When St Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians it was still possible to walk around the glorious Second Temple in Jerusalem. Begun by Zerubbabel in 538BC, it was finally completed by Herod the Great (king at the time of Jesus’ birth) more than 500 years later, and its dimensions were vast for a complex of its time. The courtyard was almost 500 feet wide and 150 feet long, and the crowning glory at its heart – the Holy of Holies – was 90 feet high. It was almost a ‘city within a city’ with colonnades, accommodation for priests, libraries and courtrooms and other important areas.
This temple still formed the heart of Jewish worship. It was the place where God dwelt and met with His people. But with the coming of Jesus Christ, all that had changed. Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for us to know God in a new and deeper way. The temple curtain had been torn in two, signifying that, through Christ, all humanity had direct access to God. The temple was now Jesus’ own body (John 2:21).
The seal of this radical good news, as we saw yesterday, was the gift of the Spirit. It guarantees our access to God through Jesus (v18). If the ‘temple’ is where God dwells on earth, then Christians are now that temple, since the Spirit of God dwells in us (v22). We are the body of Christ – the new temple, the place where God meets with humanity.
But this is not just an individual experience – it is a corporate one too. Christians forming communities become ‘temples’ dedicated to God. Our collective love and friendship, our desire to worship and follow God together rise up to be a ‘holy temple in the Lord’ (v21). Jesus is the cornerstone, but as St Peter says elsewhere, using a lovely image, we are ‘living stones’ forming part of this temple (1 Peter 2:5) – each joined to the other, each playing our part in the structure.
As we reflect on this amazing truth that our bodies are each a temple, let’s also give thanks for the Church family too, and Christian communities everywhere – little temples where God meets with people. And you are a living stone in that structure! What sort of stone are you? Which stones are you next to? How can you display the presence of God to those looking at our particular temple?