The Meaning of the Cross (1)

A big title for a small post!

However, I was reflecting on the the story of the crucifixion and in particular the tearing of the curtain (Luke 23v45-6) and the piercing of the side of Jesus (Jn 19v34) and the multi-layered meanings hinted at in the text.

Firstly, the tearing of the curtain – (Luke 23v45) The veil of the Temple was ripped down the middle.  The curtain in the Temple at Jerusalem was the main thing that separated the ‘Holy of Holies’, where the Jews believed the Glory and presence of God dwelt, from the rest of the temple.  This place could only be visited once a year on the Day of Atonement by the High priest himself.  In this system God was inaccessible, Wholly Other with access regulated by the ruling Priesthood. This is the system that Jesus noted was open to abuse.  Those on the fringes of society, the prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors were unclean and unable to meet with God.  This is why Jesus repeated declaration of ‘Your sins are forgiven’ caused so much controversy.  Only God could forgive sins, only temple purity rituals could cleanse you and only the priesthood had the control.  Forgiveness and cleansing allowed you back into full membership of the worshipping community and Jesus said this could be accomplished by him – the new Temple.

The tearing of the curtain, which is noted in all three synoptic gospels (Matt, Mk and Lk) says that through the tearing of Jesus body, by his death the death of an innocent, access to God is now open to all.  In fact the presence of God is now flowing out from Israel to all nations (see Acts 2).

For us today it means we can enter with confidence the Holy Place where God dwells because of the blood of Jesus and his body which is the curtain (Hebrews 10v20-21).  It also means the presence of God is flowing into the world – into our home, work and everyday lives.  Jesus is King and he Reigns – everywhere!

Next Post:  The piercing of Jesus’ side

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