42| Advent: Jesus as temple, a powerful lens for Christmas meaning

Most of our listeners know that using the covenant “lens” is a powerful organizing principle for reading Scripture. It helps explain what’s happening and creates insights for us today. The Temple “lens” is a similar powerful organizing principle. There are some surprises there, at least for me (Curtis). I knew Jesus referred to himself as a temple but somehow that slid past me because, well, that old Jerusalem temple isn’t around anymore and its role was replaced. Or maybe I heard growing up that “your body is a temple” that shalt not (fill in the blank) and it seemed like routine moralizing. zzzz

The “new creation” theme also runs strongly through the Old and New Testaments, with the gospel of John opening with a blatant evocation of creation “in the beginning.” New creation and temple are related themes since, as you know from the previous episode 41, the original new creation of the cosmos was described in Genesis as a cosmic temple for God. 

In Exodus, themes of the temple and new creation are running strong. The tabernacle and meeting tent evoke the temple. And God is making a new creation in the form of the Jewish tribe that has become His special place to dwell. 

This brings us to the Shekinah, the majestic presence of God. The Shekinah left the temple in a heart-breaking scene in Ezekiel 10. What is the people of God without the presence of God? The Exile follows with untold hardship. 

By the time of the first century AD, the temple had been rebuilt and then built out by Herod. Nobody believed, however, that the Shekinah had returned. Nobody.

There was hope, however. Ezekiel 43 predicted Shekinah’s return. The Jewish people did a great job of sustaining hope through many long, dark years. 

It did so in a shocking way. 

One of the goals of the gospel of John is to shift Jewish temple theology and place it squarely in the person of Jesus. He is the temple, the image in the temple, the offering, and the priest. 

John’s narrative carefully includes this theme of the glory of God being unveiled in Jesus and the Spirit resting in Jesus. (You remember from Episode 41 what it means when God is “resting,” right?)

We continue this series next week to try to understand what it all means. 

In the meantime, as you read the New Testament, look for places where the Spirit comes to rest on someone (that’s temple language) or the glory of God is revealed (that’s the Shekinah). We are working mostly out of John’s gospel, so mostly read that one! 

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