Solomon’s Portico (L), The Temple, and the Fortress of Antonia
(Model City SE corner)
Jesus was very closely connected to the Temple in Jerusalem. Shortly after his birth he was presented there by his parents, along with the necessary ritual offerings both for himself and for his mother (Lk. 2:22-24).
At that very time there were two important verifications of his divine nature and of his coming ministry. These were made by a couple of aged and devout people, Simeon and Anna (Lk. 2:25-38). His mother treasured these bits of revelation in her heart and probably remembered them often as her special son grew up.
In the following years Jesus no doubt accompanied his parents on their annual pilgrimages to the Temple. Since they were very pious, we can assume that they traveled to the Temple for the three major festivals each year. This was what the Israelites were commanded to do (Deut. 16:16). We see evidence of this devotion in Luke 2:41 and following. Jesus, at twelve years of age, had accompanied his parents to Jerusalem for Passover. When the parents departed for Nazareth, unknown to them, Jesus remained behind in the Temple area. After they had traveled a whole day they realized that Jesus was not in the family group. They hurried back to Jerusalem and began a search for the boy. After three days they found him in the Temple courts sitting and discussing spiritual truths with the teachers. He was both asking them questions and also answering their questions. All who heard him were amazed. When scolded by his mother for his actions Jesus replied: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? (Lk. 2:49).
HIS EARLY VISITS
With the help of The Reese Chronological Bible it is possible to sketch the visits Jesus made to Jerusalem and to the Temple in his ministry. In John 2 we see that Jesus visited the Temple at Passover, as was surely his custom. On this early occasion, what has been called the “First Cleansing of the Temple” took place (Jn. 2:13-22). It is interesting that after Jesus drove out the money changers and sellers of sheep and oxen, he still referred to the Temple as his “Father’s house” (v.16). Despite its great corruption by men’s sins, even those of the religious leaders, Jesus always looked upon the Temple as a special place.
Apparently in connection with this visit Jesus had a private talk with the religious leader, Nicodemus (Jn. 3:1-21). From that talk we have one of the most famous and well-known verses in Christianity. It is almost a one-verse summation of the gospel. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Jesus also spoke these shocking words to this religious leader: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jn. 3:3).
LATER MINISTRY IN THE TEMPLE AREA
In John 5 we see Jesus attending another feast in Jerusalem (likely the second Passover of his ministry). During this feast and at the northern end of the Temple complex Jesus healed the impotent man beside the Pool of Bethesda. In the controversy that later erupted with Jewish leaders concerning the supposed breach of their Sabbath laws, Jesus made a startling claim. He said: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Jn. 5:17). For this statement the Jewish leaders sought to kill him because they perceived that he had made himself equal with God.
In John 7 and following we see that Jesus made a private trip from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. Opposition to his ministry and teaching was now beginning to build rapidly and Jesus had several sharp discussions with the Jewish leaders at this time. During this visit Jesus gave a very beautiful teaching concerning himself. It probably happened as the customary “Water Drawing Festival” was taking place during Tabernacles. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:37-38).
In this visit Jesus apparently rescued the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11); claimed for himself the title “light of the world” (Jn. 8:12 ff.); and claimed that those who believed in him would know the truth and be set free (8:32). The thing that likely brought about his departure from Jerusalem on this trip was his statement to the religious leaders in John 8:58, claiming: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This statement also appeared to be blasphemous to them and they sought unsuccessfully to stone him.
On another occasion Jesus was in Jerusalem and healed the man who was born blind (Jn. 9:1 ff.). Probably as a result of his conflict with the Jewish leaders over this incident, Jesus related to them the parable of the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:1 ff.). Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd and the Door of the sheepfold. His claim cast the Jewish leaders into the role of being false shepherds and hirelings. Once more many of the Jewish leaders rose in opposition to him.
It was probably in the winter of the same year that Jesus came again to the Temple. On this occasion it was the Festival of Dedication or Hanukkah. On Solomon’s Portico in the Temple Jesus clarified his claim to divinity by saying: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30). With this the Jews tried once more to stone him but Jesus escaped from them and went beyond the Jordan River.
JESUS’ FINAL VISIT TO JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE
As Jesus led his disciples up to Jerusalem for that final visit he spoke with them about what awaited him in the city (Mt. 20:17-19; Mk. 10:32-34; Lk. 18:31-34). Unfortunately, the disciples did not understand about his coming crucifixion, death and resurrection.
In order to fulfill prophecy Jesus rode from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem and to the Temple area on a little donkey. Zechariah 9:9 had spoken of this in these words: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” We know that on this great occasion the common people spread garments and palm branches before him as they rejoiced and said: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt. 21:9).
Unfortunately, the Pharisees were not pleased with this demonstration saying: “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (Jn. 12:19). The Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19, have Jesus doing a second cleansing of the Temple on this occasion. With all this activity of Jesus, the leaders of Israel were sore displeased (Mt. 21:15) and once more challenged his authority (Mt. 21:23-27). With this act and with several parables and stories directed at the Jewish leaders, the pressure was building rapidly toward the crucifixion.
We see in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, that as Jesus and his followers left the Temple the disciples remarked to him about its beauty. Addressing their remarks, Jesus began to speak of the great judgment that would soon befall the Temple: “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’” (Mark 13:2). How true were Jesus’ words! That very generation would not pass until the Romans would come and totally destroy the Temple, not leaving one stone on top of another.
After this we see the plot unfolding for the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus (Mk. 14:1-2). Obviously they were fearful of the people and concerned that such an event would not happen during the coming Passover celebration. They were aided in their evil plans when Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples stepped forward and agreed to betray him for money (Mt. 26:14-16). Although Jesus had performed many astounding miracles before them these leaders did not believe. They fulfilled the words of Isaiah: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isa. 53:1; cf. Jn. 12: 37-41).
Jesus celebrated the Passover, his Last Supper, with his disciples and Judas hurried out into the darkness to finish his job of betrayal. Later that night Judas led the band of servants from the High Priest and elders to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus and his disciples had gathered. There, in the garden just below theTemple Mount, he betrayed his own Master into the hands of his captors.
Jesus was bound and taken for questioning before those of the High Priestly office, Annas and Caiaphas. The priests and elders sought out false witnesses against Jesus that they might condemn him. They deemed him guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death. He was mocked and abused by those present. The next day the whole Jewish Sanhedrin met and agreed that Jesus was worthy of death. He was therefore sent to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, that the death sentence might be rendered. Israel’s religious establishment, along with the depraved Roman political system and the rabble of people, all had a part in Jesus’ condemnation and later crucifixion.
Jesus the Son of God and Messiah of Israel was crucified as a common criminal on the hill of Golgotha just outside the city wall. On that cross Jesus did what could never be done by the multitudes of offerings throughout the many centuries of the Temple’s existence. With his shed blood he made possible our atonement and purchased our full salvation. When Jesus said “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), a new way of salvation was opened to humankind and a New Covenant was instituted with the House of Israel. With Jesus’ act on the cross, Matthew 27:51 tells us that the very thick and heavy veil in the Temple was suddenly rent asunder from top to bottom. The “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20) was now opened through the veil.
Publication date, 2008