True Religion

Church Interior Building

Reading the Word

Matthew 24:1–2 (ESV)

1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6

Understanding and Applying the Word

The temple in Jerusalem was the center of Judaism. It reminded the people of their special relationship with God, who had chosen them through Abraham and brought them out of Egypt through Moses. It reminded the people that the land that they lived in was given to them by the Lord. The temple was the center of Jewish worship and was the place where God had graced the Jewish people with his unique presence. The temple was a grand building and was the pride and joy of the Jewish people. It is no surprise that Jesus’ disciples would comment on the greatness of the structure and be in awe of its size and beauty.

Jesus’ response to the disciples concerning the temple probably was surprising. As the disciples spoke glowingly of the greatness of the temple, Jesus told them that it was going to be destroyed. There would not be one stone left on another. The words of Jesus were fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans entered Jerusalem to put down a revolt. The temple was destroyed in the process.

The disciples, and the Jewish people, saw the temple as the center of their religion. However, Jesus consistently taught that the religious leaders and the religious practices of Judaism had become empty and meaningless. There was no spiritual substance to their religion, only external ritual and show. The temple was going to be destroyed and religious practice would never be the same. This would serve as a reminder that our religion means nothing if it does not issue forth from the depths of our hearts. Our worship must come from changed lives and love for God. Fancy buildings and external rituals are worthless without a heart devoted to the Lord.

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Thieves in the Temple

the merchants chased from the temple

The Merchants Chased from the Temple (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

John 2:12–25 (ESV)

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 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. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus, his mother, and his disciples went to Jerusalem for the Passover. As he went into the temple, he encountered those who were engaged in the sale of oxen, sheep, and pigeons. He also found “money-changers” there. These services were actually quite practical for the Jewish people who visited the temple. Many came from many miles away and it was much easier to bring money to purchase an animal for a sacrifice than it was to bring an animal from home. Also, since most everyday commerce was done in Roman currency, it was a needed service to exchange Roman currency for the temple currency, which was all that was accepted for the temple tax.

Many have understood this passage to say that Jesus was upset because of the buying and selling of goods that was transpiring. However, that was not the issue. The issue was that the sellers and money-changers were taking advantage of the people. They were selling at inflated prices and exchanging the people’s money at unfair rates. This is especially clear when Matthew, Mark, and Luke are also consulted.

The people were amazed that Jesus would enter the temple and act with such authority. In response, they wanted to see a sign that would prove he had authority to do these things. After all, the temple was ruled by the priests. Jesus tells the people that his resurrection would serve as the sign that he had all authority (though they did not understand what he meant). It is Jesus’ resurrection even today that tells us that Jesus had the authority to say the things he said. And it is the resurrection that assures us that the things he said are true. May we seek to learn and obey the words of the Lord.

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God’s Dwelling Place

Southwest Corner of the Temple Mount

Southwest corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Reading the Word

Psalm 132:1–10 (ESV)

1 Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to the LORD
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 “I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”

8 Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm speaks of David’s desire to build a temple for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. You can read more about this in 2 Samuel 7. The reason David wanted to build such a temple and was willing to put forth the effort to do so was because he wanted God to be near. David desired to dwell in the presence of the Lord.

Like David, we too desire to dwell in the presence of the Lord. However, we do not go to a temple to visit God. That was a temporary arrangement that has been superseded through the work of Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. Through Jesus, we have direct and immediate access to God the Father. So, we are always in the presence of God in a way that believers in the Old Testament never experienced.

Yet, we still long for more. We long for the day when we will dwell with God and know him face-to-face. That day is still future. The Book of Revelation tells us that one day God will create a new heaven and new earth where he will dwell with his people for all eternity. In Christ, we have immediate access to God today. And, in Christ, we have the promise of dwelling in his presence forever!

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