Links Daily Devotional

God’s Temple

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41, ESV)

I am not a golf course connoisseur. I have never looked at the top 100 courses list, although I’m sure I have played a number of them. One coveted round I would love to play, however, is Augusta National. In the weeks leading up to the Masters, the sports media sensationalizes the tournament and the course as if it’s holy ground. It is magnificent, but far from holy.

As followers of Jesus we know that a church, a temple, or a historical building, in and of itself, is not holy. What makes something holy is the presence of Jesus, in us and among us.

In the first century, the Temple in all its glory was holy ground to the Jewish people. Three times a year the Lord required his people to go up (Aliyah) to the Temple and remember the feasts. First the worshippers would do mikvot, the customary cleansing ritual, and then enter the Temple by ascending the alternating short and long southern steps with deliberate movement. The southern steps were excavated in 1967 and today both original and restored stone steps spanning nearly 200 feet in width are visible. Jesus walked these same steps as he made his own pilgrimages to observe the feasts of the Lord.

Today’s scripture passage is the climatic work of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and Peter’s sermon that unfolded. As the followers of the Way were filled with the Spirit, they began speaking in other tongues. Jews from every nation dwelling in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks (Shavout) were astonished as they heard their native language spoken. They were so perplexed that they accused the believers to be drunk with wine. Peter stood and began quoting the prophet Joel and King David, declaring to the house of Israel that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ. Three thousand people repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins in one day.

The southern steps are a possible location for where this event occurred. The southern steps served as the main entrance into the Temple for worshippers, so people from all nations and different languages would gather there. Surrounding the steps, excavations have found a series of first century ritual baths used for mikvot. These baths would have provided the space needed for 3,000 new converts to be baptized. The disciples were all together in one place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). They were still Jewish and continued to go to the Temple to teach about Jesus so it makes sense that they would be near the Temple on Shauvot.

I have stood on the southern steps in awe of the magnificent southern wall of the temple rising before me. These steps hold a significant place in God’s story, but more than 2,000 years ago God offered his creation something new, Jesus. God doesn’t dwell in the Temple anymore. God’s presence lives within us… and that is holy ground.

Tracy Hanson
December 9, 2014
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