Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Corinthians 5:17-2
The priest arrives early to the temple. As he enters the courtyard with the others, the noise from the animals waiting beyond the gate sets him on edge.
If he is honest with himself, he began the day on edge.
This morning, his wife was unusually quiet. He remembered her tightly drawn mouth as she helped him on with his priests’ robe and shawl, as if she was willing herself not to speak. She was spending too much time listening to rumors; surely, she must understand he had nothing to do with what was happening outside the city gates.
Here comes the lamb.
The handlers bring the animal closer for inspection. The priest looks it over. Not a blemish upon it. He nods to the handlers.
He looks to the altar, plates ready to receive what is left of the sacrifice. Levites are ready to complete that task.
He walks up the steps to The Holy Place, counting them, trying to focus on the duties at hand. He lights the candles and incense, hoping the aromas bring him an extra measure of peace.
He begins down the steps, pauses.
At once he feels the atmosphere change, and abruptly the sky grows dark. A hush falls over everyone in the inner court.
A sound like nothing he has ever heard before echoes behind him and he turns back to The Holy Place. The curtain! The veil–separating his priestly place of sacrifice from the cloud of God’s presence–is ripping before his very eyes. (Matthew 27:51) He gasps and falls to his knees, pressing his face to the ground. The curtain has been split in two, from top to bottom. Life, as he knows it, is finished. (John 19:30)
The curtain in The Holy Place was four inches (10 cm) thick, 60 ft (18 m) tall, and 30 ft (9 m) wide. Splitting the woven linen from top to bottom was humanly impossible.
But why was it split? And what does it mean?
The plan of blood sacrifice began in Eden, to cover Adam and Eve’s first sin. As we’ve seen throughout this Journey Theme, sacrifice played an important role in the ongoing relationship between God and His people.
Sacrifice would be a regular part of religious life for Israel following their miraculous rescue from bondage in Egypt. (Exodus 11-12) On the eve of their departure, God established the sacrificial rite of Passover.
That first Passover night, God was making a way for freedom from physical bondage.
As the people of Israel began life after Egyptian enslavement, blood sacrifice became a measure of escape from the bondage to sin.
The priests became the only people permitted to perform the sacrifices, which needed to be repeated, because they couldn’t offer complete redemption. (Hebrews 9:6-10) People were not brought into relationship with God Himself; He remained separate, His physical presence among them hidden behind the curtain in the temple. (Leviticus 16:2)Until Jesus took the role of High Priest and Sacrifice. Redeemer and Savior.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus–he has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)– and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith[.]” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Jesus became the final, atoning sacrifice, the embodiment of God working to bring His sin-stained children to Himself.
“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Jesus’ one sacrifice covered the sins of every person, across the world, for all time.
“He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
The eternal penalty for our sin was paid.
The path to a full, restored relationship with the Father was opened. (John 10:7-9)
At the very moment Jesus gave up His last breath, His work of purchasing salvation for humanity was finished (John 19:30), and the proof was evidenced by the Hand of the Holy One granting access to the Holiest place, His own dwelling place.
(Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-38, Luke 23:45-46)
As the tattered edges of the temple curtain fluttered in the breeze, the separation of sin between God and His children was ended.
A barrier between man and God no longer existed;
the Mercy Seat was exposed and available to all.
In three days, Jesus would rise to life again in victory over sin (Matthew 28), and soon after, He would send His very Spirit to live within His people. (Acts 2)
I am so grateful for the people in my life who helped me realize I needed a savior, and pointed me to my God, who loves me so much He willingly gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice for my redemption.
Sisters, His love is calling out to you, too. Today, you can turn away from your sin, toward God, and accept His gift of forgiveness and redemption!
Father, I have sinned. I believe Jesus is Your Son, God in the flesh, and His sacrificial death paid the eternal penalty for my sins. I believe in Jesus’ resurrection, and I accept Your gift of forgiveness and redemption for the complete payment of my sin. Amen.
If you prayed to receive Jesus as your personal Savior, reach out! We want to connect and celebrate with you!
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Thanks for joining us today as we journeyed into Sacrifice Week Three! Don’t miss out on the discussion below – we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Here’s a link to all past studies in Sacrifice Week Three!
Carol, thank you for this powerful message. The narrative from a priest’s point of view grabbed my attention. It dovetails with the message I heard at church this morning from Galatians that it is for freedom that Christ has freed us. I appreciated the details of the curtain’s dimensions – I didn’t realize it was 4 inches thick! It makes me think of a kid who can barely restrain themselves from ripping into a Christmas present. In this case Christ Himself does the ripping and we get His presence!
What a beautiful picture, Pearl! “Christ does the ripping and we get His presence!”