Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. (John 2:19-21)
Outside my study window this morning more than the usual number of warmly dressed and determined runners are fulfilling their New Year's resolutions. With a show of hands, all across our great country, it would be interesting to know how many people are resolving in some way to alter the condition of their bodies.
In this portion of John's gospel, Jesus has found the Temple of the Lord in bad shape. It has been ill-used (to his mind: historically, commercial transaction there might arguably have been acceptable) and let fall into decay. The he people present ask him who he thinks he is to tell them how to care for their temple. He responds, "tear it down and I could build it back up in three days." The Scripture tells us that he is talking about his body.
We all know that our bodies are our temples, and by extension that our lives are edifices of our existence. I am, it so happens, forty six years old and my body bears a horrible and shocking likeness to the temple in question. Over the course of 46 years, I have not laid every brick with loving care. I have had periods where I knowingly used construction materials that were inferior, in fact harmful, to the structure as a whole. I have gone through times where my attention to detail, let alone artistry, was lacking or entirely absent. And the result is that there are places in my temple which are weak, there are flaws in the foundation and there are places that got so bad that they were unsafe and had to be removed.
And what have I been doing in this progressively less pure and wonderful temple? Like the Jews in the text, I have not always conducted myself as befits imago dei. I have hurt people, destroyed things I could not rebuild, been capricious and ruthless and "done trade where I shoulda done prayed."
This is my favorite holiday - not for the drinking, though I am almost an exclusively champagne drinking kind of gal - but the new beginnings, the fresh journals and open calendars and the suspenseful potential for organization, self discipline and brighter days that have not yet been squashed by a lack of time or energy or the cruel reality of mediocrity. I make resolutions every year, though I should really just photocopy them from year to year, about losing weight or getting fit or not chewing my nails or solving some nagging problem with my foot. We all do, don't we? Hope for self-discipline? Hope to realize the potential of a new beginning in ourselves, now, once and for all?
When Jesus said he could raise the temple - even if they utterly destroyed it - in three days, the Scripture tells us the Jews knew he was speaking of his body. Commentary tells us he was speaking of resurrection. But perhaps he was also talking about New Year's Day.
What if I told you that no matter what you've done to your body - even if you've been doing it for all forty six or however many years of your life - it can be returned to its previous perfection in a ridiculously short period of time, in the course of an unbelievably simple resolution and with the result of miraculous transformation. All you have to do is dial 1-800 - ha-ha, no just kidding. All you have to do is make the right resolution.
Resurrection is New Year's Day: resolve to let the Holy Spirit do her work in you.