The cornerstone was laid 856 years ago. The initial construction took nearly 200 years, but over the centuries it has been under constant renovation and improvement. The French government was in the middle of its most recent multi-million dollar renovation when the fire began this last Monday.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was nine centuries in the making when fire destroyed a large portion of it in a matter of only 15 hours. In the days since the tragic fire, nearly one billion dollars have already been pledged for the restoration of the ancient cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron vows it will be rebuilt within five years.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus stood on the grounds of another massive religious edifice – the great Temple of Jerusalem. In the year 19 BC, King Herod had undertaken the task of not only building a new temple, but also constructing a massive temple complex around it. The complex would measure over one million square feet and cover the entire temple mount.
The temple itself was towering by the standards of the day, measuring nearly 15 stories tall. The white marble and golden doors of the temple glowed in the glare of the sun. As Jesus stood in the temple courts forty-six years later, the temple itself had long been completed, but the temple complex was still under construction. It wouldn’t be finished until just a couple of years before the Roman legions leveled it to the ground in the year AD 70.
The temple itself has never been rebuilt. A Muslim mosque, called “The Dome of the Rock”, now stands where the temple once towered.
On that day two thousand years ago, however, Jesus made a whip and drove out the merchants who had set up market in the temple courts. Stunned, the people demanded Jesus give them a sign to prove he had the authority to do such a thing.
“Destroy this temple,” Jesus answered, “and I will raise it again in three days.”
The people laughed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and you are going to raise it in three days?” John tells us that the temple of which Jesus was speaking, however, was his body (John 2:12-22).
To rebuild Herod’s Temple in just three days was a laughable. I mean, just imagine if President Macron had vowed to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in three days. Many find it implausible that he will be able to rebuild it in five years.
Yet Jesus promised to do something even more extraordinary. His enemies would destroy the temple of this body. They would kill him. On that first Good Friday, Jesus’ body hung limp and lifeless from the cross. People stood and stared as they did this last Monday as Notre Dame burned. They wrung their hands and shook their heads.
Jesus was dead.
On the third day after his death, though, Jesus did the impossible. He restored the temple of his body. His soul once again entered his lifeless body. It sprung to life. In fact, it came back more glorious than the original.
Jesus kept his promise, and in doing so, destroyed death forever.
Because Jesus rose, he promises that we too will rise. At the sound of the trumpet, on the last day, Jesus will raise up all those who have died in the faith.
But we won’t come back as rotting zombies. He will restore our bodies. He will glorify them so that they will be like his glorious bodies. One day, you will have a body free of every pain and problem. That’s God’s promise. That is the purpose and peace of Easter.
As I watched Notre Dame burn on Monday evening, it broke my heart. I truly hope they do rebuild and restore it to its former glory. This Easter, though, remember that a much more impressive restoration project will happen one day on the temple of our bodies.
Because he lives, we too will live.