The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business. . . . The Jews then said to Him, What sign do you show us as your authority for doing these things? Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said, It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days? . . . (John 2:13-22, NASB)
In this "Descent" series, I thought we'd take a further look at the scriptural basis for the "redemptive reading" of scripture, especially Old Testament scripture. In this day and age of "discernment ministries," it doesn't take much to find yourself cross-wise with a number of your neighborhood literalists. If you say that Paul's "cross" doesn't just literally mean a wooden cross, for instance, you could find yourself on the wrong side of a Google heresy search. Knowing and understanding the Word in light of redemption is a far cry from the strict literalism we hear in the "discernment" pulpit.
In John's account, we see Jesus coming to the Temple making a huge spectacle of things by overturning tables, throwing out money, and calling all of the money changers "thieves." When the noise finally dies down and some of the more irascible Jews, who were out a lot of money by now, dare to confront him, they demand, "What sign do you show us as your authority for doing these things?" They demand a sign because they are strict literalists. They know that there is nothing in their scripture (Old Testament) specifically forbidding them from ripping off their brethren. They say, in effect, "You don't have any authority to do this unless we see some sign miracle from God. And if we don't see a sign, you can leave us alone so we can make our money." You can almost see this vile brood laughing, chortling, and patting themselves on the back for being so clever.
"A sign? You want a sign?" They all get quiet as they wait for Jesus to respond. "Is he actually going to do one?" they ask, whispering to each other. Jesus then shouts, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!" You can hear a pin drop. All eyes are on him. Out of the stark silence, one of the Jews in the back speaks up, "Moe, do I have to lend him my shovel?" They all burst out laughing, "Ha! Ha! It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days? That's a laugh! Ha! Ha!"
The ironic thing about this account is that these Jews weren't illiterate. They "knew" their scriptures. They heard exactly what Jesus said, but they didn't have a clue as to what He meant. This was precisely the case with the Sadducess, that strict Jewish sect that didn't believe in the resurrection because they couldn't find a proof-text spelling it out for them:
Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24, NASB) (italics supplied)
Without knowledge of the redemptive template, we could be right in the middle of that merry band of Temple Jews. What is the redemptive template? Here is the same narrative account with what we might call John's voiceover kept in:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business. His disciples remembered that it was written, ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME. The Jews then said to Him, What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things? Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said, It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22, NASB)
In the full account, we see that John added a voiceover to the narrative that gives us insight into how we are really to understand Jesus' statements. The Jews had heard him, but they didn't associate anything that he said or did with the scriptures. The disciples also had heard him, but only understood the scriptures' true meaning and context after he had been resurrected. John shows us that, while Old Testament scriptures have their historical sense, that's not all there is to them. They carry within them a figural redemptive template, a kind of magical mystery tour of God's redemptive plan in Christ, that is understood only in the light of Jesus' resurrection. (cf. John 8:56 - "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.) John shows us that seeing and understanding this redemptive template is of the utmost importance in understanding Old Testament scripture.
Aside from the discernment literalists, in the Body of Christ today there is a movement afoot promoting a kind of dual-covenant theology for the nation of Israel based upon a literal reading of certain Old Testament scriptures. Under this theology, God has retained a covenant through Abraham that is separate and apart from the new covenant that we have in Christ. Jews can be saved through observance of the Torah, they say. Scriptures such as Genesis 22:18 ("In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed") and Psalm 132:13 ("For the Lord has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His habitation), without any deference to the redemptive template, are hailed as the basis to "bless" the nation of Israel with Jewish dances in South Texas and PAC money dinners in Washington. We should understand that the redemptive template is not separate and apart from Israel's hope for deliverance. In Psalm 69, for instance, where John's redemptive voiceover is loud and clear, we see "Israel's" deliverance:
Let heaven and earth praise Him,
The seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah,
That they may dwell there and possess it.
The descendants of His servants will inherit it,
And those who love His name will dwell in it. (Psalm 69:34-36, NASB)
The New Testament also amply demonstrates that the redemptive template applies to this theology's two bedrock scriptures, Genesis 12:18 and Psalm 132:10:
For the Lord has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His habitation. (Psalm 132:10)
And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ. (Acts 2:30, quoting Psalm 132:11)
In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:18a)
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations will be blessed in you." (Galatians 3:8, quoting Genesis 12:18a)
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. ... And to your seed," that is, Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
Without understanding the redemptive template or hearing the voiceover, we're apt to miss it as badly as those Temple Jews.