The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
“‘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 Almighty.”
Malachi 3:1 (NIV)
The Temple was Herod’s masterpiece; the gleaming white marble of the building could be seen from well outside the walls of the city. The scale of the place was designed to impress, and it dominated the landscape, effectively becoming the focal point of Jerusalem.
For most of the four centuries after the return from exile, one Gentile nation after another ruled the Jews: the Babylonians, the Persians, and Greeks, the Egyptians, Syrians and finally the Romans. The Temple was the focus of the Jewish way of life and had come to symbolise the national aspirations of liberation that led the Jews to revolt against their oppressors in the past – and which they would do again. Along with the daily offerings and rituals, the money changers ran a commercial operation and it was also the centre of the banking system, where the peoples’ debts were kept.
But it was just another signpost pointing forward to the Messiah, and as with the other signposts of the Old Testament it was about to become redundant when, forty days after his birth, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus into the temple. None of the priests and officials there knew the import of that little baby who was being brought into the temple: they wouldn’t equate the messenger of the covenant with a small baby, brought in by just another couple on just another day in the life of the temple.
Notice was given that day that in Jesus the new High Priest had arrived. Not only that, but the one eternal sacrifice had come, and in him our debts would be wiped out and we would be given complete everlasting forgiveness. Unlike the sumptuous temple, he had become poor for our sake, and our offerings and our widows’ mites would go to him. Unlike Herod’s imposing temple there would be nothing majestic about the man from Nazareth, yet victory and liberation and freedom would be found in him. The Old Testament speaks of the Shekinah, the glory of God, present within the innermost part of the Tabernacle behind the veil: that glory would no longer be found in the temple, but would be found in Jesus himself (Leviticus 16:2). Ritual would be replaced by participation in loving relationships.
Our heartfelt thanks, Father, for those few moments in the temple, with all of its glorious meaning for all of us, now and forever.
Study by Hilary Buck
About the Author:
Hilary Buck pastors Grace Communion in Lewes.
Grace Communion – Lewes
The Priory School
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