After King Jehoiakim was installed as a vassal king of Judah in 609 B.C., “Jeremiah took center stage in Jerusalem by preaching his famous Temple Sermon (7:1-15, 26:2-19). His theme was in the tradition of his classical forebears: because ritual sacrifice without obedience to God and justice to neighbor provokes God’s wrath, he will destroy even the Temple in Jerusalem as he had obliterated the sanctuary at Shiloh (cf. Am 2:6-4:12; Hos 4:1-19; Mi 7:1-7) (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 295).
During the time of the Judges, from Joshua to Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant was housed at Shiloh, the capital of Israel. After the Ark was captured in battle by the Philistines and given back to the Israelites some months later, it was taken to Kirjath-jearim for twenty years. King David moved the Ark to the house of Obed-edom for three months and then brought it to Jerusalem, where his son, Solomon, built the temple. However, during the time of Jeremiah, the city of Shiloh lay in ruins. The punishment for the people’s disobedience, idolatry and injustice would be the destruction of the Temple just as Shiloh was destroyed.
The people do not want to listen to Jeremiah’s prophesy and laid hold of him, crying out that he should be put to death for speaking against the temple, the house of the Lord. In this way, Jeremiah prefigures Jesus Christ, who will foretell the destruction of the Second Temple: “Amen I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1-3). Like Jeremiah, Jesus is arrested and put on trial by priests who demanded his death. False witnesses will accuse Jesus of saying that he can destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days (Matthew 26:61). They confused his words and did not know that he was speaking about the temple of his body (John 2:19-21).
Jesus is also rejected in today’s Gospel. Jesus comes to his native place, his hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. This time, the people are not amazed in a positive way, but rather in a negative way and take offense at Jesus: they cannot believe that the humble carpenter that they knew for so many years now speaks with wisdom and works mighty deeds. Jesus, however, is the prophet-like-Moses, and, like the prophets of old, is not honored in his native place and in his own house.
“Jesus did some miracles in Nazareth, but not many, because of their lack of faith. He refuses to perform miracles to convince his opponents (see 12:38-39). The word for lack of faith is literally ‘unbelief’, a word Matthew uses only to describe those who oppose and reject Jesus. When the apostles struggled in faith, they are called ‘men of little faith’ (6:30), whereas the people in Jesus’ hometown are outright unbelievers who take offense at him and reject him” (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 185).
When we preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, we too will sometimes encounter opposition and be rejected like Jeremiah and Jesus. On that day, we are not to worry what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach us and give us the words we are to say (Matthew 10:19; Luke 12:11-12). As the psalmist sings, we bear insult and rejection, for the sake of the Lord. The risen, glorified body of Jesus is the New Temple of God, and our zeal for this Temple, the Body of Christ, consumes us. We pray that God help us with his grace and favor in our mission to announce his Kingdom. We pray also that men and women do not reject Jesus, but rather welcome him and his reign.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].