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The problem of the Jewish Messiah and the Temple


Jesus cleansing the temple by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765)

Jesus cleansing the temple by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765)

As they did in Jesus day, many Orthodox Jews reject Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Even today they still await their Messiah’s coming.

In the Old Testament, there were a number of prophecies that spoke of the Messiah and Jesus fulfilled them all including being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and even riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

But there is one prophecy from the Book of Daniel that is very problematic for the Jews and it involved a prophecy about the Messiah and the Temple.

In some ways it explains the love hate relationship Jesus had with the Temple.

On one hand Jesus cleansed the Temple by taking a whip and driving out the money changers claiming it was supposed to be a House of prayer (Matthew 21:12-17).

But Jesus also prophesied the Temple’s destruction telling His disciples that not even one stone would be left standing on another (Matthew 24:1-2).

In the end, it would be Jesus’ public statements about the Temple that got Him into trouble with the ruling class. After Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jews asked Christ for a sign giving Him the authority to clean house.

Jesus answered, destroy this Temple and in three days it will be rebuilt (John 2:14-21).

Though the Jews thought Christ was referring to the earthly temple, John points out Jesus was in fact talking about His death and resurrection.

In a nutshell, Jesus was replacing the Temple.

In the end the Priests took those words, twisted them, and charged Jesus with blasphemy claiming He intended to destroy the Temple (Mark 14:55-63). And it was clearly a bur in their side, because as Jesus hung on the cross a number of Jews mocked Christ saying:

“You who are going to to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself.” (Matthew 27:40 NASV)

The reason for all this conflict is the Temple’s destruction was tied to the Messiah. The prophet Daniel saw the Temple serving as an important Messianic signpost.

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:16 NASV)

This passage says that after the Messiah shows up and is cut off, Jerusalem and particularly the Temple will be destroyed.

In 70 AD, forty years after Jesus’ death, Titus sacked Jerusalem and obliterated the Temple. He ordered his centurions to strip the site bare. There was not even a stone left hinting the Temple 0nce stood on that spot, just as both Daniel and Jesus predicted.

So who among the Jews could be considered the Messiah prior to the temple being destroyed?

The answer is no one but Jesus.

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