Short Meditations in John 2: 16. Misunderstanding
Jn 2:20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
Obtuseness is not only the prerogative of the unbeliever but unbelievers certainly can be obtuse when it comes to spiritual matters and these ‘religious’ Jews of the temple in Jerusalem were certainly being obtuse. As we noted in the previous meditation, of course it was not humanly possible to rebuild the temple there in the centre of Jerusalem in three days.
Now when you think about it, there are only a limited number of things we could say about Jesus’ declaration. First we could say he was a madman. Well, they don’t quite seem to be saying this because actually everything else about Jesus and all his actions and words are remarkably sane and far from the appearances of madness. Second, we could say he was claiming that he could actually do this and that this would be the miraculous sign that they were asking for. The only way that could happen was if he was God; was that a step too far even for the expected Messiah? They couldn’t countenance that option because everything their history told them was that God was big, holy, and dwelt in heaven. This cannot be. The third thing we could say is that somehow he was playing with language and meant something completely different – which of course is exactly what he was doing – but the meaning and application of what he was saying was still beyond their possible understanding.
Which leaves one asking, why did he say it? Jesus knew people and he must have known they would be confused and so we have to ask, why? The answer must be so that we would see in the future that he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what would happen in the days to come. The Gospels are quite clear on this point, e.g. Mt 16:21.
But the bigger challenge from this verse I find, which I touched on in the previous meditation, is how we respond when things happen we don’t understand or we read Scripture we don’t understand. If I am honest there have been times when I have gone through confusing times – and I’ve grumbled! Sin is not far under the surface! When it comes to the Bible I like the comment that says, “Well I trust the Lord with the things I don’t understand because of all the things I DO understand in the Bible”. Read long enough and pray long enough and the “I don’t know” things become fewer and fewer. The question is, though, will I keep on reading and keep on praying?