THE TEMPLE-THE BODY OF JESUS
John 2:18-22 Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? But He spake of the temple of His body. When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word, which Jesus had said.
Having immediately heard about, or witnessed, the destruction He caused to the booths and tables of the animal sacrifice sellers and moneychangers, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus and questioned the reason and the authority He had to do so. They asked Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? They probably assumed that Jesus was a religious man, and maybe even a teacher or prophet. Throughout Jewish history, the religious leaders were spiritually guided by Moses and by God's other prophets that were divinely guided by the Holy Spirit of God. And, in order to establish their authority as being of God, they performed numerous miracles, wonders, and signs. It was natural for these religious leaders to ask Jesus to show them a sign that would establish His authority for the disruptive actions that He took regarding the merchandizing that was taking place within the temple grounds.
Jesus answered with a very simple, but profound, prophetic statement: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Needless to say, these Jewish leaders failed to understand the meaning of His statement. Neither did His own disciples fully understand this parable until Jesus arose from His burial tomb after His death on the cross of Calvary. Taken literally, the Jewish leaders, not only thought this to be impossible, but they considered it blasphemous for anyone to openly profess to do so. As a matter of fact, this same statement was used against Jesus when He was brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, and accused of blasphemy. At that time, which was only a few days before His crucifixion, Jesus was accused, by the testimony of witnesses that He said He was able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days (Matt. 26:60-61).
Believing that Jesus was referring to the physical temple in Jerusalem, their trivial, faultfinding answer to Jesus' statement was, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? Our Savior was continually berated for this statement, which no one completely understood. For this, Jesus was even critically rebuked as He hung on the cross of Calvary (See Matt. 27:39-40). Scriptures tell us that the original temple was burned, pillaged, and destroyed by the invading Babylonian armies (See 2 Kings 25:9-17). Years later, Cyrus, the powerful Persian king allowed Jewish captives freedom to return to Jerusalem and build the second temple. It was built on, or near the first site, and was constructed under the direction of Zerubbabel, the spiritual leader of the tribe of Judah. This temple was desecrated and plundered by Antiochus Epiphanes, and went through many years of disrepair. Herod the Great undertook the extensive rebuilding of the temple on a much grander scale. At the time referred to in the lesson text, it had been forty-six years since this reconstruction of the temple, and even at this point in time, scholars tell us that it was not completely finished. This complete history was well known by these Jewish leaders. And yet, they failed to understand Jesus' prophetic statement that,in three days I will raise it up. Most certainly this was not the "sign" they asked for that would confirm His power and authority to cleanse the temple grounds of the irreverent merchandisers.
But Jesus was not speaking of the physical Jewish temple of worship; He spoke of the temple of His body. All that heard this statement failed to understand its meaning - not only the unbelieving Jews, but also Jesus' own disciples. Although most of the Jews never accepted Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, yet after He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word, which Jesus had said. Not only did His disciples remember, and understand, this statement by Jesus of his resurrection, no doubt they also truly understood this same prophecy found in Psalm 16:10. It was referred to by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, and recorded in Acts 2:27-32. The sign the Jews desired. but failed to understand, was Jesus' resurrection.