Finishing Lent

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR

April 12, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

To finish up on the Lenten series on the seven “signs” in the Gospel of John I intend to leave John’s gospel, at least for this article, and possibly return for Resurrection Sunday weekend.  The Gospel of Matthew records five miracles that occurred at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Jesus was crucified on the Jewish Passover which occurred on a Friday in the year 30 AD.  The Passover Supper was held at the beginning of the day, which in Jewish tradition would be at sundown the evening before.  The Passover Seder is lengthy, so it would have lasted far into the night.  Jerusalem would have been sleeping in on Friday, except for those involved in the capture, mock trial and eventual crucifixion of Jesus.  Jesus was on the cross by nine o’clock in the morning.  At three o’clock, six hours later, he proclaimed, “It is finished,” and surrendered his spirit to his Father in heaven.

The five miracles of Calvary are recorded in Matthew 27:45 – 53.  They are as follows: Darkness over the land, the rending of the Temple veil, the shaking of the earth, the opening of the tombs, and the raising of the believing dead.  The core miracle here is the rending of the veil of the Temple and we will focus on this one phenomenon.

The veil of the Temple was a fabric wall dividing the two chambers of the Temple proper.  The larger chamber, the Holy Place, contained the menorah, the table of show bread, and the golden alter of incense just outside the veil.  The inner chamber was the Holy of Holies which once contained the Ark of the Covenant.  That Ark was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and never restored, so that in Jesus time the Holy of Holies was an empty chamber.  It was, nevertheless, considered sacred space by the religious establishment, and was only entered once a year on the Day of Atonement by the High Priest of Israel.  Josephus records that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  Mathew records that this veil was “torn in two from top to bottom.”

The veil of the Tabernacle and later the Temple of Israel had the purpose of reminding the covenant people of the holiness, literally the separateness, of God from a sinful people who needed a sacrifice, a substitutionary death, to prepare for any encounter with their God.  The entire sacrificial system was constructed on this premise.  The Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah of Israel understood the renting of the veil as a clear sign that this substitutionary sacrifice was ultimately provided in the death of Jesus on the cross.

The Apostle Paul states in I Corinthians 5:7, “For the Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed…”  In Hebrews 10:19 – 21 we read: “Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience…”

It is true that not all Jerusalem saw it this way, but many did.  On Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, 3000 were baptized around the Temple in the name of God the Father, Jesus the Messianic Son, and the Spirit of Holiness.  The Messiah had taken away the barrier between God and man for those who would believe   The wall is down.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net).  END-whs

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