Jesus Greater than...


Mtt. 12


Temple    Jonah     Solomon       Summary


1. The Temple


At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.  But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?  Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.  But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.

Mtt.12:1-8


One Sabbath day  the disciples of Jesus pluck some  ears of corn as they were hungry, the Pharisees immediately criticised them for violating the Sabbath. Jesus then reminded them of  how their greatest king,  David violated the the shrewbread and no one at the time  nor then when Jesus spoke,  sought to condemn David; nor even the fact that every Sabbath the priests themselves violate the Sabbath and are blameless.  And then Jesus makes this statement: that in this place is one greater than the temple, obviously referring to Himself, what was He saying?

The Temple was the centre  of Jewish life; it was where God dwelt and where all the sacrificial system unfolded. The original temple was built by Solomon, though this was destroyed  by Nebuchadnezzar; it was rebuilt  after the exile and  apart from some  extensions made by Herod  that was the Temple that was around when Jesus walked the earth.

When Solomon built the first Temple this is what was said:

 Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever.  And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood.  And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying,  Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel:  But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.  Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.  But the LORD said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well in that it was in thine heart:  Notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house; but thy son which shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house for my name.  The LORD therefore hath performed his word that he hath spoken: for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and am set on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.  And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, that he made with the children of Israel.

II Chr.6:1-11

And we also read  of what happens at the dedication:

 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.  And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house.  And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD.  And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.  And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.  Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.  Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.

II Chr.7:1-8


When  Solomon  dedicated the first Temple, God's glory filled it, just as it filled the Tabernacle of old. It was there that God dwelt. As the  nation's history unfolded there were constant backslidings and eventually, after many centuries,  God saw fit to bring judgement and used Babylon to destroy both the nation and its temple; God's glory had  indeed departed from the land.  Then some seventy years later God began to move once more  and  many returned to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the Temple and the city walls.

It was at this time that Haggai prophesied, the returned exiles were discouraged and God spoke to them through Haggai.


Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,  Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?  Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:  According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;  And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

Hag. 2:2-9

Mention is once again made of the glory, but note something, the glory was only to come when 'the desire of nations' was come! Who is this desire if it's not Jesus? And that the latter glory would be greater than the former; but hold on! Nowhere in scripture do we ever read that the second temple, nor the temple as it was in Jesus' day,  was ever filled with the glory of God as was  the Tabernacle or the first temple. So what do we make of this prophecy?

This prophecy is purely Messianic, it is referring to the coming of Christ, after all that is what the Jews were living in anticipation of. To understand it we need to go to the NT.

Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  But He spake of the temple of his body.  When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

Jn.2:18-22

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (=tabernacled) among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Jn.1:14

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.  Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Jn.4:19-24


When we come into the NT, and consider the life of Jesus we get a new perspective on things,  and discover that the OT was but a shadow  of  all that was to come in the Lord Jesus.  He in fact was to be the fulfilment of all that God showed His people in the OT. (eg. Mtt.5:17,  Heb. 10:1). And  in these two scriptures of John's gospel we have something very significant indeed.

Jesus when answering the Jews was referring, not to the physical temple in Jerusalem that they were so used to, but rather His own physical body, thus we have  a shift in thinking. The emphasis was moving away from the actual  outward things to those of the Spirit. The Temple at Jerusalem was but a shadow of He who was to come- Jesus. The glory of the Father no longer resided in the Temple at Jerusalem, but in Christ: we see the glory of the Father through Christ. The Temple in Jerusalem is no longer the only way to approach the Father, but now Christ is the only way to approach God. (Jn.14:6)  Worship was no longer to be confined to an earthly building, but was to be in Spirit and truth. The centre of Spiritual Israel  is not a building made with hands, but Christ Himself ( Col. 1:18; Rev. 21:21-23).

Then there were the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Temple at Jerusalem. As we read and study them in the OT we note how they all point the to ONE eternal sacrifice made through the Spirit at Calvary.  Jesus fulfilled everything to the last jot and tittle. These were only shadows, it was impossible for them to take away sin and make the comers perfect ( Heb.10:1-4), only the finished work of Jesus at the cross could do that.

In saying that He was greater than temple Jesus was pointing them to the great truth That He was the fulfilment of which all that these things spoke.

2. Jonah

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Mtt.12:38-41


Before the next statement concerning the greatness of Jesus we have the following incidents:  Jesus firstly heals a man on a Sabbath day, thus angering the Pharisees, who immediately begin to conspire to destroy Him. Then  Jesus casts   out a devil from a blind and deaf man and this further stirs the Pharisees up. This time they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub; it was to this that Jesus replied concerning blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Then we have the Pharisees and Scribes asking Jesus for a sign! Already in this chapter we have Jesus performing two miracles: healing a man and casting out a demon, and they have the cheek to ask for a sign! And what was Jesus'  reply? An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

We have an general principle that a sign seeking generation is called adulterous. To understand this let us consider what Jesus calls adultery, it is not just the act, but the desire in the heart. (Mtt.5:27-28). So adultery is an unlawful desire, applying this to  Jesus' reply to the Pharisees we understand that  those  who are evil and have a spiritual adulterous heart seeks signs. For to seek after signs is to desire the wrong thing. Our hearts desires should be on Jesus for He is the desire of the nations as we saw in Hag.2:2-9, to seek after any other thing other than Jesus is counted as spiritual adultery. This we need to take to heart, especially when men seek after this, or that in the spiritual realm.

Instead Jesus said to such the only sign is that of Jonah, so what we do we make of that?  Jesus explains Himself by referring to His own death and resurrection: that He Himself would be buried and would be three days and nights in the earth. The sign of the resurrection is the only sign such a generation would be given, because
it is this  alone which proves and distinguishes Jesus from  everybody else, the proof of Jesus' claims was His resurrection. Without it He would not have been declared to be the Son of God, and consequently no salvation   Jn.2: 13-22. Rom.;1:3-4; I Cor.15:3-4;16-18 and here we have a link with the greater than the Temple statement  in John's gospel.

But is there any more to this figure than this? I think there is. Jonah ended up in the sea and the whales' belly because he was disobedient, he fled from God's command to go to Nineveh. We could, and hopefully we are not stretching  the figure too far, by saying that Jonah was initially a type of the first man, Adam. He disobeyed  a command of God and  went off in the opposite direction in his heart; consequently Adam was sent physically in the opposite direction on his expulsion from Eden.

Because of Jonah's sin the whole of the ship's company  he was travelling in, was in danger  of being lost into the sea. The whole of the human race  was plunged into loss because of our first father's sin, we were doomed to eternal loss and misery. Here the figure changes: Jonah  now foreshadows Christ.  Jonah was cast into the sea to pacify the wrath of God on the ship, Jesus, who was without sin, was, as it were cast, into the depths of God's judgement for the sins of the whole world; He took the punishment that should have been ours, He was truly baptised with a baptism!

The swallowing up by the whale, and then  Jonah being spued out  typifies the death and resurrection of Jesus, and it is this that is the only sign, a sign seeking generation, will be given! Since the resurrection is the proof of Jesus' claim, failure to believe His resurrection, automatically means one doesn't accept His claims, and therefore loses all hope of salvation.

Jesus then said that Nineveh would rise up in judgement against that generation, for they repented, and it was at this point that Jesus  declared Himself greater than Jonah.  The people of Nineveh were Gentiles, and  that was the heart of Jonah's original rebellion, but the Pharisees were part of the chosen nation, Israel; the highly favoured ones and they rejected the Messiah, whereas the Gentiles repented at the preaching of Jonah. Nineveh repented at a lesser messenger, how  worse it would be then for the chosen people  to reject the promised One. Jesus, the greater one,   brings more than  repentance from judgement,  He brings  repentance unto eternal life  Acts 11:18
 

In short, Jesus is greater than Jonah for He is actually raised from the dead, not just so in a figure; His repentance is unto life and not just from judgement.

3. Solomon

 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Mtt.12:42

The third and final occasion on which the  Lord used the phrase ' a greater than...'  is in reference to Solomon.  The Queen of Sheba came to hear the wisdom of this great king of Israel. The  order of these revelations from Christ, in this twelve chapter of Matthew, is quiet remarkable, for these statements regarding Solomon tie in what we have seen so far.
 
Solomon's name means peaceable and his reign was one of peace, he did not engage in warfare, quite unlike his father David, he entered into the victory of a united kingdom of Israel, that David had accomplished. And this  is our first thought.  Solomon in type represents  Jesus  entering into His glory. The Temple, our first thought,  typifies  Jesus in His  sacrificial role, and the glory of the Father dwelling in Him; Jonah of His death and  resurrection; and now Solomon His entering into the completed victory and His  glory. A most natural order!

The second thought is that it was Solomon who built the first temple; David, his father wanted to, and it was ever his intention to do so, but because David was a man of war God would not allow him to do so. Instead Solomon had that responsibility and privilege. ( I Chr. 28:2-8) We have now come full circle in our thoughts for Jesus is greater than both the Temple and the man who built it.


In reference to Solomon the Queen of Sheba is mentioned. She came from the south to hear of his wisdom, and this is what we read.

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great company, and camels that bare spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.  And Solomon told her all her questions: and there was nothing hid from Solomon which he told her not.  And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built,  And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cupbearers also, and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.  And she said to the king, It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom:  Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard.  Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.

II Chr.9:1-7


In order to follow the train of thought here we must remember that it was God who gave wisdom to Solomon in the first place. II Chr.1:7-12. So it  wasn't a natural talent that this king had, but a special gifting from God. Solomon asked of God, nothing doubting, and he received. The Queen of Sheba heard but didn't believe, and like the men of Samaria coming to Jesus to hear for themselves (Jn 4:39-42), she came to prove this man, and when she did so could only exclaim that not even half the story had  been told.

How  does this relate to Jesus? For a start Jesus is greater than Solomon because Jesus didn't have the gifting of wisdom from God, nor was He its greatest exponent, but rather  HE IS THE WISDOM of God.

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

I Cor 1:21-24

People are always seeking something, it is as though there is a void in the human heart and men and women are seeking to fill that emptiness; as we saw with the reference to Jonah, the Jews were seeking a sign, but the only sign we have is  Christ crucified, and resurrected;  to reject that is to reject salvation. The Greeks, however seek wisdom, but Christ is the wisdom of God , failure to accept that is  also to reject salvation. In other words what the heart is really seeking, or desiring, to use the words of Haggai,  is Christ Himself; whether people openly realise this or not, that is what the heart is crying out for. But people try to fill the gap by seeking mere shadows of the reality. Instead of the person they seek, everything else. If this is your case, stop now and understand that your need is a person, the man Christ Jesus.

Just as  the queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon, so you can come and prove the truth of  Jesus  in your life; just turn to Him in repentance and believe on Him. And when a person comes to repentance and to true life in Christ they come to the one who is the fulfilment of all things the prophets said. He is the one in whom the glory of the Father dwells, He is the one whom the Father sacrificed for us, He is the one who was raised from the dead, and He is the one in the glory of the resurrected life in the heavens on our behalf; He is the one who brings us into the fulness of  eternal life.  He is the greater one than all things! The half though has not been told.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

I Cor. 2:9-10 quoting  Isa. 64:4

In short Jesus is greater than Solomon because He IS the wisdom of God.

Summary

So how do we sum all this up?  Jesus is greater than, the Temple, Jonah and Solomon because He is the fulfilment af ALL they represent; the Temple in its meaning to the nation of Israel's  life, it sacrificial and ceremonial life, Jonah for Jesus actually rose from the dead and His gospel goes to  ALL the Gentiles and not just one particular nation, the repentance of which He preaches is unto life and not just escape from judgement; and Solomon  because Jesus  does not just have wisdom but is the wisdom of God. In all things Jesus is greater than anything or anyone else, so let us  fix our eyes on Jesus and nothing else.