Short Meditations in John 2: 17. Body and Temple
Jn 2:21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body
Suddenly all is revealed! In the next verse John will explain this a little more but for the moment we are simply told that the ‘temple’ Jesus referred to was his own body.
Of the some 680 references to ‘temple’ in the Bible, the vast majority refer to the building built by men as the ‘house of God’, so it was understandable that these unbelieving Jews would have their minds fixed on a building – especially as they were standing right next to it! Theoretically, of course, it was supposed to be the place where the presence of God dwelt. Jesus was the first one to use the word to refer to his body but when you think about it, his body was exactly where the presence of God dwelt.
The apostle Paul went on to use the same analogy: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor 3:16,17) and again, “For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor 6:16) and “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22).
In that last quote he combines the pictures of citizens (of a kingdom), household (reference to God’s family), and a building, a temple (the visible expression of the church where God dwells.). In the New Jerusalem in John’s revelation, the temple in the city is the Father and the Son: “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev 21:22)
So, when we put together the thought of the presence of God dwelling on earth, with the picture of the Son of God being the incarnate presence of God we see the perfection of Jesus’ description – and of course it now applies to us – the church, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. This temple, Jesus’ body, was to be put to death and then raised from the dead on the third day, but the listeners would not understand that – yet!