Then answered the Jews and said to him, What sign show you to us, seeing that you do these things?…
It would have been a great one in their sense of it. Zerubbabel and Herod had raised the Temple, and other great persons buildings as great. But the temple of the body, if ever that were down, all the temple builders that ever were would never get it up more. So great, indeed, was it that he in hell could not desire a greater (Luke 16:30).
I. CHRIST'S BODY IS THIS TEMPLE. The Pharisees mistook the term. Christ could not have meant God's house, the zeal of which consumed Him, and which He had just purged. Only polluted temples are destroyed. Christ, who knew His own meaning best, has interpreted it, and perhaps then pointed to His body.
1. A body a temple? How? Because God dwelleth there. There are temples of flesh and bone as well as of lime and stone. Our bodies are called houses because tenanted by souls, temples when tenanted by and used in the service of God.
2. Christ's body a temple seems only such by some gift or grace, but in Christ dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead (1 Corinthians 2:9), and always pure and employed in the Father's service.
3. Christ's body "this" temple.
(1) The two temples began alike at Bethlehem (Psalm 132:6; Matthew 2:1).
(2) Both were destroyed and reared again. The Chaldees destroyed the one and Zerubbabel raised it. The Jews destroyed the other, and Christ Himself raised it.
(3) Both were consecrated to like uses. There, the only true holocaust of His entire obedience, which burnt in Him bright and clear all His life long (Leviticus 6:9). There the only true trespass-offering of His death, satisfactory to the full for all the transgressions of the whole world (Leviticus 5:6). There the meat and drink offering of His blessed body and blood (Leviticus 2:1).
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF IT BY DEATH.
1. The saying.
(1) Death is a dissolving, a loosing the cement with which body and soul are held together.
(2) This temple drops not down from age or weakness, dissolves not of itself, but by force and violence.
(3) Violent on their part, voluntary on His. He could have avoided it, and must have said it, or they could not have done it.
2. The saying no command, which would have been an order to commit sacrilege or murder; but —
(1) A prediction to warn them of what they were now casting about.
(2) A permission which is always in the imperative; permitted for a greater good the destroying of sin by destroying this temple; for a greater good still to raise it again.
3. The doing. He said dissolve; they said crucify. The roof of this temple, His head, was loosed with thorns; the foundation, His feet, with nails; the side aisles, his hands, both likewise; the sanctum sanctorum, His heart, with a spear. They did more, they violently loosed the temple. And remember it was one of flesh and bone, not of lime and scone. Yet the ruins of a temple of senseless stone will excite pity; how much more the sensible temple of His body which, even before its dissolution, was strangely dissolved in bloody sweat, nor was it alone dissolved.
(1) The veil of the material temple split from top to bottom, as it were, for company, or in sympathy with Him.
(2) The great temple of the universe in a manner dissolved: its face black, the earth quaking, the stones rending, the graves opening.
III. THE REARING IT UP AGAIN BY HIS RESURRECTION. The saying was spoken by way of triumph over all they could do to Him.
1. The act.-1ἔγερω is a raising from sleep, and sleep we know is not destruction. It is to show us that He would turn death into a rest in hope, both His and ours.
(2) They should therefore miss their purpose. They reckoned to destroy Him, but would only prepare Him a short rest.
(3) The ease with which He would do it — with no more difficulty than waking from sleep, or tying an unloosed knot.
2. The person rising. Not "destroy you and some other shall raise," but I will do it. An argument of His Divine nature. None could do it but God.
3. The thing raised. The same and no other.
(1) In substance.
(2) But not in quality; in a far better estate than before (Haggai 2:9). In the morning after sleep the body riseth more fresh and full of vigour. So His body and ours (1 Corinthians 15:42, 43) and henceforth this temple, dissolved in death, should be indissoluble by reason of resurrection.
IV. THE TIME TO DO IT IN. Within three days; and He did it within the time. Our duty then is —
1. To rejoice. At Easter we celebrate the feast of dedication, which was ever a feast of great joy.
(1) His dissolution means the loosing us from our sins and their consequences.
(2) His resurrection is a promise of what He will do for another temple: the temple of His body mystical, of which we are parts — living stones.
2. To templify our bodies, which in many are far from temples; houses of trade, pleasure, idolatary, which must be dissolved to be made God's houses. Then God must come in and sanctify them.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?