Yes, it's that time of year again, the time when all Christendom gathers to celebrate the birth of Christ! At this time of year, most Christians celebrate the birth of a Baby without taking into account the true import of what Jesus did when He grew into His Ministry. Aside from the fact that 'He was born to die', 'Jesus came to save us from our sins' & of course, 'God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son...........................', etc, etc, few Christians realize that the 'world' He loved so, in context, was 'the world' of His own day ( the 1st century Roman world of Jews & Gentiles ) & that the people He came to save was His own ( again, 1st century Jews-Matthew 15:24 )!
We all know the Story of how Jesus entered the Temple of the Jews once upon a time, became rather indignant & ended turning the tables, before driving those wicked Jews out, quoting from the prophecy of Jeremiah ( 7:11 ), telling them 'Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!' ( John 2:15 ( Matthew 21:12 & 13 ), but how often do we think about why He did this, what the real significance was? Sure, we all learned in Sunday School that Jesus was showing us how displeased He was that they were using the Lord's House to make their filthy lucre & that should be a lesson never to do business in a church building ( oh, wait...........), but is that really what Jesus was saying to them?
When Jesus told His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you, not [ one ] stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down' Matthew 24:3 ), we take Him at His word; not one stone ( literally ) would be left there ( on the Temple Mount? ) that would not be taken away! Two things that we should be reminded of here though, are ( 1 ), we are trying to understand Eastern Literature in our Western context & ( 2 ), not unrelated, Jesus was reaching back into Israel's own history ( which they probably realized ), quoting from their Law ( Leviticus 14:40 ) & telling them their House ( the Temple ) had been cursed! So, did Jesus simply cleanse the Temple by His actions, or was He telling them by His actions that their House was about to be desolated ( Matthew 23:38, Luke 13:35 )??
Paul's letters are full of references ( for those who care to see ) to the fact that Jesus' disciples ( into the 21st century & beyond ) are now His dwelling, His Church, His Temple! The Stones that Jesus said would be thrown down ( Leviticus 14:42 ) were, even in Peter & Paul's day, being replaced by 'living stones' & His disciples were 'being built up a spiritual house ( Temple? )'. The point Jesus was making to His disciples here was not that there would actually be no stones left, but that this 'house', the Jewish Temple had been condemned!
Yes, 'God so loved the world', so much so, in fact, that He condemned those unbelieving Jews who dared corrupt His Temple! When we take into account the fact of Audience Relevance & the poetry ( literature ) of the Ancient Near East, Stories such as these take on a whole new meaning & significance; did Jesus come to save His people from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 )? Yes indeed, He most assuredly did! Did He come to die? Again, yes, but He came to do so much more than simply open the passage for us; He came to dwell with ( in ) us, to set upon His Throne in us, His New Temple!
We might be reminded here of the Hebrew meaning ( in other words ) of 'Israel'; it means 'ruler with ( or 'Prince of' ) God!
Charles Haddon Shank