The Temple – Significance to the Trial of Jesus
Prosecution by Caiaphas in the trial of Jesus was not going well because no two witnesses could agree on the same accusation as required by Jewish law. Finally two witnesses presented the same accusation:
MK 14:58 “”We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”” (NASB)
Not quite accurate according to the Gospel accounts of Mark and John. Jesus actually said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Nevertheless, it became the center point of the trial that Jesus claimed to be God because he said would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.
No legitimate Jew would ever think of destroying the Temple – it was the sacred House of God. When Jesus, a Jew, stood accused of saying he would destroy this Temple and miraculously rebuild it in 3 days, it was a feat that only God could do.
Hours later, the charge persisted at the crucifixion suggesting the mockers had been at the trial. They taunted Jesus asking if he could destroy and rebuild the Temple in three days, why couldn’t he save himself from the cross?
History of the Temple began at Mt. Sinai with Moses. Atop Mt. Sinai, God not only gave Moses the Law, He also made five big promises to the Hebrews all tied to the place. Three of those promises – the permanent dwelling place for His Name; the place to observe the Feasts; and the judgment seat of Israel – all involved the future Temple:
Until the place came to fruition, instructions were given to the Hebrews for a temporary mobile structure, a tent called the Tabernacle. God’s design for the Tabernacle served as the blueprint for the future Temple, its usage and contents.
Centuries later, King David wanted to build a permanent temple to replace the Tabernacle, but God had other plans. The prophet Nathan delivered the message that David’s future son would fulfill the promise given to Moses to build the House of God.
David still chose the future location of the Temple, but the backdrop story is nothing like it would logically seem. The site was a threshing floor owned by the Jebusite Araunah (Ornan) where winds on the high location were perfectly suited for separating grain from chaff.
Wanting to offer a sacrifice to God to atone for his sin that led to the deaths of thousands of Hebrews, David found Araunah’s threshing floor on high ground to be a suitable place for the sacrifice. Using his own money, the King bought the threshing floor along with all its equipment to use as the fuel for the sacrifice.
Building an altar himself, the King prepared the offering, then fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Moved deeply, David declared “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.” The place was on Mt. Moriah where a thousand years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed.
Temple construction began in the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign and was completed seven years later. Solomon held a public consecration for the permanent dwelling place for the Name of God and prepared a sacrifice on the altar in front of the new Temple. The King proclaimed to God:
2 CH 6:2-11 “I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.”(NKJV)
Spectacularly in the presence of all the Hebrews, God again sent down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. It left no doubt this was the place for the Temple to serve as the dwelling place for the Name of God.  During the night, God appeared to Solomon reminding the King that while He had fulfilled His promises from Mt. Sinai, it was not carte blanche – it came with a stipulation:
2 CH 7:19-20 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (NKJV)
After centuries of ignoring warnings from many prophets, it happened – the army of King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, under the decree of Persian King Cyrus with continued support from Kings Darius and Artaxerxes, the Second Temple was rebuilt.
King Herod enhanced the Second Temple although primarily for his own personal ambitions. He was able to sell the idea to the Jewish leadership saying he wanted to bring the Temple back to the intended grandeur of King Solomon which had been unaffordable at the time it was rebuilt. It came to be called Herod’s Temple by many, the location of both the Temple prophecy by Jesus and his trial.
Caiaphas asked Jesus to explain the accusations, but received no answer. As the High Priest, he had to know the prophecy of the Hebrew prophet Zechariah foretelling the Branch would build the Temple:
Zech 6:12-13 “…Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (NKJV)
Caiaphas, knowing the magnitude of the Temple accusation had divine implications as evidenced by his next direct question, cut straight to the heart of the trial pointedly asking Jesus:
“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”(ISV, NRSV)
When Jesus answered, “I AM,” it served as sufficient proof to Caiaphas that Jesus had spoken a blasphemy. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin serving as jurors took actions to have him put to death.
Was the claim by Jesus that he would rebuild the Temple in three days a daring metaphoric prediction spoken by the Son of God about his Resurrection; or was it a delusional claim of a man saying he would physically destroy and rebuild the Temple in three days?
Updated March 7, 2022.
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