Living Through a Torn Curtain

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46

God had given Israel precise instructions in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25 – Exodus 27) and the temple (1 Chronicles 28). There was a room called the “Holy of Holies” or “The Most Holy Place” where God’s presence lived. This room was only entered once a year, by the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. There were very specific instructions on what the priest was to do (Leviticus 16), including cleansing, sacrificing animals, and sprinkling blood. If the High Priest entered any other time, or without following God’s specific instructions, the consequence was death. The purpose was “atonement” (reparation for a wrong committed) for the sins of Israel. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.

Leviticus 16:15-16,34

Then Jesus died the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. This symbolized a change in the way things were done – a new covenant on how sins would be atoned and a new operating system:

  • Jesus came as the new High Priest and the blood he brought was his own perfect blood. (Hebrews 9:11-14)
  • No longer does a High Priest need to enter the temple every year to atone for sins, Jesus did it once and for all, when he entered heaven after sacrificing himself. (Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10)
  • Atonement from our sins, and salvation, is through believing in Jesus. (John 3:16-21, John 14:6)

Under the new covenant, the punishment for sin is still death, but we have a High Priest who already died. His blood paid our price and atoned our sins. The temple is no longer a physical building, but it is the human bodies of those who believe in Jesus. God lives in us.

So what does this mean for us? If you haven’t already put your faith in Jesus, I encourage you to read the verses I have linked and spend time reading both the Old Testament and New Testament. God loves you and sent His Son to die for you, at no cost to you. For those of you who have put your faith in Jesus, thank him for his sacrifice. And then live for him, loving others, meeting together with other believers, and encouraging them to do the same.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Paul, Hebrews 10:19-25
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Three Easy Steps for Controlling Your Temper

My temper gets me all the time.  Even if I don’t explode I can feel irritation creeping up.  90% of the time my irritation is toward my husband and children.  The rest of the time it is toward the telemarketer that keeps calling my cell phone or the person at customer service whose service is pretty crappy.

Earlier this week I heard a radio program as I was driving to the gym – it was James MacDonald talking about a simple discipline to help me not give into temptation or lose my temper.   I’m testing it . . .and so far results are pretty good.

Example A:  My husband and I are both currently working from home.  I am so happy to be working from home and believe 100% that it is where God wants me.  Even so, it is an adjustment.  We haven’t both worked from home, together, for several years.  We are sharing an office.  We have very different work habits.  And very different philosophies on how the office should be organized (his style includes piles on the floor).  Yesterday as he was dropping our daughter off at school I could feel my irritation level getting higher and higher as I tried to find an organized and clean place in the office to work.

I have found that starting my day with daily Bible reading and prayer makes a huge difference, but often in the moment I still lose my temper.

When faced growing irritation with my husband I tried the steps below.  And it really seemed to help.  I didn’t handle the situation perfectly and I am sure I was more irritated than I needed to be, but it could have been a lot worse.

  1. Stop and say:  “I am Dead to That.”  Out loud.  (I did it in the bathroom, looking in the mirror.)  I love this concept – thank you James MacDonald!  
  2. Pray:  Ask God to give me grace, peace and His love in dealing with the situation.  
  3. Meditate:  Over and over in my head say the verse Romans 6:11 “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I’m going to keep trying this and see if it helps . . . as I need all the help I can get!  But bottom line as we just celebrated Easter, Jesus didn’t just die to save me from hell, He died to save me from a life of sin.  There is freedom in Him.  I just need to grasp that freedom.

In closing, I love section from James MacDonald, found here:

I know what you might be thinking. If I’m dead to sin, why do I feel so alive to it? Dead is the last word most of us would use to describe our experience with sin. Forgiven, maybe. Or cleansed—even changing. But dead?

First consider what dead to sin does not mean. It doesn’t mean sinless perfection or that our old nature is gone. And it doesn’t mean we’ve merely identified theoretically with the death of Christ.

It means that because Christ died in our place, we are dead to the power of sin. It’s as if we used to live in an apartment with an awful landlord who would burst in whenever he wanted, but now we’ve moved to a new apartment with a new landlord. We have new locks; we owe the former landlord nothing. He can’t get into our new apartment unless we open the door and invite him in.

Unfortunately, some Christians still open that door and listen to the old landlord. But he’s no longer in control. In Christ, the power of sin is broken and defeated. Sin is not in charge. You have a new Master.

Resurrection

Tomorrow we celebrate a Resurrection.

“Resurrection”: The act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

As I’ve been studying Mary of Bethany – and her role in the Passion Week – there is another resurrection story I’ve heard time and time again, but for the first time I understood the significance of it as I tried to view it through the eyes of Mary.

Mary lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Jesus was a close personal friend. Biblical scholars believe that Jesus stayed at their home when he was in Bethany.

I imagine that Mary knew that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hanukkah, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to kill him, but He escaped when they tried to capture him and left the area.

A few months later Mary’s brother Lazarus was very sick.

What it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that home, watching these three siblings who loved Jesus, deal with a tragic situation.

I can imagine Mary and Martha, in hushed tones, debating what to do:
– People in town want to kill Jesus
– But we need Jesus to come here to save Lazarus
– But what if Jesus comes to save Lazarus and the people who want to kill him find him?

Finally they sent word to Jesus “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

Did the sisters ever doubt that Jesus would come? Did they doubt He could save their brother? Or that He would?

Mary knew what is felt like to watch someone she loved dying. She knew what it was like to call out to Jesus for healing. She knew what it was like to wait for Jesus.

When Jesus heard about Lazarus’s sickness He said: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11: 4 – 8)

Jesus knew that a visit to Bethany would ultimately lead to His death. But He went anyways, because He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He also knew said that the sickness would not END in death. It didn’t end in Lazarus’s death and it didn’t end in Jesus’s death. It ended in God’s glory and our resurrection.

Imagine Mary, sitting in mourning with her friends and family and experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of her beloved brother. When Jesus arrived she left her friends and ran to Jesus and fell to His feet, sobbing. She cried out to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

What emotions might Mary have been experiencing at that moment?
– Hopelessness?
– Anger?
– Desperation?
– Fear for Jesus?
– Gratitude?
– Belief?

And then when Mary lifted her eyes from Jesus’s feet to His face, she saw His eyes glistening with tears.

Mary watched as Jesus wept.

And then she watched Jesus raise her brother from the dead. She watched her beloved brother, whose flesh had already begun to rot, walk out of the tomb.

And just like Jesus’s disciples had suspected, there were people who watched the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus and instead of believing in Jesus, they went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and they began to plot to kill Jesus.

When Jesus was on the road to Bethany and saw Mary running to him and crying at His feet He already knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in resurrecting Lazarus the plot for His crucifixion would begin. He knew that after His crucifixion, God would raise Him from the dead. And He knew that through His resurrection, all humankind would have the opportunity for resurrection: the act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

Jesus knew that the one He loved was sick and even though it would lead to His death, Jesus made the journey to Bethany to save him.

And He made the journey for Martha, because He loved her.

And He made the journey for Mary, because He loved her.

And He made the journey to the cross for you. And He made the journey to the cross for me. Because He loves us.