Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19-20)
Kill me, and I will become the global meeting place with God.” That’s the way I would paraphrase John 2:19-21. They thought Jesus was referring to the temple in Jerusalem: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But he was referring to his body.
Why did Jesus draw the connection between the Jewish temple and his own body? Because he came to take the place of the temple as the meeting place with God. With the coming of the Son of God in human flesh, ritual and worship would undergo profound change. Christ himself would become the final Passover lamb, the final priest, the final temple. They would all pass away, and he would remain.
What remained would be infinitely better. Referring to himself, Jesus said, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6). The temple became the dwelling of God at rare times when the glory of God filled the holy place. But of Christ the Bible says, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). The presence of God does not come and go on Jesus. He is God. Where we meet him, we meet God.
God met the people in the temple through many imperfect human mediators. But now it is said of Christ, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). If we would meet God in worship, there is only one place we must go, to Jesus Christ. Christianity has no geographical center like Islam and Judaism.
Once when Jesus confronted a woman with her adultery, she changed the subject and said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus followed her on the detour: “Woman, . . . the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Geography is not the issue. What is? Jesus continued, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:20-23).
Jesus changes the categories entirely. Not in this mountain or in that city, but in spirit and in truth. He came into the world to explode geographical limitation. There is no temple now. Jerusalem is not the center. Christ is. Do we want to see God? Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Do we want to receive God? Jesus says, “Whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). Do we want to have the presence of God in worship? The Bible says, “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). Do we want to honor the Father? Jesus says, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).
When Christ died and rose again, the old temple was replaced by the globally accessible Christ. You may come to him without moving a muscle. He is as close as faith.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.