Easter 2011: Torn Curtain
April 24, 2011 Series: Easter 2011: TORN
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Hebrews 10:19–10:25
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10.19-25
Friday is a day of darkness and horror as we come face to face with the consequences of our rebellion, our brokenness, and our sin. And Saturday, is a day of sorrow and mourning we meditate on all of the false saviors and worldly solutions we thought would save us and fix things. But, Sunday is THE day of victory and rejoicing, the day when God proves that we are more sinful than we’ll ever admit, but more loved then we could ever imagine. And though we never forget our FRIDAY and SATURDAY, SUNDAY is the day we live on, the day we celebrate the new heart, the new life, and the new hope that Jesus gives to those who believe in the empty tomb. Sorry to disappoint any of you, but we just don’t get excited about foolish things such helicopter egg drops or a car give away; what turns our crank is gathering here to worship the Creator, the living God of the empty tomb, our savior and King Jesus.
Dwelling in the Garden – Genesis 3.22-24
For the last few weeks, we’ve been going through our Easter series titled TORN. In essence, it is the story of God, a four act play that flows from the broken relationship with God in the garden to the restored relationship with God through Christ in another garden. It is only when we understand this idea of being "TORN" that we can truly praise all that God has done to reconcile us back to Himself; a reconciliation that required God Himself be “TORN” from glory and TORN on the cross. But that is not the end of the story.
As Jim preached a couple weeks ago, the story began with a world that a perfect God created good. But men choose to believe the promises of sin over the promises of God, and they acted against God’s nature, and destroyed their relationship with Him. With the most important relationship severed, all other relationships fell: Man’s identity and relationship with himself fell. Man’s relationship with one another fell. Man’s relationship with work and creation fell. Sin caused man to be overwhelmed with shame and guilt; and the God they once loved they now feared. The relationship had been TORN. God, in his holiness, would no longer dwell and fellowship with man as he once had. Not wanting men to remain broken, God sent them out of the garden into the darkness: Genesis 3.22-24 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim [ANGEL] and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Dwelling in Israel
Sin now separated men from God. There was a barrier that man was powerless to cross. Men could not and would not reach up or out, but God would reach down and in. God always had a plan to save his people, to one day DWELL with them again as He had in the garden. By grace, God chose a man named Abraham through whom he promised bless the world. There was nothing special about Abraham, rather, he was a broken foolish sinner like us all, but by grace, God forgives his screw ups and blesses his 90 year old barren wife Sarah with a Son named Issac. And from Issac would come a son named Jacob whom God would rename Israel—and His 12 sons would become a great nation. There was nothing inherently special about Israel, on the contrary, God later tells them what makes them special is that, “the LORD set his love” on them and choose them among all the better options (Deut. 7.7).
Many years later, the Israelites, sons of Jacob and their families, find themselves enslaved and oppressed in Egypt. God hears the cry of his people, and He raises up an 80 year old fugitive shepherd named Moses to help free his people from a brutal oppression. He tells Moses his plan to free his people, be there God, and dwell with them. After 10 plagues of pestilence, frogs, locusts, hailstones and the death of thousands of firstborns, God destroys the greatest nation in the world and lead his people out of Egypt by a cloud and a pillar of fire by night. He leads them back to where God first spoke to Moses, to the base Mount Sinai. As the glory of God falls on top of the mountain with a thick cloud, thunder, lighting, and trumpets, they are reminded of the separation between a Holy God an unholy, but chosen nation. God warns the people not to come up or even touch the mountain, or they’ll die.
It is here that God formally covenants with his people, giving Moses the Law to help an unholy people maintain a pure relationship with a Holy God. Now married, God expresses his desire to dwell with them so He commands them to build a place for Him to live. Exodus 25.8 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. By God’s specific direction, the people construct a tabernacle for God to dwell in and, the last few verses of Exodus we see the glory of God “FILL THE TABERNACLE”. And it is through the various sacrifices for sin, that men are able to “dwell” with God. God has come a bit closer.
Dwelling in the Tabernacle Exodus 26.31-35
What does this all have to do with Easter? The design and function of the tabernacle points us to the cross. There is a courtyard, various structures in the courtyard, then a tent with a couple rooms and different pieces of furniture. The tabernacle is considered a Holy Place. Within this Holy Place, there was another inner room called the MOST holy place, of the Holy of Holies. A thick CURTAIN separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. Exodus 26.31-35 –31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.
This thick curtain was made of fine linen of blue, purple, and red. Embroidered on the curtain were Cherubim, or angels similar to the ones that guard the throne of God in the book of Ezekiel AND those that guarded the entrance to the garden of Eden the book of Genesis. A CURTAIN separated men from God. The Tabernacle reveals God’s desire and intention to DWELL with us and THE VEIL reveals the barrier between God and men. God is holy and cannot tolerate sin.
The Holy of Holies was a sacred room that on one could enter. God dwelled above the Ark of the Covenant in the room, whoever entered into the Holy of Holies would walk into the very presence of God—and it would kill them. The Bible says no man could not look on the face of God and live. This was not a punishment from God, but more like too much of a good thing. Any human cloaked in sin could simply not survive seeing the magnificence and majesty of God.
Various sacrifices were made on the altar before the tabernacle, but once a once a year, on the DAY OF ATONEMENT, was a sacrifice made within the Most Holy Place. On this day, the one High Priest went through a lengthy and rigorous cleansing ritual before entering the Holy of Holies, first making a sacrifice for his own sins. Then he would make sacrifice was made for all the sins of unintentional sins of Israel, and they were cleansed. Hebrews 9.6-7 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. The other priests would tie a rope around the man’s ankle so that they could pull him back out should he not be cleansed enough and die there. The curtain was both protective and condemning at the same time. It preserved the holiness of God and reminded unholy men of their inability ability to truly dwell with God, though a temporary dwell was made possible through sacrifice.
Dwelling with Us Jesus John 1.14-18
So what does this have to do with Jesus? For hundreds of years, through the sacrifices of lambs, bulls, goats, and birds, God dwelled with Israel. But this was not the restored relationship that God ultimately desired. When Israel fell into idolatry, and were conquered by various nations, God spoke through his prophets about a day when he would dwell with them again. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” Ezekiel 37.27. As Chris preached last week, the Son of God was “TORN” from glory, took on human flesh, and entered into human existence. In his Gospel, John says, “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me. And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1.14-18).”
Jesus came and the glory of God is said to have dwelt with his people. This is the same glory seen in creation, the same seen in redeeming Israel from Egypt, the same glory that fell on top of the mountain. The word for dwelt is actually TABERNACLED, echoing back to the tabernacle in the wilderness. The presence of God exited heaven, walked out from behind the curtain, and lived with sinful men. When we see Jesus, we see God. Jesus is not only “God-like”, but God is CHRIST-LIKE in every way. And for 33 years, men saw, heard, and touched our Lord in a way unlike any time before or since. HUMAN FLESH STILL separated men from God.
Jesus not only came to dwell, he came to die. A Jewish, law abiding, sacrifice making John the Baptist not only described him as greater than himself, but also as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1.29). Jesus did not come to simply give us a flash of heaven, a glimpse of glory, or a peek at what walking with God would look like some day. He CAME TO CONQUER SIN, SATAN, AND DEATH, HE came to make all things new, to tear down the curtain that separated man from His God and restore the relationship that was torn in the garden.
Permanent Dwelling – Mark 15.33-38
We see all of this come together at the moment Christ died. Mark 15.33-38 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom
The moment Christ died, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The tabernacle was the mobile temple. Solomon actually built a permanent temple that was a replica of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Jewish tradition tells us that the temple curtain was 4 inches thick, 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It weighed 4 tons and took 300 men to carry it. Though men had tore the relationship, God the Father tore his own Son from the glories of heaven, He tore his Son to pieces on the cross, then finally tore the curtain himself. And Jesus last cry he uttered with his final breath, is recorded in John 19.30…When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
It is finished. All the work that needs to be done HAS been done by Jesus. THE WAY TO GOD IS is ONLY through Jesus Christ. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ forever REOPENED the way to God that men had slammed shut with their sin. Through the death of Jesus on the cross, God the Father made atonement for sin and paved the way back into the garden with him—the TORN relationship was not resewn, it was completely REBORN. All of the shame, all of the fear, all guilt, all of the unholiness that had condemned us and separated us from God is WASHED AWAY ONCE and FOR ALL BY THE blood of Christ. The tabernacle, the curtain, the high priest, and all of the sacrifices, pointed to the ONE sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And the Resurrection proves Christ’s sacrifice was perfect and accepted by God. We’ll close with two passages out of Hebews:
Hebrews 9.11-14 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Heb. 10.19-23 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Conclusion – A Resurrected Dwelling
We need not hide from God, like Adam and Even in the garden, for there is no longer a veil hiding God’s presence from us. We need not sit in dread of God, guilty, broken, hoping He won’t reject us for our sin. Having full knowledge of our sin, Christ died for us. And for anyone who believes that Jesus died in their place, for their sins, you are forgiven of all your sin, clothed with Christ’s goodness, with Christ’s beauty, and with Christ’s perfection the moment you believe. And through Christ, you may draw near to the God the Universe with confidence knowing that NOTHING can separate you ever again from the love of God.
And observe, for those who believe, God didn’t take you away to be in his presence. Rather, Jesus sent the presence of God down, the same glory of creation, the same glory at Sinai, the same gloryin the tabernacle, now dwells in your hearts. And God’s spirit then empowers you to serve Him until all things are completely restored and we see him face to face.
Benediction - 1Peter 1.3-5