Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sundering of the Veil

Matthew 27:45-54 (ESV)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The architecture of the Jewish Temple was designed to be sectional, with each successive section of the Temple being closer to God and farther from the world. And as one progressed through the Temple each section became more exclusive. The Temple built by Herod, the Temple of Christ’s day, was designed with five different layers:

1) The Court of the Gentiles, accessible to anyone.

2) The Women’s Court, accessible to any Israelites.

2) The Court of the Israelites, accessible only to male Israelites.

3) The Court of the Pharisees, accessible only to male Levites who ministered before God.

4) The Temple Interior, accessible only to the priests who ministered at certain times and in certain ways.

5) The Holy of Holies, the seat or throne of God, accessible to the High Priest once a year on Yom Kippur to perform priestly duties.

Between the final two sections was a heavy curtain which separated the Temple Interior from the Hole of Holies. This curtain, besides performing the material function of separating the Holy of Holies from the world outside, served to symbolize the separation between God and humans. This separation was bridged only once a year by one person—the High Priest of God.

When Christ was given up as a sacrifice upon the cross, he performed the action of the High Priest—he performed a sacrifice for the people (a sacrifice given in himself) and he entered the Holy of Holies and stood before God as the representative of the people. But Christ, as the eternal and ultimate High Priest (Hebrews 8), did not leave the Holy of Holies and close the curtain behind him, but instead, in his death, rent the curtain from top to bottom. In this Christ symbolized that the distinction between God and humanity was, in him, removed, and all people now have access to the throne of God.

So may the words that I write here bring to light the fact that Christ has bridged the gap, once and for all, between God and humans—between God and the world. May the words you read here show that Christ has established a new covenant (Hebrews 8) in which we have access to God through Christ and his sacrifice and that the sundering of the veil may be a proof of that new covenant.

Consider these lyrics as a way of explaining the giving of the new covenant through Christ, the Lamb of God:

Who am I to be part of your people—the ones that are called by your Name?
Could I be chosen as one of your own, could it be that our blood is the same?
How can a stranger, a remnant of nations, belong to the Royal line?
You showed your grace when the branches were broken and I grafted into the vine.

How could you show me such bountiful mercy by taking the life of the Lamb?
Your love is greater than I can imagine, I bless you with all that I am.
Praise to you Jesus—the veil has been parted, and what once was secret is known.
Now I can cry to you: “Abba, my Father,” and praise you as one of your own.

Baruch Hashem Adonai, baruch Hashem Adonai;
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, baruch Hashem Adonai.

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