When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Luke 21:5-6 (NRSV)
One year ago Margie and I had just returned from our trip to Germany. I love the food. But for me one of the other highlights was visiting beautiful churches, many over 500 years old. Unfortunately, some of those churches seemed more like museums than places to worship our Lord Jesus Christ. In Luke’s gospel the temple plays a central role. Jesus was consecrated in the temple as a baby (Luke 2:22-40). He journeyed to the temple as a twelve year old when he stayed behind listening and talking to the teachers. (Luke 2:41-51) Now Jesus has arrived at the temple. He cleanses it (19:45-46) and spends the last week of his life teaching in the temple (see 19:47 & 21:37). So no doubt it came as a surprise when Jesus announced that the temple would be destroyed. Jesus prediction was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple. This caused a crisis of faith since the Jews believe that God’s presence here of earth was in the temple. When the temple was destroyed the question among the Jews was – Is God still with us? Luke’s answer was yes. God was with us in the person of Jesus Christ. God was present hanging on the cross. The significance of the tearing of the curtain at Jesus death (Luke 23:45) was that God was not found in the temple but hanging on the cross. As Christians I believe we put too much emphasis on the idea that God is found in our church building. We call our church God’s house and believe that we need to come to church to have an encounter with God. Jesus is reminded us that he does not just dwell in a church building. When a family bows their heads at meal time and prays “come Lord Jesus be our guest” he comes and is a guest in their home. When I share the Lord’s Supper with a resident in a nursing home Jesus is present in the bread and wine. Whenever someone opens their Bible and begins to study God’s word, Jesus is present in the Word. As a meal is served to a hungry person Jesus is present. Our church building might be destroyed. Churches may become museums. But the good news is that Jesus does not dwell in a building. He is alive and is with us out in the world.