Greater than the Temple in the Greatness of His Glory. —Matthew 12 verse 6
The careful reader of Holy Scripture must have observed that the temple of Jehovah was a structure surpassing most, if not all, other buildings in majesty and glory.
Mr. W. E. Gladstone — more than once Prime Minister of Great Britain — visited that bell-voiced preacher Dr. Chalmers in Edinburgh; and relating his experience with him, summed up everything in these words “Everything about him is massive, monumental and magnificent.” In considering the Person of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ everything about Him is massive, monumental, and magnificent!
The building in which Jehovah took up residence among His people was a massive structure in which the Shekinah Glory rested — a visible token of the presence of God in the midst of His chosen people.
In the opening words of Matthew 24 the disciples of our Lord drew attention to the temple buildings as they scanned them from the slopes of Mt. Olivet. The words from the lips of the Lord in reply to that remark were ominous. He stated, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” The temple was a true expression of dignity and glory so far as the outward appearance was concerned; but it was also the meeting place between God and man.
The context of Matthew 12 indicates that the disciples had been plucking ears of corn on the sabbath day, and this provoked the anger of the Pharisees who forthwith complained to the Lord. The answer which He gave must have staggered the religious zealots. He alluded to the occasion in which David and his followers ate the chew-bread which was an exclusively priestly food. Then He continued to adjust their thinking by reminding them that on the sabbath days the priests profaned the sabbath in the temple activities, and yet they were blameless. To consummate the rebuke to those theologians He affirmed His majesty and glory by stating, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”
Here is One who was Greater than the Temple in the Greatness of His glory!
The glory of the temple was about to fade both materially and typically, as indicated by the Lord in Matthew 23:38, “Your house is left unto you desolate!” Centuries have passed, and the majesty and glory of that building have long since vanished; but here is One whose glory shall never fade: it shall outshine forever that of the temple. His glory shall know no decline, “It shineth more and more unto meridian” (Proverbs 4:18). Glory was His from Eternity as indicated in the prayer of John 17 verse 5: “The glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” In time His glory was diffused as affirmed in John 1:14, “We beheld His glory …” His glory shall be displayed throughout eternal ages as John 17:24 attests, “That they may behold My glory.” Truly the contrast is unique, and we are enabled to apprehend and appreciate the significance of His words in Matthew 12:6 “In this place is One greater than the temple.”
The greatest contrast is not in that which is materialistic in character, but in the fact that the temple was where God dwelt in the midst of His people in the economy that has passed and where, in the Holiest of All, the sprinkled blood on the gold of the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat met the eye of God, enabling Him to cover up the guilt of the nation for twelve months, and to give acceptance to the people. The High Priest on the day of atonement entered the Holiest of All alone, and not without blood which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people. He was the representative of the whole nation. Our Lord Jesus Christ is greater than the temple for He is the meeting place between God and man; and He has entered into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us. We are favoured to approach the presence of a holy God as encouraged in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near…” The new and living way has been opened up and as purged worshippers we enter into His presence that we may present the sacrifice of praise continually.
The repetition of the sacrifices of old indicated there was no inherent value in the animal sacrifices presented. Hebrews 10:4 assures us “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Such sacrifices of old were finger-posts down the vista of time to the one sacrifice in which there is value and virtue: for His sacrifice has satisfied every claim of divine justice, and its value may be appreciated by the believing sinner. In Hebrews 10:11 we are reminded that “every priest standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”
The shadow has been displaced by the substance:
“I need no earthly altar,
I need no earthly priest,
I need no earthly fasting,
I need no earthly feast.
I need no earthly temple,
I need no sabbath day:
As substance of the good things came,
The shadows passed away.
The altar spake of sacrifice
On it the Lamb was slain:
The altar cross of Calvary
Makes other altars vain.
And fasts and feasts are blended
With such stupendous skill:
They now consist in simply this —
The doing of God’s will.
The earthly temple passed away—
’Twas built of cold, dead stones:
In place God builds a new abode,
But ‘tis of living stones.
The earthly Sabbath passed away,
A shadow at its best.
The substance came in One, Who said,
‘Come unto Me and rest!”
There is a building today which is not visible to the human eye, as indicated by both Paul and Peter. Paul stated in Ephesians 2:20-22 that we are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Peter in his First Epistle chapter 2 verse 5 reminds those to whom he wrote that “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
We have a superlative Christ! He is incomparable! May the reader be given a fuller apprehension of this blessed One, and a deeper appreciation of Him Who is Greater than the Temple in the Greatness of His glory.