tricky temples

Picture this: You’re standing in the remains of an ancient ball-court arena. It’s made out of stone and bigger than a football field. It’s hot, there are mosquitos, and the locals have made clay jaguar-calls, so the sounds of big cats erupt from different corners around you. Standing in a World Heritage site like Chichén Itzá takes you back to a magnificent moment in time before European colonization of the Yucatan peninsula.

I love “wow” moments like that one. It was overwhelming to stand in the same dirt that ancient people had once trekked and lived lives centuries apart from mine. It humbles you to remember that you’re not even close to the center of the universe.

When it comes to your relationship with the Lord, do you still seek out “wow” moments with him?

I was re-reading the story in Matthew where Jesus and his disciples are picking grains from a field to eat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees (Jewish leaders) saw them and, looking for any means necessary to put down this carpenter from Nazareth, ran to criticize him.

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor those who were with him, but only for priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?”

Matthew 12:1-5

See, the Pharisees were missing the point. And, honestly, they were going with what they were trained to know, so I can’t fault them entirely. Jesus was showing us that they had cherry-picked the scriptures to fit a situation in which they wanted to catch him in a mistake.

“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is the lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:6-8

I’m sure you’ve been in a position where you’ve been wrong. Whatever it is that you’ve built – be it your pride, your product, your vision, your rebuttal – it falls short of the bigger picture. The Israelites used to build temples for God and, in trying to do something good, they built up the law to matter more than love – “mercy, and not sacrifice”.

Sometimes our temple makes us lose sight of what we’re doing this for.

The message between the Old Testament and New Testament can be tricky to navigate. In the Old Testament, God punished those who built altars to false gods, but rewarded those who built temples and offered sacrifices in his name. In the New Testament, we don’t see as many temples being built by God’s people. Why?

While the temples of the Old Testament served their purpose then, Jesus came to remove the need for them by making our bodies a temple for the Holy Spirit.

The very purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to tear the veil between an unattainable God and his lost people in need of an eternal sacrifice that would take power away from death forever. When he did that, the Holy Spirit allowed us to access Jesus inside of us – our own temple!

When the Pharisees chose to see Jesus’s picking grains as blasphemy of the law, they erected a metaphorical temple that made them blind to see the Sacrifice that was right in front of them. We do this in our own lives, too.

We shouldn’t use our pride in our sports team, our political affiliation, our tax bracket, our degrees, our faith, or our habits to put someone else down. When we choose to show someone they’re wrong (not in the I’m-being-a-loving-friend-and-showing-you-a-blind-spot-where-you’re-hurting-people-or-yourself way), we’re choosing our position over theirs.

And when we do that, we start to sound a lot like the dad from Matilda: “I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Thanks, DeVito!)

When you stand in the middle of your temple, whether it’s tangible or not, make sure God and His truth are the foundation you’re standing on, because temples can be tricky.

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