all unlike that which was experienced by Jesus when He spoke against the Temple and its ruling authorities.  Furthermore, the reader of the Gospel hears what Jesus would eventually endure in the sneering questioning of His authority to act and speak in a way that was perceived to be against the Temple, as Jeremiah hears “How dare you claim the Lord’s authority to prophesy such things!  How dare you claim His authority to prophesy that this temple will become like Shiloh and that this city will become an uninhabitable ruin!” (26:9)        

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