Greater than the temple

– Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time –

“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” [Matthew 12:6]

Today’s gospel reading contains the first of three “greater than” sayings to be found in Matthew 12. Jesus says to the Pharisees “something greater than the temple is here” (vv.5-6). Similarly, in v.41, he says that “something greater than Jonah is here!” and in v.42, that “something greater than Solomon is here!” In each case, Jesus is implying that he is the “something greater”. Yet what does Jesus mean when he says he is greater than the temple, greater than Jonah, and greater than Solomon?

To answer this question, it helps to begin with Matthew 12:40 where Jesus says: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.” So, there is an analogy between Jonah’s confinement in the sea monster, and Jesus’ period in the tomb (analogies also presumably exist between the Jesus and the temple – see John 2:19-21 – and Jesus and Solomon). But there’s an important difference. Whereas Jonah was merely spewed out – alive upon dry land (Jonah 2:10), Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is therefore greater than Jonah.

This way of reading scripture – in which elements in the Old Testament prefigure and find their fulfilment in the New Testament – is called typology. And it is through typology that the unity of God’s plan and the hand of his Providence can be seen at work across history. Typological reading is therefore particularly reassuring in times of upheaval, for it reassures us that God is always at work, always in control.

When you have a moment, consider picking up the Bible and turning to the narratives of the Old Testament. While valuable in and of themselves, if you look closely enough, you will also find pointers to Jesus Christ and the events in the gospels.

by Mark Makowiecki

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