“You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Beautiful churches burning down was something with which the Jews were all too sadly familiar. Josephus comments about Solomon’s temple, “the temple was burnt four hundred and seventy years, six months, and ten days after it was built.” 470 years isn’t 800 years, but it’s still a long time.
The second temple was built under Zerubbabel and lasted 580 years. It was beautifully restored and refurbished by King Herod (yes, that one) and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. 580 years also isn’t 800 years, but combined with the first temple, we’re talking 1050 total years of a beautiful structure at the heart and center of a nations cultural, religious, and political life.
Buildings being what they are, they can be rebuilt. It’s what man does. Made in the image of the Chief Architect, building stuff is what His children do. Anybody know a famous carpenter Whose dad is God?
As we watched Notre Dame cathedral burning down last night, countless souls were contemplating tomorrow. Craftsman, financiers, politicians, and religious leaders will muster and make something rise from the ashes. It will happen, and 800 years from now this fire will be a sad footnote. Evidently, like the human body, most of the cathedral has at some time been renewed or restored anyway, so that while the DNA – the blueprint so to speak – endures, the physical stuff comes and goes. (And it’s not as if the physical stuff doesn’t matter as the Gnostics said, but that the blueprint “becomes flesh and dwells among us”; or to rephrase Jesus’ words, the physical stuff profits nothing, the blueprint gives life, to stone, wood, marble, and glass.)
Here’s something that can’t be rebuilt: the human body. There was something profound going on in the telecasts of the cathedral fire, when we heard on several occasions, “Thankfully no one was injured or killed,” or when the pope said he was praying for the fire fighters. Ask anyone if, given the choice between their child dying or the Notre Dame cathedral burning down, what they would choose.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…He was speaking of the temple of His body.”
There’s only one who can rebuild the religious structure that is the human body, and that is Jesus. In Him is the rebuilding of the structure burned down by the “dust and ashes” curse given to man. And from Him is the source of that rebuilding, the elements of water, blood, and spirit – body and blood – that rebuild the human body. It’s what issued out from Him as He died, what He “handed over” at His death, when He said “It is finished,” and at that moment could it truly be said, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.” The re-creation by the Chief Architect – so critical in John’s Gospel – is complete, complete at the moment of Christ’s glory, when He draws all people to Himself, the source of re-creation. And a new Sabbath Day dawned, an eight day of creation, when the light pierced the darkness and the world was renewed.
For Christians there is sadness over Notre Dame, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s in the spirit of “sorrowing not like those who have no hope,” or if the non-religious are actually grieving more deeply over the loss of what in their minds was something like Babel, a triumph of man. They comment about the loss of this triumph of human spirit, and they are quick to add something to the effect of how the cathedral “transcended the religious significance.” They talk of its cultural and national significance, its importance for the French people and for the world, its visit by 12 million people every year.
I can’t help but hear Jesus say, “Don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and your children.” France is one of the most irreligious nations on earth. Would that they embraced what this so-called icon of their national identity really means.
God allowed the gorgeous second temple to be destroyed by the Romans when the Third Temple – His Son, the Church – was built, after a generation had passed. God allowed Notre Dame Cathedral to start on fire in His wisdom. Sorry, but that is true else God is not Almighty. Perhaps this can be a wake-up call for France, and for that matter, all of Europe.
At the foundation of every Christian’s heart are those words of the hymn, “Crumbled have spires in every land, Bells still are chiming and calling, Calling the young and old to rest.” Christians enter the most beautiful temple and cathedral ever – their beautiful Savior – every time they gather for worship. I’ve led divine service in the woods with Soldiers, in classrooms with students, and in church buildings no one would give a thought to if they burned down.
But the one who is the rebuilt temple, built in three days, is the one who renders all other temples unnecessary. Gorgeous cathedrals are wonderful, and building them most certainly speaks something about the faith priorities of those building them. Mirroring on earth the beauty our faith contemplates in heaven should be the goal of every Christian in their building of churches, as opposed to the “What can we get for the cheapest value?” we’ve been getting the last several decades, as coincidentally, the priority of faith declines.
But at the end of the day, “Built on the Rock, the Church shall stand, Even when steeples are falling.”