In the previous post, I point out that status quo Christianity has fashioned a shiny idol out of the church building, in particular the “sanctuary”. Continuing on…
Have you ever been one who reads through the Gospels wondering something like, “I know Jesus was loving, but damn, He sure seems pissed off about anything that is associated with the Temple and Sabbath.” If so, you’re a very observational reader – and you’re right. So why is he so pissed? The Temple and the Sabbath were signposts that pointed towards something greater to come – Jesus, God himself in the flesh. To go on obsessing over the Temple and Sabbath would be like marveling at your bride’s wedding dress, refusing to take it off, back in the hotel on your wedding night. There comes a time to cast off that which hinders and celebrate what has come.
Consider what Jesus himself said of the Sabbath, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Similarly, are our church buildings built for us, or are we at their mercy? Indeed, the very concept of “a church building” is foreign to the New Testament, which identifies the people themselves as the Church. As Christians, we are no longer confined to a localized place of worship. Jesus rebukes the woman at the well for thinking in such terms. “The kind of worshippers that the Father seeks,” Jesus says, are those that “worship God in spirit and in truth” because “God is spirit” (i.e., everywhere present) (John 4:19-24).
Jesus’ crucifixion marks the decisive end to thinking there is some fixed, consecrated place of holy ground on which to worship. The veil of the Temple was torn. This is why it is illegitimate to appeal to Jesus’ cleansing the temple to support the thought that “the Father’s house,” i.e., the church building or church sanctuary, is a “holier” place than, say, my bathroom. This episode occurs prior to Jesus’ ushering in of the new covenant; when worship in (and of) the temple was still the norm. But that norm was about to be supplanted in just a few short days. Jesus foreshadows this by declaring, to Jews’ indignation, “destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus was going to radically change their idea of what the Father’s house was. Moreover, it also doesn’t hurt to point out that what sent Jesus into a fury was the immoral nature of the practices going on in the temple. He drove out those who turned his Father’s house into “a den for robbers.” By thinking of the Father’s house as a localized building, we repeat their sin by robbing ourselves of appreciating God’s awesome invitation to dwell exclusively within us instead.