Notre Dame, as it stood just days ago, was a lot of things. It was an important historical landmark, an architectural gem, and a bucket list item for tourists to visit. The fire that destroyed a large portion of Notre Dame is unfortunate, but can I keep it real with you? I struggled internally with the external response of the world. I was bothered by the grief we will express when it comes to a building but the lack of action when it comes to fighting for others who are made in the image of God. I was frustrated that we would care so much about something temporary and care so little about things that impact eternity.
I genuinely had to check my heart with Jesus about this. And then Jesus showed me a little bit of truth. He reminded me that Notre Dame became a lot of things, but it started as a place of worship. It was a place of pilgrimage and prayer. A place for God’s people to gather and to meet with Him. For thousands, it was the only place they felt like they could encounter the presence of God. It mattered in their relationship with Him.
My frustration came on quickly, but as I sat with the Lord, and remembered what things have similar value to me, it produced compassion in me. For me, it’s not a building that I value, but my Bible. I’ve cried hours over having to give a Bible away. I genuinely grieved the loss. Not because there was something magical about my specific Bible. In the physical, it is just words on paper. My Bible mattered to me because it’s a way God has revealed Himself to me. It’s the item I run to when I need truth, peace, hope, and comfort. It’s a place where I know God is going to speak to me. In the spiritual, my bible is a supernatural tool that helps me access and enter into the presence of God. It’s an altar that reminds of all that Jesus and I have journeyed through. Just as Notre Dame to some is just a building, to those who go to worship there, it’s been the place they have access to God. So just as I grieve my Bible when I no longer possess it, I now understand why others grieve a place where they’ve gathered to worship.
As God was working out my frustration and turning it into compassion, He reminded me of another truth that feels timely as we approach Easter. Jesus said in John 2:19 that they could destroy the temple, but He would raise it again in three days. Now the onlookers and disciples thought Jesus was talking about a place of worship. The place where God’s presence dwelt. The disciples even discussed how magnificent the temple was, just as onlookers were doing the morning of the fire at Notre Dame. Jesus was mocked for saying that the temple would be rebuilt in three days. They thought it was impossible for Jesus, a man, to rebuild something that took hundreds of years to build in the first place.
But Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical building. He wasn’t talking about the place where God’s people made sacrifices, worshiped, and learned. He was talking about Himself. He was the dwelling place of the almighty God. He was the temple that would be destroyed. On Friday the disciples grieved the loss of their Savior. The Savior that they expected to rescue them from their oppression, from their ordinary lives, and their enemy. Jesus became their access to truth, peace, hope, and comfort. And with the destruction of the temple as they knew it, they grieved their access to God. They mourned the loss of their friend, their king, and their future and for the next few days, they would sit in that grief.
But Jesus was not playing around when He said the temple would be restored in three days. On Sunday the disciples celebrated because the one who carried the presence of God was resurrected. The temple was rebuilt. Their access to the creator of the universe restored. Sunday brought victory. Sunday brought back access to truth, peace, hope, and comfort. Sunday brought redemption. Not just for the disciples, but also for us. Because Jesus paid our debt on the cross, and then defeated death, we have right standing with God. Full access to Him in any place at any time. In a church or on a street corner. In a home or in a hospital. In a dorm room or in your car. It does not matter. On Friday we will grieve what happened to our Savior so that we could be given right standing, but on Sunday we will celebrate that The Temple is risen and now we get to commune without barrier or hindrance with the presence of God.
Then Jesus takes it one step further. When Jesus leaves earth to take His place at the right hand of God, He leaves the Holy Spirit. The literal presence of God. Not to dwell in a building. Not to dwell in only The Christ. But to dwell in you and me. To journey with us. I believe that when Jesus talks about the gates of hell and how they will not overcome the church(one of my favorite moments in scripture), He is not only talking about how the church will build His kingdom and restore what has been lost. He also meant it in an intimate way. Just like Paul mentions in Romans, there will be nothing that can separate us from His love. Nothing will be able to keep us from Deep relationship with Him because He wants to be so present with Us that He dwells within us, always communing with us whether we know it or not. Hell can’t separate us from God’s presence because the temple was restored so He can dwell within us.
The good news is Notre Dame will be rebuilt around what remains of the original building. Just as Notre Dame was built on the ruins of two previous churches. It was a beautiful church and will be again because God won’t let His temple be destroyed. But as it is rebuilt let’s view it as a reminder of how Jesus, The Temple, was rebuilt so that we could commune with a God who loves us so profoundly. So whether it’s a building, a season, your bible, or just a significant loss. Let’s grieve. Let’s acknowledge what’s been taken. It’s good for us to take a few days or even a few months or years to feel the loss of something that mattered. But let’s grieve with hope because Sunday is indeed coming.
In Reckless Pursuit,