It’s Holy Week – that time of year when we reflect on the life and times of Jesus; his death, burial and resurrection. I thought to myself, what can I say about this occasion that hasn’t been already said or taught? Then it came to me, that while many of us have heard the story and know the details of his life and death, many still may not understand what his resurrection fully accomplished. What does it mean for us?
I’ve watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, ONCE. (Trust me, once was enough!) I thought it was an incredibly moving and spiritual cinematic experience, albeit graphic in violence. I left the movie theatre with a greater understanding of what he had done for and endured for us. There is one scene in the movie that always comes to mind, that stays with me even now: As Jesus died on the cross, an earthquake occurred, rending the veil in the temple into two pieces. Yeah, I remember that part because something powerful and wonderful happened at that moment. It was bigger than the natural disasters and signs in the heavens which indicated the son of God had died. That is the moment, in my mind, when Jesus transferred his right to go before God to ME.
In the Old Testament, the veil separated the holy of holies, the most sacred place, from the rest of the temple. And only the High Priest could enter in and only once a year, to make atonement for the sins of Israel. No regular layman could approach – not even a lesser priest. Among the religious rituals of Israel, there always needed to be a liaison or mediator between God and man. There were priests to take the animals and make the sacrifice; animals to bear our sins so that we could be clean again and have another chance to get it right. There always needed to be someone to act as a go-between because our own sinful nature kept us from going before God and his perfection.
When the veil was torn, it signified the end of the era where we needed a priest to go before God and cover our sins. Jesus, himself, became our everlasting sacrifice, our mediator and intercessor. God can now look upon us and no longer see our sin, but see the blood of his Son which covers us and atones for our sins. Now, the really cool result of that is, in layman’s terms, I don’t need a priest or pastor or minister or anyone else to go before God on my behalf. I can go to him MYSELF. And I gotta tell you – that realization excites me! If ever there was a gospel that needs to be told, that needs to be revealed, it is that one! I can go straight to God – cut out the middleman. And guess what? He wants us to do so! Otherwise, he would have left the veil intact. This is the real and true good news. Jesus died to make God available to you. This means YOU, regular Joe, can go directly to God.
This was an extension of Jesus’ ministry, in a way. While he walked this earth, Jesus didn’t traffic with the religious leaders of his day. As a matter of fact, he shunned the Pharisees and Sadducees in favor of just regular folks. I think they were rejected because they acted like they had it all together. “Those who are well have no need of a doctor,” Jesus said. Those self-righteous leaders didn’t have a need for a savior who could restore them to a right standing with God. According to them, they were already in good with God. Talking to them would have been akin to some of the conversations we have today with someone who knows-it-all. You can barely get a word in edgewise because they keep claiming “I know!” Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would do if he walked this earth today – would he hang out with the recognized “Christian” folks? Hmmm. Better yet – would some of us “Christians” even recognize or acknowledge him? Double hmmm…
So – am I advocating that we boycott church on this Easter/Resurrection Sunday – just chuck it all and become our own HIGH PRIEST? No, church has its place – so go, by all means. Go because you love to dress up and want to be seen. Go because you love the pomp and circumstance. Go because you see the beauty in the ceremonies. And go because you love the worship. Go because you feel the need for fellowship. But know, even in doing so, that God is not found only there. He put the means of salvation in place because he wants his children back. He wants to be in a relationship with us. He will meet you wherever you are and you can fellowship with and worship him directly. He’s provided that avenue and direct route to himself because he wants to converse with us, as he did in the beginning. Before original sin, before the fall, he walked in the garden in the cool of the day and he spoke with his children. And they saw him face to face. So Jesus’ death restores us to that right standing with God, it gives us back the rights and privileges that had been revoked.
RESTORATION simply means we can be his sons and daughters again, no longer separated from him by sin. When Jesus completed his task, which was to die for us, he said “It is finished,” because it was so completely and thoroughly DONE. Ladies and gents, it was “a wrap,” so to speak. Nothing else needed to accompany that action. So I get excited, knowing I have a Father that I can go to with all of my needs. I get excited knowing that he will hear me and answer me as any good Father would do. I get excited just to know that I can go directly to him – I can go boldly before his throne and obtain mercy and forgiveness whenever needed. I don’t have to wait until Sunday or until I get to church or until someone anoints me with oil or sprinkles holy water on me or lays hands on me to pray for me. I don’t even have to get the pastor on the phone or schedule a personal consultation in his office. I don’t need to ask the spiritual warriors if they can “get a prayer through!” Since I am no longer “at enmity with God,” I can cry to him “Abba, Father!” He will hear me and come to my rescue. And he will hear you, too. THAT is good news worth sharing.