15. A Provocative Challenge

Short Meditations in John 2:   15. A Provocative Challenge

Jn 2:19  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

There are times, it seems, when you look at the things that Jesus says, when he seems to be deliberately provocative; not provocative in the way to make you angry, but the way to make you confused! It is this same old thing that we have considered before, that sometimes Jesus says things in a particularly obscure way that only those who know him and can ask him personally what it means, get to understand. Those who are unbelievers, those asking to be awkward, and those who are shallow in their belief, miss out; they fail to come to understanding. This is the wisdom of God that knows that only those who are whole hearted in their commitment to Him can understand spiritual matters and respond in the right way to them. The Lord is not interested in titillating the minds of those who are merely playing with belief.

So here we find Jesus coming out with one of these obscure sayings that we can almost guarantee is going to cause confusion in his listeners, the unbelieving Jews of Jerusalem. Remember he is responding to their demand for a miraculous sign. Very well, he will give them one within a few years. We now know that he was referring to his own death and resurrection, which we’ll see in the coming meditations, but for the moment what he says, when taken literally just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Consider this a bit more. He is standing in the temple courts and to all intents and purposes he is saying that if you pull down these massive buildings, I will rebuild them within three days – buildings which had taken years and years to build! At least that is what Jesus appears to be saying if you are thinking in purely literal, materialistic terms.

But isn’t this just what we find again and again throughout the whole of the Bible – picture language used to convey something else. A metaphor is ‘a figure of speech in which a name or quality is attributed to something to something which is it not literally applicable.’ Read the prophets or the psalms, say, in the Old Testament and they are filled with such figurative picture language.

So here is the key question for us: when we come across such picture language in the Bible, do we appear lazy and say, “Oh, this is too difficult to understand,” or do we seek the Lord for understanding? Your honest answer reveals the sort of Christian you are.

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