Text: Matthew 27:33-54
Jesus died and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Torn from top to bottom. Interesting. But what’s the big deal about that curtain, anyways? Many folks couldn’t really care less about that little detail and in a way that makes sense.
You see, in our day, we have this idea that God’s door is always open to us. God is always accessible. So with all our notions about do-it-yourself religion and so called ‘spirituality’ nothing would ever come in the way of a nice friendly sit down and chat with God. But the cross, the sacrifice, the blood, and the curtain, well, not much for me! No need for all that now. I’ll just come right to God on my own terms, in my own way, and he’ll just have to take me as I am. But that would be a very deadly and dangerous mistake!
I’d like you to think of Lucy in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Susan and Lucy, they ask about Aslan the lion, who represents Jesus. They ask “is he safe?” The Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you!”
What is C.S. Lewis getting at here? Well, the point is that you can’t just pick and choose the parts about God you like – notions of his grace or love and dismiss all the rest. We must know and believe in the Lord as He Himself has revealed Himself to be! We must accept the totality of His self-revelation to. The Lord is both loving and also hates and judges against sin. St. Paul exclaims “Behold then the kindness and severity of God!”
There, God’s presence is not a thing to be trifled with. His judgments are severe. His holiness, a consuming fire. Our sin, which separates us from Him is a situation far worse than what we might think. It’s open rebellion against the God of love. Sin is an attempt to live without Him who is the very source of our life. It brings with it death, and with it a wall that separates us from God. Just listen to Isaiah the prophet: “Your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Is. 59:2). With sin we are not safe!
Think again about that temple curtain, a clear line between the holy presence of God and sinful man. May as well be brick wall. You and I know plenty about walls. We spend an awful lot of time behind them, building them, brick by brick. These walls also separate us from one another. Bricks of anger, and bricks of suspicion, and bitterness – closing us in. Consider those walls built up even with those you consider your best friends. Consider all the loneliness and separation that result. Sadly because of sin, we’re separated one from another.
But the most hurtful and painful wall of all is the wall between us and God. God made us for communion with him. So how devastating it was when man sinned and in so doing was driven out, a wall of cherubim and flashing sword to guard the way.
Is God’s door always open? Can you just come as you are? Well, not quite. Now now. Go back to that temple curtain. It separated the Holy of Holies, the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence from the people. In every respect it’s a wall, signifying man’s separation from God through sin and guilt. So how was that barrier breached? How was the door opened?
Well, in short, blood and lots of it! The curtain of the Most Holy Place, in the Temple, was drawn aside, only once a year, on the day of atonement. The high priest would enter through the veil to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice. At each end of the mercy seat were perched Cherubim, crafted of gold.
So tonight behold your Lord Jesus dying on the cross. Listen to those who deride him, saying “You who said you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!” Oh, but He was preaching about Himself! By His patient suffering and glorious death Jesus is preaching a magnificent sermon. For when he cries out and yields up his spirit, he is truly bridging the gap, and breaking down every barrier that stands between us and the kingdom our hearts all long for. The wall is crashing down. The temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. And so we have confidence to enter unashamed into His holy presence, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.
The old system of sacrifice, priesthood, and temple worship that’s all ended – for that was a rehearsal, preparation for the true day of atonement, Jesus sacrifice, his death, which opened the way for every repentant sinner to enter into God’s presence.
You see if any one’s going to open the gate to heaven – and unbar the doors to paradise it sure won’t be you. No, you have a great high priest, named Jesus, who’s done that for you. You don’t just come as you are. You enter by the blood of Christ or not at all! - blood which atones for you, cleanses and prepares you, that you may enter through the veil of his flesh and blood in which there is access and utter delight in the life of the Holy Trinity – the communion of saints and all angels.
Our sins may have cut us off from God – a curtain – a wall - a barrier that no man could breach. But this Jesus, was named Immanuel, God with us, a name’s sake which He truly honored by breaking every barrier down. He let all your sins, all your guilt, strangle and kill him, in order to take our guilt and its dreadful punishment all away so that we would receive God’s favor, his acceptance, and access to His throne of grace.
And now, through the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. In forgiving love every barrier, every brick is torn down and we are invited into the presence of His Father in heaven. In Jesus Christ, the veil is torn, and every wall comes tumbling down. In the name of Jesus. Amen.