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And the Veil was Torn

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. For a fair amount of the people I know, all that means is that it's time to go on an Easter Egg Hunt (or a "Spring Sphere Search," as some now call them) and have a nice meal with the family. I wouldn't condemn having an egg hunt and think they're great, but I think they let us miss something on this special weekend.

According to straight-out Biblical Christianity, Easter is the day that Jesus rose from death on the cross after being buried for three days. Good Friday, which is today, is the day that he was tortured, mocked, put on false trial, and crucified.

I think that we all, myself included, tend to forget what Jesus actually went through on Good Friday. If you've ever heard the word "excruciating," its root word comes from crucifixion. The standard procedures for a victim of crucifixion often included being whipped with a Cat 'O Nine Tails. In case you aren't familiar with that, it's basically a whip with nine strands of leather attached. Along those strips of leather, barbed hooks, shards of glass/pottery, and heavy weights were attached. When someone was beaten with something like this, their flesh would get softened by the weights (much like tenderizing meat), and their flesh would be ripped and torn from the hooks and glass. Jesus was whipped with the Cat O' Nine Tails up until the point where they had to stop or they would kill him (and they wanted to make sure that he'd die on a cross, not at the beating post). As well, when the soldiers put the crown of thorns on his head, I usually think of them as blackberry thorns. However, that's wrong. Rather, the thorns would have been several inches long, and the soldiers would have literally pounded them into Jesus' head. And, finally, aside from the pain of having huge nails driven through your hands, Jesus would have had to literally lift his chest up and down to take a breath each time when he was on the cross. His raw, bloodied back would scrape against the rough wood of the cross, and if he lost the strength to lift his chest, he'd suffocate. This is what happened to Jesus.

This is not the Jesus of storybook Bibles, where he wears all white and has a perfectly trimmed beard. Storybooks are great, but we miss the aspect of God's humanity and his utter strength if all we let ourselves see in him is some bearded hippie wearing all white.

In Matthew 27, the story of Jesus' crucifixion is told. At one point, we see Jesus cry out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” This means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" It's as if in this one moment, instead of pouring his righteous wrath against sinful humanity, God instead focused that judgement on his own Son. (Don't get me wrong, though: Jesus was still God. He always was, is, and will be God). This is what Martin Luther called "The Great Exchange." God decided to pour his judgement against all of our sins against his own Son, leaving us free to come to God in humble repentance and be saved.

There's another interesting factoid in Matthew 27:51. It says that at the moment that Jesus died, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." Back in those days, the only way people could get to God was by having a priest intercede for them. A huge, heavy curtain (I'm talking several inches thick) hung in front of a place in God's temple called the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the only place that God would go to directly meet with humanity, face to face. So why is the tearing of the veil so important? Why does it matter?

The veil being torn is imperative to the Great Exchange. Exactly when Jesus died, the veil tore from top to bottom. First, it's pretty impossible for a curtain as thick as the veil for the Holy of Holies to tear on its own from top to bottom. On its own, it would have torn from side to side. So, it's logical to conclude that God tore the curtain down. Second, and here comes the story of salvation, having the curtain down means that our barrier to God has been taken away. We no longer need a high priest to be middleman for us: we can talk directly to God. The Bible says that Jesus is our new High Priest, but he's not exactly a middleman, I think, because he IS God. Jesus intercedes for us, but he is God. It's so cool!

Titus 2:11 says, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." Jesus is the grace of God, appearing on earth to stand in the path of God's wrath for us and breaking the barrier between us and God. It's a free gift, too! It's as if someone was going down the street offering a million dollars to whoever would hold out their hand and accept the gift. I dunno. I find that insanely cool.

The veil was torn, and we have a way to God. By God's grace, we will have enough faith to continue following Him. Thank God for Easter!



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HisPurePrincess This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 9, 2011 at 11:25 am
I don't like jelly beans.  And I really hate those creepy looking easter bunnies.  I like the truffle eggs and chocolate and I love walking into the church and feeling saved.  I love listening to the special music.  This year, three mother/daughter duos did a song called "Glorious Day" and it was beautiful.  My best friend is always beautiful and amazing when she signs.  That's signs, not sings.  They were doing ASL.  Easter to me is not about the candy or... (more »)
 
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