What’s in a word?
This weeks devotional was written by Mark Hathaway.
Last time we explored John 8:1 which says, “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Let’s continue on and see what nuggets of truth await us. I hope you will pause and take time to read the fifty-nine verses of John chapter eight. It will only take you a few minutes and will be well worth your while.
Now let’s continue our walk through John chapter 8. John 8:2 says, “Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.”
Verse one tells us that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Last time we learned that Jesus likely spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He got up early, probably at dawn. Jesus then walked roughly two miles across the Kidron Valley and entered the temple.
You may be asking yourself at this point, “What’s the big deal? It all seems pretty obvious, what is there to study in verse two?” To that I would respond excellent question!
Remember that God is the divine author of the Holy Bible. He chose to communicate His message using words written down by human authors. This makes each word in the Bible important, so we need to take notice of each word, in order to come to a correct understanding of God’s message.
One word that sticks out to me in verse two, is the word “again”. This word indicates to us that this wasn’t the first time Jesus went to the temple. In Luke 2:41-50 we learn of the first recorded instance of Jesus visiting the temple as a twelve year old boy.
Verses 46 & 47 of Luke chapter 2 tell us, “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.“
There are many verses in the gospel accounts that inform us that Jesus taught in the temple. Let’s look at one passage in particular. John 8:20 & 21 says, “Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’”
It would not be too much of a stretch to conclude that Jesus was well known in the temple. Knowing this illuminates the idea communicated by the phrase “and all the people came to Him”. The people knew Jesus, they wanted to hear him teach again.
The next word I want to discuss is the word “temple”. Did you notice in the above passage that Jesus said He always taught in the synagogues and the temple? What’s difference between the two? Why does it matter? Well I’m glad you asked! The three most important principles for Biblical interpretation, stated in order of importance are, CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT! Let me say it a different way. The historical, literary and cultural context of a passage will most certainly be important in the correct understanding of any passage of the Bible.
Knowing the difference between the temple and the synagogue will help bridge the gap between us and the original Biblical audience. So what was the temple?
Shortly after God lead the Israelites out of Egypt by His servant Moses, God commanded them to construct a mobile place of sacrificial worship called the tabernacle. The tabernacle was used while the Israelites wandered through the desert. Eventually, when the wandering was over, the temple was built to replace the tabernacle.
In Exodus 25:1-9 we learn that God gave the tabernacle design to Moses and told him (in verse eight) that the tabernacle would be a sanctuary where God would dwell among the people.
The temple was divided into three main sections and was a very bloody place. In the first section, referred to as the “outer court”, you would find both the people and the priests. The first thing you encountered was an altar whereupon animal sacrifices were offered to God, for the atonement of the sins of the people. One would place his hand on the head of the lamb, confess his sins, and cut the throat of the animal. The priest would then offer the animal as a burnt offering upon the altar.
Moving further in, the next piece of furniture was the bronze laver or basin full of water. The priests were commanded to ceremonially wash themselves before entering the next section.
The next section, or “Holy place” as it was called, only the priests were allowed. It contained the candlestick (we know it as the menorah), the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense. Here the priests would perform their duties as instructed by God.
The last section of temple, known as the “holy of holies”, or the “most holy place”, only the high priest was allowed to enter, and only once a year. This is the section of the temple that was separated by the veil that was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51).
The holy of holies contained the ark of the covenant. Inside the ark was Aaron’s rod that budded, a jar of Manna from the wilderness, and the ten commandments.
The temple is the very place where Jesus overturned the table of the money changers and drove out the cattle (Matthew 21:12). The people had turned the temple into a place of commerce, when God’s intent was for it to be a house of prayer. A place where man could commune with God.
This is the temple. This is where Jesus taught the people. Next time we’ll take a quick look at synagogues and compare the two places where Jesus often taught.