Just As He Said

tomb

God is a perfect example of faithfulness.  Many well-meaning people may attempt to exemplify faithfulness, but they can’t hold a candle to God’s perfect, promise-keeping nature.  His very name is “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11), and He keeps His word to a “thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8).  In fact, Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Hebrews 6:18 confirms that it’s impossible for Him to lie!  With this kind of reputation, we should have no difficulty trusting Him.

Unfortunately, our human nature has a hard time putting full confidence in something – or Someone – we cannot see.  We are so led by our five senses that anything out of our physical reach or vision seems impossible.  We have been so scarred by examples of unfaithfulness in our life that we don’t want to trust anyone ever again.  Even God is added to the list of “do not trust,” and we walk away, disillusioned and hardened.

A lack of trust in God’s faithfulness is not a new flaw.  It started in the Garden of Eden when Eve believed a lie from the devil rather than the truth of God’s Word.  The distrust continued right up to Jesus’ Resurrection, the most glorious day to those who believe in Jesus!

God expects us to believe His Word, so faithfully He gives us a word to believe.  He communicated with His disciples the same, giving them a prophecy of His betrayal, crucifixion, and His resurrection.

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Matthew 20:18-19)

These were attention-grabbing words!  To those who followed Him for three years, it meant a disbanding of their group and the loss of Someone they had come to love.  Regardless of Who said them those words, however, the disciples rejected them.  They continued on as usual, marching joyfully through Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, oblivious to what lay ahead of them.  From then on, every tragic, yet God-ordained event, took them by surprise.  Sadly, the doubt in God’s faithfulness continued right up to the tomb.

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow.  And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:1-6)

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left behind their mourning friends and prepared to do what any grieving mourners would do – apply spices to Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1).  They were prepared, not for a resurrection, but for a corpse, wrapped in burial clothes.  They expected guards on site, and a stone inhibiting their entrance.  Instead, they found an open tomb and an angel sitting calmly, waiting for their arrival.   Within minutes their unbelief in Jesus’ third-day resurrection melted into faith and they quickly left to obey the angel’s orders.

When the two women left to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, they were met with further unbelief (Luke 2:11; Mark 16:11, 13).  The disciples doubted their words, even though the Jesus’ previous words backed them up!  Later, Jesus was gracious enough to give the unbelieving disciples a refresher course concerning everything He had said before about His redemptive acts (Luke 24:44-49).  The talks didn’t come without a verbal spanking, however.  He rebuked them for their hardness of heart and unbelief, the root of their fear and lack of expectation (Mark 16:14).  Sadly, even after this, doubt didn’t completely leave the clan of “disciples.”  Even as Jesus stood on the mountain and gave them the great commission, some still doubted (Matthew 28:17).

Unlike God, human nature would have stomped away in disgust after hearing so much unbelief.  It would have given up and left all prophecies in the dust because it was too difficult to get support.  God, however, cannot lie or change His mind.  He has no Plan B.  Abortion of a plan is not an option.  It might take years of patience as He waits for people to take Him off the “do not trust list.”  It may take consistent prodding of His presence and repetition of His Word to soften a person’s hardened heart.  Regardless of what it takes, He knows He will find, in time, someone who will believe His Word and act on it.

God’s desire for us is that we be of the believing group and not of the unbelieving.  He wants us to believe His Word the first time, followed by expectation that He will do just as He said.  He wants us to have confidence in His faithfulness.  He wants our faith in Him to go beyond what we can see, reaching for the humanly impossible Resurrection power.  To those who believe that Resurrection power, all things are possible (Mark 9:23).

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

 

 

 

The Torn Veil

torn veil

Everything about redemption is beautiful, powerful, and supernatural.  None if it is without significance.  One of my favorite details of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is what happened when He declared, “It’s is finished!”

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:50-53)

Through these signs and wonders, God was showing off His powerful ability and glory!  In a moment of death, life entered the temple and life resurrected the bodies of people long dead.  He was declaring that even in death, He was greater than it all!

We may be awed by a supernaturally-inspired earthquake and the resurrection of people’s bodies.  But as awesome as these things may be, a greater spiritual event occurred behind the closed doors of the temple.  It was something hypocritical religious leaders wouldn’t understand or accept for years to come.  What once was held sacred and reserved for the spiritual elite was now open for the common man.  The veil separating the holy presence of God from the outside world had been torn from top to bottom!  The act was only something that could be accomplished by God Himself in such a swift moment, for it was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and a hand breadth in thickness!

This veil was the physical division representing the spiritual division between God and His people because of their sin. In the Old Testament, God commanded that the High Priest offer a blood sacrifice for the atonement of the people so their sins could be forgiven for one more year (Exodus 30:10).  Only the High Priest – set apart for special service to God – was allowed to perform this Holy act.  No other man was assigned by God or capable of carrying out this task.  If anyone were to try entering the Holy of Holies, that area behind the veil, they would die.  It was an honorable, yet terrifying, role to enter into the holy presence of God (Leviticus 16:1-34; Hebrews 9:1-10).

Something else miraculous happened the day that veil was torn.   Another High Priest passed into the Holy of Holies.  This time, it was not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

In that moment, every ritual ever commanded in the book of Leviticus suddenly ended.  No more slaughtering of a goat or calf was needed.  No sprinkling of that blood on the mercy seat was required.  No burning of incense and spreading of smoke was necessary to complete the ritual.  Someone did it . . . once for all!

Most of us couldn’t imagine the physical significance of this since we never lived in the Old Testament.  Many of us may be Gentile (non-Jews) so would never think about going through such a ritual.  Killing animals for a blood sacrifice and then entering a hallowed temple room would be unthinkable.  But whether we’re Jews or Gentiles, the spiritual significance is great and applies to all of us.  When Jesus shed His own blood on the cross, and entered the Holy of Holies with it, the forgiveness of sins for every man for eternity was complete.  This time, instead of applying to the Jews only as when Aaron crossed the veil line, it applied to Gentiles as well.  Salvation was made available to the whole world! (Romans 1:16, John 3:16)

To those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the tearing of the veil gives us many reasons to celebrate!  Let’s look at a few:

We are no longer separated from the presence of God.

That veil that once hung as a foreboding reminder that we were not pure enough for God’s presence has been stripped away!  We now have access into God’s presence as His children.  Not only can we enter in, but we can enter in with assurance and boldness to receive forgiveness and anything else we may need!

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We are now kings and priest unto God.

 What an honor to be chosen by God to minister to Him, just as the High Priests and other servants of the temple did!  We’re not only welcomed into God’s family as children, but also as valued and qualified royalty in His presence.  We reign and rule at His side with same qualification as His Son Jesus!

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6)

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

. . . even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5-7)

We are now His temple indwelt by God.

God’s abode has shifted from a building to a body.  As beautiful and ornate as the Old Testament temple was, it could not contain God forever.  He desired a human home, one that could commune with Him, move with Him, and represent Him.  That temple, filled with His Spirit and His nature is far more satisfying and effective to His Kingdom than any stone structure could ever be!

 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. . .” (Acts 17:24)

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Next time we feel intimidated by the thought of our weaknesses and imperfections, let’s remember what happened on the Cross.  Let’s remember how powerful Jesus’ sacrifice was.  It not only tore a huge, hallowed veil down the middle, but also gave us access into the Holy presence of God.  The God to Whom every knee will bow has made a way for us to be with Him!  The sin and condemnation has been removed, allowing us to treat God’s throne room as our home!