Yet as we find recorded in the Gospel accounts, this isn’t what we find. Of course, there was the situation with the twelve-year old who had made His way to the Temple to reverently inquire of the Teachers there (Lk 2:41-49). According to Luke’s account here, the boy Jesus had spent what appears to be at least four days after the Passover Festival. Clearly, this was an indication of his future calling.
Jesus of Nazareth, a man of modest upbringing, is claimed to have spent His adolescent years as either a carpenter or mason. It is in fact possible He could have assisted in the massive Temple reconstruction efforts of King Herod had undertaken.
Whatever His background with the Temple, Jesus’ ministry had become emboldened toward those who served the more lofty occupations within its walls. Wrought with the rich devotion to the precious words of the Scriptures, Jesus enters the courts (after entering triumphantly into the city welcomed by palm branches) He proceeds to overturn the tables of what would have been a marketable monopoly for the Temple – a profitable opportunity for the religious presence in the city.
He wisely and with excellent hindsight and scriptural awareness quotes from two different prophets concerning Yahweh’s house. It is both a beautiful and tragic moment. In a climatic convening of the presence of Yahweh with His most beloved Son in this most hollowed place, the message to the earthly covenant bride is one of solemn rebuke and reprimand. While seen by many as one of the most righteously indignant of Jesus’ entire ministry, It is also carries with it the indication of the unbroken covenant. Rebuke isn’t given without awareness of the proper function, especially not from the Son of God. This is a moment that should have transformed much of the ministry and mindset of priests and Levites working in the Temple. It would had brought with it a heavy reminder of the covenant Israel had so long ago agreed to with Yahweh, and more importantly, would have allowed eyes to be opened to the very source of the pillar of fire and fire that had once led the Israelites to indicate the location of Yahweh’s intrepid presence.
This moment, instead, was one of indiscretion, and even indignation for the chief priests and the scribes (Mk 11:18). Of the many sad days of estrangement of the true purpose of the Temple through Jerusalem, and more broadly, the people of Yahweh themselves; this qualifies as more of a failure of God’s people more than others. The Temple was in its most grand and lavish state, even exceeding the architectural plans of King Solomon, who was called the wisest (and wealthiest) king of his day. It wasn’t that long ago that they not only had no temple to entertain the very glory of Yahweh, but they had no land to call their own at all while in a Babylonian exile. Yet here the Jews had a special privilege of being present when the Son of Yahweh dwelled in His Father’s temple. Surely there would have been a royal decree delivered in advance of the crowned prince’s soon arrival. In fact, there was!
As we approach the Christmas season, and recite Luke’s account of the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah’s birth into our world, we do recognize the significance, yet we often return to the event as though it was a static event necessary for God’s eventual purpose of redemption to take place. Did Jesus birth really just point to an eventual death? Could this event have implications beyond just the redemptive act of gruesome sacrifice so well-known later in the Gospels? We are in a season that is magically preserved with memories of generosity, good tidings, and celebration. It is my assessment that Jesus’ birth represented new life that would be offered to us, not just the washing away of filthy rags.