Lent Day 40: Going the Wrong Direction
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Many years ago, I took a trip to see my son in Columbus, Ohio. On the way home I missed my exit and did not realize it for some time, until I saw a sign that said Dayton, which is south. I was going North towards Akron, Ohio. When I look back on it, I understand how I missed it. He had just moved to a new neighborhood, it was dark, and I was not accustomed to the signs that had only one exit ramp. Nonetheless I was going in the wrong direction for a long time. It was an innocent mistake, and we did make it home, but I was focused on the wrong thing.
In our text, the leaders in Jesus’ day were focused on the wrong thing, and they missed, not only their exit, but entrance into the eternal kingdom with the Son of God. These leaders were focused on the physical temple. That was the center of religious life for them, which they held in high esteem, and made them feel special to themselves and they believed to God. But as we have observed, when Jesus entered the temple on the way to Calvary, he was not pleased with what was taking place in the temple. Because the leaders excluded those in need of spiritual healing by their economic exploitative practices, the very people they were called to help. Jesus reminds them of his displeasure as he turns over the tables.
“These I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
His house was to be a place of prayer and participation for all people.
Brueggemann encourages us to see the temple as symbolic in nature. “So think of temple as the symbolic center of your life, as the place where you are met by the goodness and holiness of God, where you draw fresh on the core purposes of your life, where you get some clarity about who you are and what your life amounts to and how you will be remembered.”
Just like my driving excursion in the wrong direction, and these leaders in the wrong place relationally, both of us going in the wrong direction— and yet believing we were doing the right thing, going in the right direction.
What if this is what we are doing in the temple/church today. We are still operating as if the temple or church is the only place we worship and the only place we meet and encounter God and one another. And the temple/church is ours to determine who gets in and is acceptable.
Consider this as another option for our spiritual direction finder. Maybe during this season of COVID the Lord is using it to reveal to us that He is the true temple in our hearts where worship should begin. Whether we are in the building or abroad. We may find that Jesus is the true temple, a building not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens. Brueggemann states it this way. “The news is that this temple called Jesus is our true habitat. That is where we are bound in faith to live our life and put our buckets down and dream our dreams and claim our identities.” Let us also remember that we have now become the place of God’s dwelling place where the Lord resides by his Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Once I realized I was going the wrong way on the wrong road, by virtue of the signs in front of me, I turned around and got back on the right highway to make my way home. A little later than I planned, but I made it home. Like me, many of you may have taken a wrong road in life, but today Jesus is giving us the sign of his love and he is inviting you and me to turn around and come home. It is never too late to come home. And what better time to get on the road that leads to eternal life than during this season of lent.
“Divine center of our lives, direct us toward the true temple that is our brightest joy and deepest purpose—Jesus Christ. In this Lenten journey, may we ever more fully live in him and for him. Amen.” Brueggemann
Brueggemann, Walter. A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. Kentucky: Westminster John Know Press, 2017.