There are two stories in the book of Luke about the childhood of Jesus that give us especially lucid understanding about the importance of the sacred space of the temple.
The first story is when Jesus is eight days old. His parents followed their Jewish custom and took their firstborn male to the temple to be designated as Holy to the Lord. They brought the customary sacrificial offering of a pair of doves or two pigeons. A righteous and devout man named Simeon was guided by the Holy Spirit into the temple, at which point he took Jesus in his arms, praised God and blessed the family. After that, the prophet Anna who was also in the temple, praised God and began to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The second story is when Jesus is twelve years old. Every year the family traveled to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. The year he was twelve, unbeknownst to his parents he remained behind in Jerusalem following the festival. His mother and father had traveled a day's journey home with friends and relatives only to realize that Jesus was not with the travelers. They hurried back and found their beloved child sitting among the priests of the temple listening to their teachings. He responded to their anxiety with "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
From the first story, we understand the importance of the temple, the church as space set apart for the sacred purpose of finding God and glorifying God as did Simeon and Anna. From the second story, we understand the importance of the temple as space set apart for learning about the teachings of God as did Jesus.
As Jesus grew into a man he demonstrated that sacred space could not be solely defined by the walls of the temple. He demonstrated the importance of both internal and external sacred space. The stories when Jesus was a child model the value of external sacred space - the temple. As an adult, Jesus additionally modeled the value of internal sacred space - the temple of the heart, through an intimate personal relationship with God. The tension of the time between the Pharisees and Jesus wasn't because Jesus didn't deem the Jerusalem temple as important, it was because the Pharisees didn't understand the importance of the internal temple - the temple of the heart.
Jesus came to validate sacred space and he came to expand sacred space. He came to make room for all the people of God.
Let us, each one, find God in some sacred space this day, be it internal or external. Amen to the Glory of God.
Web site: eDevotions.org - art illustrated Christian devotions
Original Images credit (Mexico, Italy, England): http://www.sacredsites.com/explore.html
Image keywords: Sacred sites, Izamal, Mexico, Assisi, Italy, Canterbury, England, Westfield, NJ USA
Date: January 5, 2000