Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.
At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ”
by Pastor Louise Johnson, LEAD-Director of Leadership Development
The religious officials have already decided that Jesus has to go. He is too disruptive. He is making claims that confuse the practices they have established, undermine their authority, and erode their power to control the people. Jesus has to go, because he is undoing all they have built and stood for. So they seek for any testimony that will give them just cause to put him to death. They find what they believe is false testimony that turns out to be true. But it gives them enough reason to kill him.
But the testimony itself is also interesting. The witness quotes Jesus as having said “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” Those in his hearing imagined the physical temple, the stone on stone, brick and mortar building where they presumed to find God. Jesus, of course, is God. He carries the presence of God in his physical body. The “temple” that will be destroyed and rebuilt in three days is his own body.
We have had to struggle a lot lately with not being able to be physically present to one another as the body of Christ. And it raises interesting questions about what it means to be in the presence of God. For a long time in scripture, God resists the building of a temple, one that is locked down and immovable. God is present with the people of Israel in moveable form. For much of the journey, God is pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. And in Jesus, God shows up in flesh and blood, a body like ours. Then God’s presence is given to us in the Holy Spirit, which blows where it wills, like breath, like wind.
There are so many churches and chapels in which I have been privileged to worship. Many of those spaces feel “holy” to me, though I know in my mind they are brick and mortar. The real body of Christ is not contained – in a building, in a temple, a cathedral, a church, a chapel. And, as we will celebrate soon, God’s presence is not contained in a grave either. The body of Christ, it seems, defies spatial boundaries. God travels with God’s people in exile, is present to them along the way. God lays aside glory to become human and is present in new ways in and among us. And finally, in the Spirit, God is present to us and trying to nail that down is like trying to nail down the wind. It seems God is not interested in confinement, limitation, structure. God is loose in the world, with us, showing up in unexpected ways and places – a “temple” on the move.
Which is good news for us now more than ever. We may be spatially separated from one another, but In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, we are deeply connected to God. Never separated from God, not by death or life, not by angels or rulers, not by things present, nor by things to come. Not powers. Not height, depth, or anything else in all creation.
Nothing will be able to separate us. Not social distancing. Not shelter in place directives. Not isolation. Not coronavirus. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), who is our temple.
So together this Easter, we will go to the Temple that is our Lord. And there in him, we will meet and share and live and love and pray that one day we will meet face to face.