One of the most interesting features of the gospel of John is its particularly anti-Temple posturing (note Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the gospel rather than near the end). Moreover, John’s gospel stands out particularly in the way in which it presents Jesus as the New Temple/Tabernacle. In the gospel of John there is a concerted emphasis on the locus of the divine presence which shifts from the physical building of the Temple to Jesus’ own person (2:20-22, 4:20-24). In John Jesus proclaims himself rather than the Temple as the true locus of God’s presence, God’s place of coming to dwell with his people. Mary Coloe’s book Dwelling the Household of God develops these themes in a fascinating way.
There are a number of interesting literary connections throughout John’s gospel that relate to this theme of Jesus as the New Temple/Tabernacle. One of the most interesting is the account of Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet in John 12:1-8. The whole affair is noted to take place “six days before the Passover” which places it on the evening of the Sabbath. The evening of the Sabbath included the Habdalah prayers which involved a transition from sacred time to ordinary time. In the Habdalah the sacred and the profane were distinguished through a ritual of anointing which set aside holy objects, persons, and spaces for God’s service.
This is also connected to the Mosaic regulations for the consecration of the Tabernacle and the priesthood in Exodus:
Then you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it shall become holy. You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar shall be most holy. You shall also anoint the basin with its stand, and consecrate it. Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall wash them with water, and put on Aaron the sacred vestments, and you shall anoint him and consecrate him, so that he may serve me as priest. (Exod 40:9-13)
Thus, in the context of John’s gospel Jesus is presented as the New Temple, consecrated as the locus of God’s divine presence among the people of God. This forms one of the key images that characterizes Johannine Christology. In John’s gospel Jesus is the New Temple/Tabernacle, the overabundant, excessive fulfillment of God’s promises to dwell among his people (cf. Exod 25:8, 29:45-46). In the Johannine Jesus we see a sort of radical particularization of God’s eschatological covenant promises in which Jesus interrupts the reality of Israel even as God’s elect people, fullfilling their election even as he particularizes and “catholicizes” it in his own singular reality. In this singular event, it is Jesus, the New Temple/Tabernacle of God who lifts up Israel in a radically apocalyptic event of transfiguration and incorporation into the life of the Trinitarian God even as — in the very same act — Jesus actualizes reality of Israel’s election in a radically new mode, one which particularizes Jews and Gentiles together in and as one body, the body of the Crucified and Risen Messiah.