Last night at Bible study we entered into the explosive beginning of Luke’s Gospel by examining Luke 1:5-25 or the Birth of John foretold to Zechariah in the Temple.
Modern images and technology make sharing information about the Temple that much easier. Such information helps reveal its size and the atmosphere that Zechariah experienced. King Herod began building the temple in c. 20-19 BC. His Temple in Jerusalem was different than past Jewish Temples, it was bigger and more ornate with a myriad of support buildings erected in the Temple precinct than Solomon’s Temple or the Second Temple from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Temple itself almost 200 feet high (that is 20 stories)! This was an impressive engineering feat and physical structure for the 1st Century. This adds to the context of Matt 4:5-7 when Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and urges Him to cast Himself off the top of the temple because of the promise that the angels would not allow God’s Anointed to be harmed. Similarly in John 2:18-22 when Jesus says he would destroy this temple because the Jews knew how long it had taken to build it, 46 years including stones as heavy as 100 tonnes, and so they scoffed at Him.
When it was Zechariah’s divisions shift to attend to the Temple, and further still when he was chosen by lot to enter and burn the incense, this was a once in a life time opportunity as a priest. Image approaching those big doors. Imagine the sacredness he felt entering this massive Temple with such religious tradition. He did not enter the Holy of Holies but rather a fore chamber where the incense was burnt. To his great trepidation this would be the place where he would meet Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, and the story would continue to unfold.
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