The temple presence of God
My wife's parents have been in town for almost two weeks now. That's something, because my wife is Dutch and, well, so are they. So they've come all the way from the Netherlands to be with us. Our family has been blessed to see them more often than we might expect, given the distance, but it's still very special when "Opa" and "Oma" come to visit. It's one thing to tell them about all that's going on here; it's quite another for them to be here and eat dinner with us, talk in our living room, meet our friends, see their granddaughter run cross-country, take a stroll on the downtown mall together. It's a gift and we're grateful for it.
The gift is even greater when God comes to visit. Katrina and Rita may suggest an absent god. John's Word is better, indeed... This was, uh, brought home to me in the last class my friend and I have been teaching on the Gospel of John. The week before we had considered the way in which the Word/Wisdom of God comes to a surprising in-the-flesh expression in Jesus: "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (John 1:14). In this class we picked up on that theme of tabernacling--of God dwelling among his people.
The story of the temple in the Old Testament has a strong tragic dimension. Built as the climax to God's covenant with Israel, the tabernacle itself--and, later, the temple--is destroyed because of the people's faithlessness. Even so, God repeatedly promises to rebuild his temple and dwell once again with his people (e.g., Amos 9:11-12). It is this rebuilt eschatological temple to which the prophets look: the ultimate hope of God's permanent presence among his people.
Strangely, perhaps, the story of Israel's temple becomes the story of Jesus' life. It begins with a tabernacle, in which the very Wisdom of God is enshrined (John 1:14). Incarnation as greater-than-Sinai tabernacle construction!
And the story moves inexorably to its appointed conclusion. In only the second chapter of John, Jesus judges the temple of Herod ("Do not make my Father's house a house of trade") and announces its replacement: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up... But he was speaking about the temple of his body" (John 2:14-22). Death as temple destruction. Resurrection as temple restoration.
One day, at the appearance of the new heaven and the new earth, "the tabernacle of God [will be] among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them" (Rev 21:1-4). In the meantime, a place has been prepared for us: a newly renovated Father's house, in which we are invited to dwell. For Jesus in in the Father, and the Father in him; and we are in him, and he in us (14:11,20).
In Jesus God has already made himself a temple-home among us. One day he will move in for good.
Categories: John, Temple, Resurrection