*** w73 6/1 pp. 350-351 Questions from Readers ***
• Does not John 2:19 indicate that Jesus would resurrect himself?—U.S.A.
As evident from the context, John 2:19 pertains to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read: “Jesus said to them: ‘Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Therefore the Jews said: ‘This temple was built in forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was talking about the temple of his body. When, though, he was raised up from the dead, his disciples called to mind that he used to say this; and they believed the Scripture and the saying that Jesus said:”—John 2:19-22.
It should be noted that, in telling about the fulfillment of Jesus’ statement, the Bible does not say ‘he raised himself up from the dead,’ but “he was raised up from the dead.” Other scriptures clearly show that God was the One who resurrected his Son. The apostle Peter told Cornelius and his relatives and close friends: “God raised this One up on the third day.” (Acts 10:40) Hebrews 13:20 speaks of God as the One “who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus.” And, in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.” (Rom. 8:11) Accordingly, Jesus Christ simply could not have meant that he would raise himself up from the dead.
Jesus, however, did know that he was going to die and be resurrected. On another occasion he told unbelieving scribes and Pharisees: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matt. 12:39, 40) Having this advance knowledge about his death and resurrection, Jesus, in a predictive sense, could speak of ‘raising up the temple of his body.’ Since he foretold it, it was just as if he was going to do it. This might be illustrated with Ezekiel 43:3, where the prophet Ezekiel states: “I came to bring the city [Jerusalem] to ruin,” that is, by foretelling its destruction. Ezekiel as an exile in Babylon had no part in actually destroying Jerusalem; that was done by the Babylonians. But his prophecy, being divinely inspired, made it as good as done. (Compare also Jeremiah 1:10.) Similarly, Jehovah God resurrected his Son, but Jesus could speak of doing so in a prophetic sense.
Moreover, God’s will, charge or command respecting his Son was that he die and be restored to life. Jesus willingly surrendered his life in harmony with his Father’s purpose. Jesus could therefore raise up the temple of his body in the sense that he had the authority to receive life again.
On the third day God commanded Jesus to rise from the dead, and he did so by accepting or receiving life at his Father’s hand, by God’s authority. Along with life as a spirit Son, he received the right to perfect human life that, by dying in full innocence, he had not forfeited. This merit of his human sacrifice he thereafter presented to his Father in heaven. (Heb. 9:11-14, 24-28) This is in agreement with Jesus’ words at John 10:17, 18: “The Father loves me because I lay down my life, to receive it back again. No one has robbed me of it; I am laying it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to receive it back again; this charge I have received from my Father.”—New English Bible.