“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” (Matthew 12:7)
What an odd and explosive statement from Jesus’ lips. This happens in the middle of Jesus getting in trouble with the Pharisees once again over the actions of his disciples. They had plucked grain from a field and ate it, all on the Sabbath. And according to the law, that was a big no-no.
So Jesus uses the example of David to show he did a similar thing and God was okay with it, but then he went several steps further by claiming Himself to be Lord over the Sabbath (God) and saying that he is greater than the temple. So what does it mean that Jesus is greater than the temple?
In the days of Adam and Eve, God’s presence was fully and completely with his people. Then after Adam and Eve sinned, God removed his presence from his people and made them leave his perfect place. Next, we find God giving a man named Moses instructions for building a huge tent known as the tabernacle, so that God could once again share his presence with his people.
Years later, the tabernacle got replaced with a temple, a new permanent place for God to dwell with his people. If you were one of the people of God, you knew where the presence of God was. It was in the temple, behind the veil, in the Holy of Holies. Or at least that’s what you were told. After all, you could not go look for yourself, because if you saw, you would die.
So the temple is the place where the presence of God meets his people. It’s the place on earth where the very footstool of heaven touches the dust of the earth. It’s the place you could walk to, touch, and say, in here is the presence of God. And Jesus is claiming something greater than that sacred building is here; Him.
In the person of Jesus we find the new temple; the new manifestation of God’s presence among his people. Though this time, his presence is not houses in brick and mortar, but in flesh and blood. This time the eternal Word, who was with God and is God, became flesh and dwelt among us. And this time we don’t have to wonder if he is there; we can clearly see that he is here.