Recently, I was asked by an inquirer how I understand the text where Jesus seems to say he will raise himself from the dead.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it.” Then the Jews said, “This temple was built for forty-six years, and will you raise it in three days?” But that one spoke concerning the temple of his body. Therefore when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this, and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus spoke.
Here are a few observations about this text:
- In the book of John, when Jesus is in conversation with hostiles, he does not speak straightforwardly. Taking his words at face value will inevitably result in misinterpretation in these instances. Jesus is intentionally cryptic with the religious experts and unbelievers. Often after they misunderstand him, rather than correcting them he will take their misunderstanding and use it to further befuddle them.
- The word Jesus uses, ἐγείρω, does not necessarily mean rise from the dead, but could just as likely refer to standing up or waking up.
- Jesus’ statement must be understood as an analogy or parallel to the temple statement. On a literal level they understood him to say “knock down the temple and I’ll raise it back up”…taking this through to his own death and resurrection he is saying “knock my body down and I’ll raise it up again.” Think of someone who gets knocked down in boxing. If he does not raise his body back up again he looses. So they knock Jesus down (kill him), on the third day his Father brings him back to life, and then Jesus raises his body back up (or awakes). The action Jesus carries out happens after his Father brings him back to life, but just after (so therefore it is related to resurrection).
- Another option some have put forward is that Jesus is claiming to have a role in his own resurrection based on his routine obedience to the Father. The idea is that Jesus could claim credit for the resurrection even though he didn’t actually perform it, because he did what was necessary to make it a certainty.
- One last observation is that every single other Scripture that touches on Jesus’ resurrection (and there are a lot of them) identifies God (the Father of Jesus) as the one who raised him from the dead.
Would any of you care to add your own thoughts on this subject?