Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Sermon 25

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thought of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ


" I was glad when they said to me, let’s go to the House of the Lord"

the first verse of our Psalm this evening – expressing the joy and delight of pre-exile pilgrims – when meeting God – in the Temple at Jerusalem – at one of the Jewish Festivals –

Do you feel like that pilgrim this evening? – full of joy and excitment at coming into God’s house? – Does it make your day to come to church and pray?

Today we are – celebrating one of – our church festivals – “ the presentation of Christ in the Temple ” – when Jesus was presented to God – to fulfil the ancient ceremony of redemption according to the law of Moses –

Our two readings – are about temples – no we are not going to look at Temple architecture – but at the behaviour of the people – in those readings – to see if it helps us to decide how we should present ourselves – to God

Point 1

Our OT reading is from the time of “Haggai the prophet” – " Haggai" – in Hebrew means "sacred festival" – He produced just 4 oracles – in 4 months – and his book dates from the reign of Darius in 520 BC

In 538BC King Cyrus of Persia who conquered Babylon – allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem – but in the space of nearly 20 years – all their dreams of a new beginning – had been shattered –

a succession of droughts – and pest infestations – led to failed harvests – the people were suffering real poverty and rampant inflation – What had happened?

Haggia reminded them of something they had forgotten –

they were no longer exiles from Jerusalem – but they were now exiles from God – they had stopped worshipping Him –

the ills befalling the community – were because of their failure to rebuild the temple – while they lived in comfort – God’s house lay in ruins – Haggai told them they must rebuild it once –

The people responded – but a month later discouragement set in – because of the contrast between the apparent – Glory of the former temple built by Solomon and the poverty of this one –

but Haggai – urged them to be strong and build

“I am with you says the Lord of Hosts" – and my Spirit remains among you" –

a future day more glorious than that of the completion of the Temple would come – and God’s glory will fill the Temple –
“the Splendour of this latter house will surpass the Splendour of the former – and in this place I shall grant prosperity and peace “–

Haggai reminded them that God’s reputation was at stake – the Temple was the symbol of God’s presence in their community – and of Israel’s priorities as a nation.

The temple was completed in just 4 years

The book of Haggai is one of the shortest books in the Bible – yet it marks one of the few times in history – when God spoke – and His people – quickly and unquestionably obeyed

The third temple – built by Herod was a restoration of this second temple – with some splendid additions – in Haggai’s words – " mine is the silver and mine is the gold " – but the promised glory was still to be revealed –

Point 2

John puts our NT reading early in Jesus’ ministry – in the context of the cleansing of the Temple – Jesus is placed in the midst of a Passover festival – where thousands of Jews made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem – to celebrate their deliverance from Egypt – and their birth as a nation – by law every adult male within 15 miles had to come – at great personal cost – to offer a sacrifice in the great temple –

– and in the middle of the festival was a rigged business operation – controlled by the high priests – the people had to pay a yearly tax – in Jewish coins – obtained from the money changers – and buy a sheep, Ox or pigeon for sacrifice – from the temple herds –

-and all this selling and moneychanging – was taking place in the outer court of the temple – where the Gentiles worshipped – not surprisingly the temple coffers were full -and overflowing

But Jesus drove the market sellers out of the Temple and upset the tables of the moneychangers – fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi (3:2-3)

It was certain that such an act would produce an immediate reaction from those who saw it

from the Disciples – came the words of Psalm 69 v 9 – “Zeal for your house has consumed me "

from the Jews there was a demand for a sign –

what Jesus had done was something new – and unusual – something a prophet sent by God might do – but they still wanted Him to perform a miracle to confirm it

His response – is given in verse 19 –

" Destroy this temple" Jesus replied "and in three days I will raise it up again " –

Here as with many of the sayings portrayed in John’s Gospel – we find a double meaning –

The Jews thought Jesus was referring to the literal temple – the building –

"its taken 46 years to build this temple – are you going to raise it up again in three days? –

but Jesus didn’t mean that at all – although it was destroyed in the Roman invasion of 70 AD –

– He was referring to Himself – after His death – when He – the risen Christ will replace the Temple as the place where man finds God –

the cleansing of the Temple was a dramatic way of showing that the lavish Temple – its rituals – and the sacrifices were all irrelevant – and do nothing to lead people to God – only God Himself can do that

And this He did – by giving His only Son to die on the cross – so that our sins can be forgiven – and we can be reconciled back to Him – and receive the gift of everlasting life –

After the resurrection God can be approached anywhere in the world – through Jesus – He is the "new house of God" – the "house" in which the Glory of God will break forth as prophesied by Haggai – a house – far greater in glory than that built by Solomon –

The disciples did not understand what Jesus had told them – but they kept His teaching with them

– in verse 21

"After His resurrection the disciples recalled what He had said – and they believed the scripture – and the word He had spoken"

Jesus spoke of His resurrection to them – many times – but it was not until He actually rose from the dead – that everything became clear –

Point 3

So what do our readings tell us ?

That we must put God first – in everything we do – in the words of one of our favorite hymns "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, " – Only when we put God at the centre of our lives will we be blessed with His grace –

With Jesus’ coming – there is no earthly building where God lives – that we are to hang on to – we can approach God through Jesus – where ever we are – at home – in the shops – at work – We don’t have to travel great distances to be with Him – like the pilgrims –

and where we go – God goes – shinning out from us like a candle – "I will be with you said the Lord of Hosts" – and with the help of Holy Spirit – He is changing the lives of those we touch –

sometimes like Haggai – a single voice can stir people into action – but if we don’t see immediate results – we shouldn’t be discouraged – nothing is wasted – Jesus is the real authority of Scripture – and when He comes into peoples lives – they will begin to have a genuine love for the word of God –


Jesus’ first call to us is to Himself – as Martin Luther said – "I do not know the way I take – but I know my guide" – Jesus is the way – the truth – and the life – through Him we have a direct pathway to God – and the promise of salvation – through Jesus we have the Glory of God breaking out into our lives –

The opportunity to meet God in His house is one of the greatest privileges open to us – the Psalmist knew that – and through Jesus we have been given that opportunity every second of our lives –

There is only one way to meet God –
in the words of our collect – “with a pure and clean heart – by His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” –
and through Jesus we are given something far greater than a meeting place – we are given a whole new way of life – that lasts for eternity – and the promise of meeting Him in the Holy City – in the greatest Festival of all

Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit