easter reflection: Crucifixion

If you haven’t already, read the story Crucifixion

During the time when the nation of Israel wandered through the desert, God instructed Moses to build a special place where God could dwell among his people. This tent, or tabernacle, was constructed to very specific requirements, from it’s exact dimensions down to it’s finest details.

Inside the Tabernacle was a room called the Holy Place, and inside that there was an inner room called the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was sacred – a place no ordinary person could enter.

Inside the Holy of Holies stood the Ark of the Covenant. On top of the Ark there was a gold cover called the Mercy Seat where the presence of God rested between two gold cherubim.

A thick curtain hung from the ceiling of the tent all the way down to the floor, separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. This curtain, known as The Veil, was made of fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with figures of angels embroidered onto it. The word “veil” in Hebrew means screen, divider or separator that hides. The Veil shielded a holy God from a sinful people.

Whoever entered into the Holy of Holies, entered the very presence of God. In fact, if anyone except the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, they would die! Even the High Priest, God’s chosen mediator with His people, could only pass through The Veil once a year on a special day called The Day of Atonement.

God told the people this about the Day of Atonement:

“This will be a special day where you will all be made right with me. Today you will find forgiveness and cleansing from all your sins.”

Leviticus 18:34

God also gave the High Priest very specific instructions to be followed on the Day of Atonement. He had to make sure he was completely clean, wear special clothing including a breastplate with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel engraved on it, showing that he represented his people before God. The priest then sacrificed a young bull as payment for his and his family’s sins, dipped his finger in the blood, entered the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled the blood on the cover and the front of the Ark.

He also found two spotless goats and sacrificed one of them as a substitute for the sins of all the Israelites. The blood of this sacrifice was also sprinkled on the Ark. Because of this blood, God said He would forgive all the sins and rebellion of the people. Blood represents life, and in this blood was atonement for sin of the Nation.

The goat that was not sacrificed was called the “scapegoat” or Ahzazel, which means “to take away.” The High Priest laid both of his hands on it’s head, confessing all of the people’s sins putting them on the head of the goat. The goat was then led far away into the wilderness, and like their sins, would never be seen again.

If these things were not done exactly as God prescribed, the High Priest would die. Since no one else could enter the Holy of Holies, the other priests tied bells and a rope around his ankle, so they could hear if he was still moving and pull him out if he died.

Years later, a more permanent Tabernacle, called The Temple, was built in the Capital City of Jerusalem, as a symbol of God’s presence remaining with the people. As with the Tabernacle, this new temple was constructed to very specific requirements, from it’s exact dimensions down to it’s finest details. The Holy of Holies remained shielded from humans behind a thick curtain.

However, Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross changed that. When He died, the curtain in the Temple was torn in half, from the top to the bottom. Only God could have carried out such an incredible feat because the curtain was at least 9 metres high (30 feet) and too thick for humans to tear it.

As the Veil was torn, the Holy of Holies was exposed. Shocking as this may have been to the priests ministering in the Temple that day, it is indeed good news for all humanity. Jesus’ death fully accomplished the purpose of the Day of Atonement – forgiveness of sin.

Imagine, if you can, standing in front of the Veil – a huge, heavy curtain that is 9m high and 9m wide. How do you think it would have felt to be separated from what was on the other side, and what that represented?

Now consider the statement made by those mocking Jesus: “Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!”

What do you think Jesus meant when he said that he would destroy the sanctuary and then rebuild it in three days?

As you think about this story, what are you grateful for?

You might like to write a prayer that expresses your gratitude towards what God has accomplished through the sacrifice of His son.

Record your reflections, observations and questions in your personal journal and feel free to share what you are learning in the comments below.

Comments are moderated to ensure they are relevant to the story and questions above.

The content in this reflection has been adapted from material developed by Travis Johnson from AccessTheStory.

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