When I heard the story of John 9 on Sunday again, my mind connected it with the theme of the glory-Temple in Scripture. It is a theme that literally runs from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, but I want to focus on a somewhat smaller part of that story. To be even more specific, I want to focus in on the First Temple (a.k.a. Solomon’s Temple), the Second Temple, and Jesus Christ. Every time you hear about the Temple in the Gospels, I want you to remember a basic outline of the glory-Temple theme from the First Temple to Jesus Christ. The basic outline is this: (1) at the dedication of the First Temple, the glory-cloud took up residence in the Temple; (2) the Exile began when the glory-cloud departed from the Temple; (3) God’s glory only ever entered the Second Temple whenever Jesus Christ entered the Second Temple. I’m sure that I’ve written about this theme from the theological perspective of the Exile–that is, the Exile was really only at an end for God and Israel when Jesus Christ was in the Second Temple. But rather than focus on the Exile theme, I want to approach this theme in terms of Jesus Christ being the glory-Temple of God who seeks us. In John 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind. This man who was blind and now could see was unjustly thrown out of the Temple by the religious leaders of Israel. But when Jesus heard that they had expelled him from the Temple, Jesus went and found him. In other words, the man who could see was thrown out of the Second Temple but the glory-Temple who is Jesus went to him.
At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kings 8:10-11, we read, “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of YHWH, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH.” Earlier in Scripture, the glory-cloud had been associated with the Tabernacle, which was a portable temple. Now the glory-cloud took up residence in the Temple such that we’ll call the combination a glory-Temple. However, the glory would leave Solomon’s Temple in Ezekiel 10. This marked the beginning of the Exile from a theological perspective. Ezekiel 10:3-4 says, “Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. And the glory of YHWH went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of YHWH.” And as Ezekiel’s vision unfolded, he saw the glory of YHWH leave Jerusalem. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet saw a vision of the future when the glory of YHWH would enter a new Temple. However, went the Second Temple was built in Ezra-Nehemiah the glory-cloud didn’t come and fill it. Indeed, the Second Temple was a disappointment in terms of measuring up to the new Temple described in visions like Ezekiel’s. It was even a disappointment in terms of measuring up to Solomon’s Temple. But Haggai 2:7 says, in part, concerning the Second Temple, “I will fill this house with glory, says YHWH of hosts,” which would happen after some earth shaking, and Haggai 2:9 adds, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says YHWH of hosts. And in this place I will give shalom, declares YHWH of hosts.” Shalom means more than “peace” in English. In English, “peace” means the absence of conflict. In Hebrew, shalom means health and wholeness. In other words, the English peace emphasizes what isn’t and Hebrew shalom emphasizes what is. Jesus spoke of a day coming soon when the Second Temple would also be destroyed. This happened in A.D. 70. The prophet Haggai was not a false prophet. The glory of YHWH did come into the Second Temple in the person of Jesus Christ.
There are times that we see the glory of God enter the second Temple in the New Testament. As an infant, Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22). At that time, he was held by Simeon who said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29). We read again in Luke 2:41, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” Then Luke recounts to us the time when they accidentally left him behind in Jersualem. He says, “After three days they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46-47). We read in the Gospels how Jesus taught and healed people in the Temple during the last week before His crucifixion. Before this we read in Matthew 21 where Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. When Jesus died on the cross we read how the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom and the earth shook. But the theme of the glory-Temple is most pronounced in the Gospel of John. John tells us of the cleansing of the Second Temple in John 2:13ff. At that time, John tells us they asked for a sign for doing these things and Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews assumed that he was speaking about the Second Temple. However, John says, “But He was speaking about the temple of His body” (John 2:21). Indeed, John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus’ body was a portable glory-Temple, or a glory-tabernacle, and thus whenever He went into the Second Temple the glory of YHWH was coming into the Second Temple. Nor is it an accident that John tells us how the Samaritan woman at the well said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship” (John 4:20). And Jesus answers by saying that the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father on this mountain nor in Jerusalem and “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him” (John 4:21-23). John also talks about Jesus teaching in the Second Temple where he uses the word temple in John 5:14, 7:14, 28, 8:2, 20. We read in John 8:59, “So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the Temple.” The next verse begins the story, “As he passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.”
In John 9, Jesus anointed with mud the eyes of this man who had been blind from birth. He then sent the blind man through Jerusalem from just outside the Temple to the pool of Siloam to wash the mud from his eyes. When he washed that mud away, he could see. This was a new creation event. Already at this time, the Jewish leaders had agreed that if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Christ then they were to be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). In any case, the man went back to the Temple to give thanks to God. As someone blind from birth he had never been inside the Temple before. But now that he was healed, he could enter the Temple. And after an exchange where he showed more spiritual depth and maturity than the leaders of Israel, they kicked him out of the Temple. Then in John 9:35 it says, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?'” Here was the glory-Temple finding the man who had been blind but now could see. As if to emphasize how we are meant to read this story alongside the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, the man who could see answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus replied, “You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you” (John 9:37). The English translation obscures the reference to YHWH the “I am” as Jesus says, in Greek word order, “the one speaking with you, that one, I am.” This man had been blind but now has experienced shalom. Likewise, the Samaritan woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). Jesus replied, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26). Or again, as the reference to YHWH is obscured by this translation, the quote says, in Greek word order, “I am, the one speaking to you.” He was the seventh man in her life and now she knew shalom.
Thinking about this theme of the glory-Temple seeking us out was encouraging to me. I pray that it is encouraging for you too. Of course more can be said about this theme. But we’ve looked at a theme that is more than a “return from Exile.” We’ve looked at a theme where the glory-Temple seeks out those who belong to God. Speaking of a “return from Exile” is kind of like speaking of the English word “peace.” Instead, we have positively set forth how the glory-Temple in the person of Jesus Christ found that man who went to the pool of Siloam to wash and went to the Second Temple but was cast out. The religious leaders of Israel thought they were sending that man into Exile from the great I AM. But the glory-Temple was Jesus who sought out that man and said, “I am.” And now I might add that Jesus is in the midst of the greatest building project of all time–even better than the Temple foreseen by prophets like Ezekiel. This glory-Temple that Jesus is building by the Spirit is the people of God, His body, the church.