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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Curtain Is Torn - Easter Sunrise - April 5, 2015 - Texts: Mt. 27:51; Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45

Our text are Matthew 27:51: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split,” Mark 15:38: “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom,” and Luke 23:45: “while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” These are our text.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! This morning we continue looking at the question behind the question as we say, we continue looking at the words to understand the meaning of the words. This morning in particular we look at the meaning of the words for the people of Jesus’ day and for us today.
We begin by going back to the Old Testament. After God delivered the Children of Israel from their bondage of slavery in Egypt, after He brought them out into the wilderness, on their way to the promised land, God gave His people His law, His moral law, His civil law and His ceremonial law. God instructed the people as to how to set up camp, and more importantly, how to erect a tabernacle, a place of worship in the wilderness. This tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem both were symbols of God’s presence among His Holy people. Both of these places of worship had a holy place and a holy of holies where only the high priest could go and where he would go only once a year on the day of atonement to present offerings for the people, the whole nation of Israel.
The holy place was entered daily to change the show bread, that is the twelve loaves of bread representing the twelve tribes of Israel and to keep the lamps burning. The Holy of Holies was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and it was entered only once a year on the day of Atonement by the one priest who was selected at random, by God and by the other priests. These two places, the holy place and the holy of holies were separated by a curtain.
The tabernacle and temple areas were set up in such a way that the common or unclean people were kept from entering into the clean or holy areas. The court yard allowed those of a certain degree of cleanness. The Holy place was meant only for the priest and the Holy of Holies was to be enter in only by an authorized person once a year. For an unauthorized person to enter or for anyone to enter in an unauthorized manner would mean immediate death.
So, what is it about this curtain and this secrecy? The physical make up of the tabernacle and temple were intended by God as a visual image of the relationship between God and His people, between the complete perfection and holiness of God and the complete depravity and sinfulness of His people. The curtain is our sin which separates us from God. God is perfection, we are sin. We cannot stand in God’s presence in our sin for to enter His presence in our sinful state would mean complete and utter annihilation.
In our sin we cannot, in and of ourselves approach God, because there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to make ourselves clean or presentable in God’s presence. Yes, we may do some good deeds, or at least what we might think in our own imagination are good deeds, but even Isaiah reminds us that our good deeds are in God’s eyes as filthy rags.
And so we need a mediator. We need someone to stand in our stead. We need a substitute. And Jesus is our substitute. He is our mediator. The very reason He was born in this world, in human history was to live for us. We were conceived and born in sin, He was conceived and born in perfection. We constantly, continually, daily disobey God’s laws. Jesus obeyed all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, even perfectly fulfilling all the promises of God concerning the coming Messiah. In our sin we cannot stand before God. Only someone who is perfect can stand in the presence of God. Jesus is perfect so that He is able to be our perfect mediator, the one who is our go between.
Yes, Jesus is our Mediator. Because Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place, which is truly the fulness of the Gospel message, not simply that He died and rose, but because He fulfilled the demands of God’s law, be perfect, for us in our place, doing all we could not do, He is able to stand before God for us, on our behalf as our mediator.
As our mediator, because of His perfection, Jesus was able and did take our sins, all our sins, as well as all the sins of all people who have ever lived or who will ever live, from all places of the world and He paid the price for our sin. The price that was set in the Garden of Eden, the price of eternal spiritual death and hell, Jesus paid that price completely so that nothing else needs to be done for our forgiveness.
And now Jesus stands before God on our behalf as our mediator. He stands before God pleading our case for us. He stands before God having paid the price, the full price for our sins. When God looks at us He sees Jesus perfection on us and He is satisfied that we have been perfect, because it is Jesus perfection that He sees on us.
What does this mean? The price for sin is death, eternal spiritual death in hell. The price is not negotiable and there is never a sale. And all sins are equal and equally damnable in God’s eyes. Sin is sin is sin. There are no big and small sins in God’s eyes. Certainly we might image there are some crimes that are worse than others in this world, but in God’s eyes all sins are equally condemning. And because of our sin, because we are not perfect and holy, we owe our very lives. We would most certainly be destined to hell if not for Jesus. Sin has separated us from God and yet Jesus paid the price for all sins which separated us from God.
When Jesus died on the cross, the price for sin was paid, completely, for all sins of all places of all times. Because there was no more sin to separate us from God, the price for sin being paid, the curtain was now torn in two, from top to bottom. It is almost as if God Himself were tearing the curtain from top to bottom. The good news is that now we can go directly to God. We do not need a priest or mediator to talk with God. Certainly we still need Jesus as our mediator for eternal life, but we can at any time speak directly to God the Father because the sin which separated us from Him has been completely removed.
We can approach God because Jesus has paid the price for our sins, completely. Nothing more needs to be done. For anyone to tell you that there is something more you need to do to be given forgiveness of sins and eternal life, they are telling you that God’s grace, that Jesus’ suffering and death were not enough. Whereas we have the sure and certain Word of God as well as demonstrated at the death of Jesus with the tearing of the curtain in the temple that Jesus’ life, suffering and death were enough. And with His resurrection as the exclamation point of His defeat of sin, death and the devil.
Today we celebrate. We celebrate and we worship, not a dead God, but a living God, a life giving God, a forgiving God. We celebrate today and every Sunday Jesus’ defeat of sin, death and the devil. We celebrate all the gifts and blessings He has won and gives to us. We celebrate His life, suffering, death and resurrection for us. We celebrate His means of grace, those means through which He gives us the gifts He has to give. We celebrate His gifts of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We celebrate that we can come to Him anytime and anywhere and bring our prayers and petitions before Him. We celebrate that He continues to rule over us, watch over us and intercede for us. We celebrate and give thanks and praise to Him alone. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake, Amen. He is risen, He is risen, indeed! Alleluia. Amen.

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