There are four different visits, or advents, that Jesus makes to the Temple. Each of which achieves something different, something which is also applicable to each Christian and to each Christian community.
1 As a baby he comes as the fulfilment of its promise and hope.
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’
2 As a child he comes to share in its learning, to celebrate its treasure store of wisdom and piety.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
3 As a man he comes in prophetic guise to purify and restore.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”’
4 As a sacrifice and saviour he comes to modify – to remove the barrier between God and mankind and open up the possibility of deep, enduring encounter.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Significantly, the New Testament uses the temple as a striking metaphor for the Christian life:
- Our corporate life of faith together, our community, is described as a temple.
- Our individual bodies are also described as temples – places where God dwells by His Holy Spirit.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
It occurs to me that this means we also need each of these four advents of Christ in the temple of our corporate life of faith and in the ‘temple’ of our physical body.
So what would that entail?
1 Christ – the fulfilment of our promise and hope:
As Christ came as the fulfilment of the messianic hope of Israel, so He comes as the fulfilment of our individual and corporate potential. It is only as we welcome Christ into the centre of our lives as individuals and communities that he can enable us to reach our fullest potential, to be significant for eternity as we take our place at His side in the redemption of the universe.
2 Christ – the authenticator of truth, the celebrator of good:
Christ came to authenticate what was good and true in the religious life of Israel. He came to celebrate the truth they had correctly received, understood, applied and guarded. What does Christ authenticate in us, in our learning and application? What does Christ celebrate about our response to the truth that has been granted to us, individually and corporately?
3 Christ – the prophetic purifier:
Christ came to the temple and challenged practices which undermined their ability to fulfil their true calling – to be a missional centre for the world. What does Christ come to challenge in us individually and corporately? What practices and priorities are preventing us from fulfilling our mission to the world?
4 Christ – the sacrifice and saviour:
Christ’s death opened up the amazing possibility of direct access to the Father. No longer is our relationship with God mediated by third parties, but access is granted through Christ directly to our Heavenly Father who loves us. What barriers do we put in place that prevent people from connecting with the Father directly? Barriers of social class, vocabulary, liturgy, geography. What does Christ need to rip out of our worshipping life because it prevents people from connecting with God?
 Luke 2:22-38
 Luke 2:28-32
 Luke 2:41-50
 Luke 2-46-47
 Matt 21:12-17, Mark 11:12-19, John 2:13-22
 Mark 11:15-17
 Matt 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-38, Luke 23:44-46
 Matt 27:51-52
 1 Cor 3:16-17
 1 Cor 6:19-20
 2 Cor 6:16
 Eph 2:19-22