SERMON: The temple that is Christ’s body lives on!

SERMON: The temple that is Christ’s body lives on!

The temple that is Christ’s body lives on!

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley

by Andrew McKearney on 18 November 2018

 

The centrality of the Jerusalem temple for much of the religion of the Old Testament is something largely on a page for us rather than in our hearts.

 

Solomon’s temple was not just one religious building amongst many. The temple was the place where God spoke to his people, it was the assurance that God was present amongst his people – it could be seen and touched and walked around!

 

In 587 B.C. Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Its destruction was much more than a military or political crisis – it was a theological and spiritual catastrophe. As a consequence, some of the hardest and darkest verses in the whole Bible are reserved for the Babylonians!

 

A second temple was started when they returned from their exile in Babylon and prophet and people had high hopes; but despite these hopes the second temple at Jerusalem did not live up to expectations.

 

It wasn’t until Herod in 19 B.C. that a third Jerusalem temple began to be built. Finally this was one that the Jewish people could be proud of again.

 

It took 80 years to complete from 19 B.C. until 64 A.D. and it’s in the middle of building this third temple that Jesus’ ministry takes place.

 

There are a number of occasions when Jesus has things to say about the temple that his contemporaries do not take kindly to! In the first three gospels, the action that leads to Jesus being arrested is the cleansing of the temple. Implicit in Jesus’ ministry, and explicit when he cleansed the temple, was a fundamental challenge to the place of the temple – its days were numbered!

 

Given what I have suggested about how important the temple in Jerusalem was in the Old Testament, it’s not surprising that this challenge of Jesus was to lead to his arrest. The accusation made at his trial was about the temple:

‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is

made with hands, and in three days I will build another,

not made with hands.”’

 

Recall how dark the emotions were that had been stirred up towards the Babylonians when they destroyed Solomon’s temple:

‘O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy the

one who repays you for all you have done to us; who

takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock.’

 

Those same emotions are now stirred again, but this time against Jesus.

 

So we mustn’t glide over the opening remarks made at the beginning of this morning’s gospel reading as if they are of no consequence! They start innocently enough as if these disciples from Galilee were seeing the sites of Jerusalem for the first time!

‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large

buildings!’

 

Then comes the longest passage of Jesus’ teaching that Saint Mark gives us, all about wars and rumours of wars, nation rising up against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and famines. Jesus keeps warning his disciples saying ‘Beware!……Pray!…..Keep awake!’

 

And all this bewildering and terrifying teaching starts with this – the disciples innocently pointing to the stones of the Jerusalem temple and saying:

‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large

buildings!’

As if they were on a tour bus!

 

‘Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be

thrown down.’

Replies Jesus who then goes on to talk in apocalyptic terms about the end of the world! The Romans did destroy the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D. – all was thrown down, never to be rebuilt!

 

But the temple that is Christ’s body lives on!

 

‘Christ has no other hands but your hands

to do his work today;’ Teresa of Avila reminds us,

‘no other feet but your feet to guide folk on his way;

no other lips but your lips to tell them why he died;

no other love but your love to win them to his side.’