20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
JOHN 2:20 ESV
20 εἶπαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι· Τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος, καὶ σὺ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερεῖς αὐτόν;
JOHN 2:20 SBLGNT
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel
“The Jews, accordingly, said, Forty and six years was this Sanctuary built, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he was speaking of the Sanctuary of his body. The connective οὖν joins this reply with Jesus’ word of mystery. The temporal dative “forty and six years” views the entire time as a unit, R. 527, which corresponds with the constative aorist “was built,” the entire extended work being summarized as one past act, R. 833. In the phrase “in three days”, the preposition stresses the length of the time, here, of course, by comparison so brief a length. The imperfect ἔλεγε in v. 21, “he was’ speaking,” dwells on what Jesus was saying, as one turns over in his mind the meaning of what one is uttering, for the hearers to do the same thing.”
The Jewish Temple was originally built by Solomon and was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. It was rebuilt on the ruined site by Nehemiah and Ezra. While it was not again destroyed, its inferior condition led to a gradual rebuilding from the foundations up, on a grander and more elaborate scale, under Herod (hence it was also called Herod’s Temple). About two years, it was beginning 20 or 19 B. C., were spent in preparation, 1½ in building the Porch and the Sanctuary with its Holy of Holies (16 B. C.); 8 years later, the court and the cloisters were finished (9 B. C.); other repairs followed until the time of the present visit of Jesus. The whole work was not considered as completed until A. D. 64. The 46 years=20 until the Christian era (when Jesus was four years old), plus 27 until the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, thus making 46 to 47 in all. The questions of chronology that are involved are more or less intricate. Compare Josephus, ‘Antiquities XV. 15; 20, 9, 7’, where we are told that more than 18,000 workmen were employed in the final stages.
The Jews, of course, did not grasp what Jesus meant, but their misunderstanding did not lie in applying his words to the Sanctuary, as though Jesus had not referred to that building. Their error lay in applying Jesus’ words to this building exclusively. Their unbelief saw only this building and nothing of its true significance and higher connection. The unbelief of modern critical minds, which rejects “the two nature theory” regarding Christ’s person, fares no better concerning this word of Jesus than these Jews. The Sanctuary, house in which God dwelt among Israel, was the type of the body of Jesus in which the Godhead dwelt and tented among men, 1:14. The Sanctuary and Jesus thus belong insolubly together. The one is the shadow of the other. This is what the key to the ‘mashal’ conveys, “But he was speaking of the Sanctuary, of his body.”
A command to destroy the Sanctuary sounded blasphemous to Jewish ears. How would a Jew react, especially after rebuilding the second Temple after many years? However, Jesus does not say that he will destroy, nor wants the Jews to do this terrible thing. His words implied the very opposite, namely he was restraining the Jews from doing this frightful thing but that for some reason and in some way, they are bent on doing it despite him. He also implies that he knows what secret force impels them to the desperate act: their unbelief and opposition to the true Messiah, the divine reality for which the Sanctuary stood, without whom it would be an empty, useless shell. Thus the command of Jesus signifies: “Go on in your evil course, since nothing will deter you, and you will have the sign for which you call, the sign that will convince you!” The imperative is not merely concessive: If you destroy. It reckons with the unbelief of the Jews as a deplorable fact that cannot be changed, just as Jesus also reckoned with the treachery of Judas when he gave the command, “That thou doest, do quickly,” 13:27. We have the third command of this kind, “Fill ye up the measure of your fathers,” i.e., since you are determined to do so, Matt. 24:31. This monstrous deed of destroying their own Sanctuary, the Jews, will perform by rejecting and killing him who was the divine reality for which the Sanctuary stood, whom it was to serve with all its services.
As Christians today, we are graced by the revelation of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. As Christ died on the cross, the Jewish Temple was torn in two, and His resurrection in three days signifies the New Temple in Christ. It is Christ we look to in our faith, and it is Him we are redeemed of our sins, and through Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are sanctified. However, many Christian leaders have skewed the scriptures and laid aside the Word of God. Our problems arise when we look at what we only want to see and allow our views to question God’s laws. We are too focused on what we want and need, like the Jews, when they have set aside the prophecies and laws for their own needs. As the serpent asked Eve in Gen 3: 1,”……….Did God actually say,……” Adam and Eve allowed desires and needs of the moment to set aside God’s law and acted within their own reasoning.
Like the serpent, our views set aside the laws and seek compromise to allow our agendas to be forefront. We use deceit and lies to misrepresent the Word of God for our own benefit. We are allowing our excuses to fit the narrative of the secular world.
Remember what Paul warned us in 2 Corinthians 11; 13-15
“13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
So, my brothers and sisters, God reveals, and unless we are anchored in His Word and not subjective views that seek to compromise the Word of God to meet the world’s demands, then we are no better than the world and stand condemned.