Luke 2:22… "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him (Jesus) to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a
pair of doves or two young pigeons."
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the
child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and
spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
Here in Luke, chapter 2; what happened on this occasion is that Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus, as a young baby to be dedicated. So the Baby Jesus comes to the Temple, and for mothers and fathers who love God, this is the hope, this is our anticipation that our children would grow up to love God, to worship God, and to serve Him all the days of
their lives. And so, when they are in the womb, we pray for them; when they are birthed, we dedicate them like we did for Elliana this morning. And like Mary does here bringing Jesus to the temple.
1. Jesus Comes To the Temple
There is actually little we know of the early years of Jesus. Luke chapter two is all we know of Jesus’ youngest years. What we do know is that he was dedicated to God... what we do know is that when he was twelve years old, He was left behind in Jerusalem… What we do know is that Mary and Joseph did a great job raising Jesus… they taught him, they
loved him, they protected him, and they brought him to the temple. They took him to their church and I am going to pick up that theme.
What we have just read in Luke, chapter 2, is the most extraordinary event in human history, so I want to explain to you as much as I am able, the theological significance of that moment when Jesus comes to the temple.
And first we must consider the function of the temple, because for them, the temple was the house of God. So we must wonder what were the thoughts going through Mary’s mind as she brought this baby called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), this son whose name means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23), up the steps of the temple… to the house of God???
To honestly answer that question we must consider five functions of the temple at that time in history for the people of God.
The first is, the temple, particularly the Holy of Holies in the very center of the temple, is the point of connection between heaven and earth. It is where the Creator God in heaven, comes down in the temple, in that most sacred place, connecting God and humanity.
And number two. It is the place of God’s presence; So if you want to go to be near God, you have to come to the temple. And, depending on traditions, your holiness, and ritual purifications, you were allowed to draw near to the Holy of Holies, where God was.
Number three. The Temple is where God’s people would come to meet with him. Its not that God the Creator of heaven and earth needed a house. But that God created a place for us to come and to meet with him. So if you wanted to pray to God… to hear from God… to sing to God… then you go to the temple. So it was a meeting place.
Number four. It was the place where sin was atoned for… the ritual purifications… the offering of sacrifices... This was the place where the high priest, a Levite through the heritage of Aaron, would be permitted by God’s grace one day a year… on Yom Kippur… the Day of Atonement; to enter into the Holy of Holies where he would sacrifice for the
forgiveness of sin. This was their expectation… their anticipation…
And, number five. The temple was the center of life, faith, and worship. God’s people would come to this place and they could be together as God’s people. It was a place of
community… of fellowship… of family… It is where God’s people would come to be together. It was the center of their life, their faith, and their worship.
So, when Mary is ascending the steps, holding Jesus; she is carrying in her arms the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system, the entire Day of Atonement, the entire purpose of the nation of Israel, the construction of the temple, the service of the priests, and the sacrifices that are offered. This is magnificent moment! This is epic! This is of
historic proportions! This is unparalleled in all of history! And all of this culminates in Jesus.
2. He promises to destroy the temple
And now Jesus has come to the temple… It was this temple that was prophesied about in Malachi 3:1… four hundred years before the birth of Christ, "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord
The Lord you are seeking will come to His temple!
So again, back to Mary carrying Jesus up the steps of the temple, singing and celebrating; she is fulfilling Malachi. She is fulfilling prophecy. And Jesus comes to the temple; he comes to that place. And if your familiar with the Bible you know that Jesus was often in the temple. Luke actually uses these words… "every day" (Luke 22:53).
So being there was his custom, he went to the temple. He preached and taught and his fame grew and the crowds followed him and the multitudes would come to him. Jesus keeps coming to the temple to preach and teach. And then, something very interesting happens in Luke 19:45. Jesus is filled with rage and anger, and he cleanses the temple because, he
says, "My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it 'a den of robbers'" (Luke 19:46).
And that was all the result of Herod. You see, the original temple didn’t have the addition that Herod built. He had created a business district... He had expanded the temple to include the selling of goods. It was corrupt... everyone had something to sell… everyone had some angle, some relic, some holiness, some goodness to offer you. And it wasn’t
just sacrificial animals… it was "Buy this, it’s from here… it’s special… it’s dedicated to the Lord… it’s sacred." Well Jesus saw that and he was furious… he overthrew the tables and he rebuked the merchants for using God for gain.
They were like some of our Christians musicians or TV evangelists… they had been misusing the Temple and I want to share with you one of the most important verses regarding Jesus and the temple… so important its echoed in the other gospels… This is Jesus’ most important statement regarding the temple… everything culminates in this moment.
"Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God" (Luke 21:5).
Here they were in the temple, it was twice as large as the first temple, everything was glorious, no expense was spared. And the disciples stood there gazing at the temple and they said, "We’ve never seen anything like this, a building this incredible, so glorious, so absolutely amazing..." And here’s what Jesus says…
"As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down." " (Luke 21:6).
You could probably hear a pin drop…
He’s going to destroy the place that’s the link between heaven and earth… the place where God’s presence dwells… the place where people meet with God… the place where sin is atoned for… the place that’s the centerpiece of life, faith, worship, and community. And He promises that not one stone would be left on the other. And for them, that must have
been horrifying… to think that like Solomon’s temple, Herod’s temple would also be destroyed.
Now, when Jesus was arrested, he was run through a series of trials, and they basically have two charges against him. One of them is, "He claims to be God" and the other "that he will destroy the temple". Now, here’s my question to you… the question that I want to close with in our remaining time is this: Why did Jesus destroy the temple? Why did Jesus
prophesy and then fulfill his prophecy of the destruction of the temple? Why?
3. We become the temple
I am going to answer that question… you knew I was going to… and here it is… It was an idol… It’s still an idol.
An idol by definition is something that is created. Paul says it this way in Romans 1:25, they "worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator..." A created thing could be something that God has made… something like the human body, comfort, or pleasure. A created thing could be something that is made with human hands. But in his sermon on
Mars Hill, Paul said, "God does not live in temples built by hands" (Acts 17:24).
So when Jesus said, "Not one stone will be left on another" He was foreshadowing a greater work. This temple is going away… and we become the Temple of God!
This was prophecy, this was expectation, this was anticipation, and now it’s all been fulfilled. The temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. just like Jesus said. And it’s been destroyed for almost two thousand years. Why? Because we have no need of it. It served its purpose. For hundreds of years, it prepared people, it pointed people to the coming of Jesus,
and once he came, its purpose was fulfilled.
Today we don’t go to the temple, because Jesus is our temple. What is now the place or the connection between heaven and earth? It’s Jesus. Where was God’s presence on the earth? In Jesus. Where do we go to meet with God? Jesus. There’s one mediator between us and God: this God who became a man, the man Christ Jesus. Where is sin atoned for? It’s in
Jesus. Where is the center of our life, our faith, our worship, and our community today? Jesus. So, today we don’t go to the temple. And I love that Jesus doesn’t even give us that option.
It’s not like we get up and flip a coin, "Do I go to Jesus or the temple today?" You go to Jesus or ruins today.
Even the priesthood came to an end with Jesus… He usurped the priesthood, because He’s our great high priest. The Bible says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Isn’t that amazing?
You see back in the day, the high priest would live a separate life. He wasn’t exposed to the temptations, the trials, and the troubles that the average person faces. But Jesus is a high priest who can sympathize. He’s lived a life of insignificance. He’s been poor, He’s been abused, spat upon, mocked, betrayed, disowned, abandoned, suffered, homeless,
broke, and despised.
There is a God, no matter what your circumstances, who relates to you, as you relate
to him, and there is sympathy. Aren’t you glad that Jesus is our high priest?
And lastly, we don’t come today to bring a sacrifice. We’re not carrying lambs or pigeons or doves to church today. Jesus has atoned for our sins. John said it best, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Paul says, "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7). God demonstrates his love
for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. You don’t need to bring a sacrifice because Jesus died, Hebrews says, once for all. Peter says, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.
And here, this is amazing; it blows me away, that so many today would say we need ritual, we need religion, we need the priesthood, we need to sacrifice. And, the answer is, no, you need Jesus. You need Jesus. Isn’t it amazing that all you need is Jesus?
And if you meet Jesus, you have everything. That’s amazing. We have a word for that: grace.
And as we close, I will share with you another Scripture. "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
You, you, and you are what? "God’s," What’s it say? "Temple."
As we sit here remember this: through the grace of God and the death and resurrection of Jesus, our high priest, our temple, our sacrifice, we by the grace of God become the temple of God. That is that the Holy Spirit takes up residence and moves in the sons and daughters of the Father and he makes us the Holy of Holies. He chooses to dwell in us, so
that we don’t need to go to him, that he has come to us. That we don’t need to go to a holy place, but that through the Holy Spirit, we would be a holy people.
That’s why the Bible says that all Christians are a priesthood of believers, that our whole life is about ministry, that you’re all priests in Christ, that you’re all temples of God.
Jesus says, "I’ll destroy the temple, but no one should touch my people; because now they are my temple."
Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott
Learn more about the Christ's Community Church