I Will Rebuild It In Three Days

The Second Temple Jerusalem Model recreates the city of 66 CE at the height of its glory; the eve of the great revolt of the Jews against the Romans. The city then stretched over some 450 acres.

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 
John 2:13-22

After this incident, Jesus, accompanied by his mother, his brothers and his disciples, went down to Capernaum and stayed there a few daysPhillips This is verse 2:12, so we need to see what came after this incident.

There was a wedding in the Galilean village of CanaPhillips At the wedding, Jesus made wine out of water, his first sign. We’ll get back to signs later. Cana was located due west from Capernaum, about 16.5 miles. We know that people walked all the time in ancient days, so this was a short day’s walk, perhaps 8 hours; and it was downhill. Don’t think for a minute they had to slow down for the women.

Capernaum was Jesus’ headquarters as well as the home of Andrew, Peter, James, and John. Many important events occurred near the fishing village.

The Jewish Passover was approaching and Jesus made the journey up to JerusalemPhillips Capernaum is on the shore of Lake Kinnereth (Sea of Galilee) called by the Romans, Lake Tiberias. It is some 700 feet below sea level, so nearly every trip is up hill. Even so, every Jew spoke of going up to Jerusalem.

It is easy to assume that John wrote Jewish Passover because the Gospel was intended for Gentile readers. That is likely true, but it does not explain why the Gospel contains so much detail about the Temple and other Jewish rituals. If the Gospel was written sixty or so years after the resurrection, it would make sense that the author wanted to preserve as much Judaism as possible in a time when Gentiles were taking over church leadership.

In the Temple he discovered cattle and sheep dealers and pigeon-sellers, as well as money-changers sitting at their tablesPhillips This was not a new discovery. We know for sure that Jesus was in the Temple when he was twelve and it is likely that his family made the journey most years. He grew up knowing that the enormous outer court, Court of Gentiles, was used in part as a marketplace.

It made sense. All the busines was related to Temple worship. The Streets outside the walls were crowded and all that space for Gentiles was hardly used. Besides, the Temple could charge rent for those using the court.

Try to picture 35 acres of land. That is the total of the courts in this drawing. The Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena is 19 acres and will hold 92,000 spectators. If they were seated on the chart above, they would fill most of the inner courts, leaving the outer court for the players.

More importantly, why did Jesus do it? Why attack the Temple so directly? This event is recorded in Matthew 21 and Mark 11 as occurring the week of Jesus’ arrest. There is much speculation about why John placed it up front. Pick your favorite explanation because no one has come up the answer. For what it’s worth, I think John totally ignored chronology and placed events in theological order; he wanted us to understand what the Messiah meant to our standing before God on Judgment Day.

Here’s where the sign returns. Jumping to verse 18, As a result of this, the Jews said to him, “What sign can you give us to justify what you are doing?” Phillips Matthew and Mark do not include this exchange. Looking back to John’s account of water to wine, John ends it with, Jesus gave this, the first of his signs, at Cana in Galilee. He demonstrated his power and his disciples believed in himPhillips We have sign number one, now comes sign number two.“Destroy this temple,” Jesus retorted, “and I will rebuild it in three days!” Phillips

Notice the difference in what is stressed in John as opposed to Matthew and Mark. Where they had Jesus saying in Mark, “Doesn’t the scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’. But you have turned it into a ‘den of thieves!’” Phillips John records Jesus predicting his death and resurrection. Jesus is claiming to be the new Temple.

This is not about who wrote the best Gospel. Each of the four had a specific theme in mind. They took the stories in circulation at the time of their writings and lined them up to fit the theme. The three Synoptics had about 25 to 35 years of stories and John had perhaps 60 years to work with.

Remember that people before Gutenberg learned by listening. Oral learning is no longer stressed, and we tend to remember only parts of what we hear. In Jesus day, people could repeat his lessons word for word after three to five hearings. Thirty years later, they could still repeat them exactly as Jesus spoke them.

Don’t leave out the one to two hundred regular followers, including women (unheard of in that society). You had so many people who could repeat the story that by the time Mark sent his Gospel to Churches, any mistake would have been pointed out by hundreds of people. John’s Gospel is different in that those first-hand followers were all gone, so the check was second hand, but still accurate.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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