Monday, February 18, 2013

Jesus Did Not Come to Establish a Temple-Based Religion

The following is an excerpt from Garry Wills’ book, WHAT JESUS MEANT, (Viking Press 2006)

    When Jesus drives the merchants from the Temple, onlookers challenge him, “What authorization can you produce for doing this?” He responds: Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it again.” The Jews scoff at the mere idea of rebuilding the Temple in three days: “Construction of the Temple has taken forty-six years.” But the gospel adds: “The Temple he referred to was his body” John 2:21
    The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., and it never rose again. But Jesus had already loosened it from its moorings...
    Jesus did not come to replace the Temple with other buildings, whether huts or cathedrals, but to instill a religion of the heart, with only himself as the place where we encounter the Father. At first one might think Jesus would not recognize most of what calls itself religion today. But, on second thought, it would probably look all too familiar, perpetuating the very things he criticized in the cleanliness code, the Sabbath rules, the sacrifices, and the Temple. It was natural, therefore, for religion to kill him, since he was its foe.
    His followers would be killed for the same reason. Stephan, the first martyr, is stoned for predicting the destruction of the Temple Acts 6:14). Stephan tells his executioners what Jesus told the Samaritan woman: “The Most High does not live in houses constructed by human hand. Rather, as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool’ ” (Acts 7:48-49).
    What is the kind of religion Jesus opposed? Any religion that is proud of its virtue, like the boastful Pharisee. Any that is self-righteous, quick to judge and condemn, ready to impose burdens rather than share or lift them. Any that exalts its own officers, proud of its trappings, building expensive monuments to itself. Any that neglects the poor and cultivates the rich, any that scorns outcasts and flatters the rulers of this world. If that sounds like just about every form of religion that we know, then we can see how far off from religion Jesus stood.

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