More than mere prediction

The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:18-19, NAS]

A study in John has led to some thinking on Jesus’ clearing of the temple (Jn 2:13-22). Of particular interest was Jesus’ response to his Jewish interlocutors who sought a sign for his authority to wreak such havoc in near sacred space (i.e. the court of the Gentiles). Some observations:

1. Destroy this temple is more than mere prediction. No doubt Jesus’ answer was prophetic but to see this as straight foretelling fails to take into account that Jesus utters a command. The statement is not If you destroy…, When you destroy…, or even You will destroy; rather, we find the phrasing of an imperative–Destroy this temple.

2. Jesus’ use of the imperative makes clear that he controls the agenda. When the Jews demand a sign not only does Jesus not grant their request he places the onus on them by commanding them to take part in producing the sign (albeit as glorified stagehands constructing a scene for the lead actor). 

3. Even human rebellion is governed by Jesus’ authority. In the gospels, the demand for a sign is most often a sign of man’s unbelief (Mat 16:1-4) and that axiom seems to apply here, too. We know that the eventual tearing down of Jesus’ “temple” was the ultimate act of unbelief & rejection even as they did exactly what they were commanded to do (cf. Acts 4:27-28).

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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