Master Messiah: The Final Lessons of Jesus

When we reflect on the Easter story, we often dwell on the Cross and its aftermath. We consider Jesus’ final moments, the empty tomb, and the ascension sealing the end of Jesus’ first coming. 

However, while Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest climax the world has ever known, one must not forget the lead-up to Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion. True, He took the nails for our transgressions, paid our ransom in blood, and secured our freedom with the keys from hell. But He also offered some crucial reminders on how we’re to press into the Father during life’s greatest trials…when we feel betrayed, abandoned, even abused. 

Accordingly, as we prepare for the ultimate remembrance, may we heed and receive these final lessons of Jesus…our Master Messiah.

  1. How to Overcome Verbal Abuse

For those familiar with the Gospel culmination, we know Jesus was accused, mocked, and beaten before dying a criminal’s death ahead of His vindication. Yet, what’s sometimes lost in translation is the verbal nature of Christ’s abuse. While Jesus was accustomed to being misunderstood from ministry origins to His triumphal entry, the assault taken as He carried the cross is worth noting.

First, imagine bleeding to death, muscles exposed, your beard ripped out, a scarlet robe dangling from reclotting wounds, all the while carrying a 100-lb wooden crossbeam two miles to your execution site. Then, ponder the compounding pain of venomous falsehoods cracking your spirits simultaneously. I don’t know about you, but words and modern-day recreations can only go so far though this scene is a valiant effort…

Although Jesus had cultivated a lifelong habit of not taking offense, who knows what thoughts and temptations crossed His mind at this juncture. After all, it’s one thing to be mistaken as you’re praised; it’s another to be scorned as you’re dying. Still, even with the weight of the Cross on His shoulders, the Cross was still before Him. Despite the brutal slew of ridicule, Jesus, with fading strength, knew these people not only represented the very thing He came to die for but also what future generations would continue to do. 

Think about it: What we do in secret and subdued fashion tacks on to this moment. In times of misjudgments, we react out of confusion and anger, subconsciously doubting Jesus is who He says He is. From there, we take matters into our own hands and curse our troubles as if the victory on Calvary never happened. Granted, I know an insult to fallenness before us is different than a personal attack; however, I suppose the relatability from present to past is what grips me – the idea we, though millenniums apart, played a part in Jesus’ death, the future weight of our sins notwithstanding.

Like those who cast their slights on the first Good Friday, we, too, must confess the times we’ve a) failed to identify our Lord as Savior amidst our struggles and b) undermined His authority by not taking captive what He took captive 2,000 years ago. 

Of course, given we’ve been forgiveness and restored, why not learn from Jesus by turning the other cheek when we’re derided and declaring His sovereignty during suffering?

For when the world interrogates our faith wondering if we truly believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for our deliverance, our life should speak with or without the words.

Even though we can’t control what others say, we can love by an unwavering stand to deflect offense Luke 23:34-style while stilling ourselves to pray…

Bottom line: Jesus was cursed but not crushed in the face of verbal abuse. While we, like Peter, may occasionally renounce Jesus in word or in thought, this doesn’t mean we can’t stand firm amidst verbal onslaughts. As long as we know what we wrestle with is not a matter of flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we can invite God into the calibration of our emotions.

2. How to Pray Amidst Anxiety

Between The Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest, we note Jesus goes to Gethsemane for one last communion with the Father, a time during which He asks God not once, but twice for the cup of His wrath be removed. Anxious to the point of hematohidrosis, He cries out in desperation longing for God’s nearness and an assurance of His will. If there was any possibility of an audible, now was the time to reveal it. 

Yet, even in anguish, a lamb among wolves, Jesus stood firm modeling one last lesson to the disciples before His betrayal. We see this in Matthew 26:36 when Jesus asks His followers to sit and watch as opposed to incorporating them in group prayer. No question, Jesus needed the vertical one-on-one under the circumstances, but this didn’t mean He was cavalier concerning what the 12 would witness. Hence, why Jesus’ charge matures from ‘sit and watch’ (v. 38) to ‘watch and pray’ (v. 41) in a final effort to encourage them. Specifically…

Just because I’m not physically with you doesn’t mean you can’t participate with me. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak…but fear and faint not. For I long to take comfort with you as the Comforter preps His homecoming. Until then, join in, stay with me, and keep watch though my enemies are lurking, though evil abounds. Taste and see one last time:

You don’t have to be overcome because I have overcome the world (John 16:33). 

Bottom line: Although Jesus was in great despair, He used this emotion to steer Him into the Father, showcasing the epitome of reliance in the process.

3. How To Let God Go Before

Following Jesus’ death and descent into hell, we note an almost anticlimactic return to start Matthew 28. Rereading v. 3, one would think the description of the angels would have been assigned to Jesus as part of a grander entrance; however, just like His triumphal entry, we find Jesus applying the symmetry in v. 7. As the angels tell the Mary’s…

 “…go quickly and tell His disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you

Now, I know this may seem like a random pivot point but just let that bold phrase sink in a little. During the final days of Jesus, His life message to His followers, in part, was a progression of hope:

For a short time, I was with you, then I went before you to seal the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. And now, I am back going before you one last time before taking my place on the right side of the Father so like Him, like my Spirit, I can be among you. 

So, it’s interesting as much play we give to Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, the education never stopped. Until the end of His human tenure, Jesus was steadfast to reinforce our corporate calling:

  1. To love one another as a people covered in grace, secured in freedom, and strengthened by faith.
  2. To inspire our unity and resolve to know He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. 

To the Mary’s, the disciples, and future generations to come…this is why He came back. To make sure we, scattered as we might be, could understand the truth – that as we go tell it on the mountain, the streets, at work, even the most hostile environments, as Christ is in us, God is with us, as in heaven…so on earth.

Bottom line: While Christ’s death allowed Him to take the keys to the Kingdom, it also served as a reminder to generations of believers to come: Since I have overcome the world, I can be with you and among you simultaneously. That is why I, as your forerunner (Hebrews 6:20), will never stop going before you as you learn to teach my ways to the ends of earth…to the ends of time. 

Selah. 

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Rock of Rages: Why Peter’s Denial Was a Necessary Trial

Passage: Mark 14:26-31 (ESV); Mark 14:66-72 (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

It’s a hard scene to process.

Peter. The Rock. Cracking under pressure.

The Cross set before His Master, a sliver in the back of his mind.

Never would he fall astray; never would he run away. That was Peter. Or rather that was going to be Peter.

But before the Shepherd could be battered, the sheep of the flock would soon be scattered. And it’s here where despite our cringes, we must appreciate this sequence: The ultimate Shepherd grooming his undershepherd through a defining moment of weakness. A prophecy centuries in the making (Zechariah 7:13) now an emerging hallmark of humility for the early church to thrive on. The man in the middle?

The Rock. The epitome of moniker though something far greater. You see, ‘The Rock’ was not just a designated nickname but the proof of Christ’s identity realized. One could say the greatest insight received by man came in Mark 8:29 when Peter, the Rock, confessed Jesus as cornerstone – the Son of the Living God.

Still, as keen as this inspiration was, the symmetry of it could not have occurred without an epic fail. For before Peter could sleep on his call to keep active watch at Gethsemane, he had to first confront and fall to a fear of abandonment. Without this fear, Peter’s resolve could not have been tested – a paradox considering a less distracted Peter would have meant more fervent prayer during Jesus’ final hours.

Granted, that’s the beauty of Jesus’ perfect love in this passage. For Jesus knew a humbling of Peter ahead of His death was necessary to calibrate his boasting to the power he’d rightfully appropriated. No matter how much Peter confessed his devotion, he had to first wrestle with the fragility of his hope before he could shepherd a flock with a more mature version. How incredible it is to consider Jesus, the weight of the world on His shoulders, was working all this for good before the good could be known and shared.

As for us, no matter how long we’ve walked with God, we’ve all denied Jesus at one point or another. And while we have the Holy Spirit to act as our rooster in those times, let’s not take for granted the ministry of reconciliation in those instances. The sting of sin may prick our hearts but in a way that’s why Jesus came to die in the first place: To not only liberate us from captivity but awaken and sharpen us to higher faith.

Accordingly, as we enter into God’s gates with thanksgiving this Easter weekend, may our denials become trials intended for glory. You may feel discouraged about your shortcomings, but this doesn’t mean you have to bask in them. Rather repent, receive God’s grace afresh and anew, and feed His sheep. After all, Christ didn’t take the nails to deliver us from disappointment but to free us into intimacy through the growing pains of life.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Christianity.com

The Water Bowl: Why Pilate Washed His Hands

Written on 4/16/2017; revised 4/25/2020

Bible Passage: Matthew 27:11-26

Imagine being Pontius Pilate torn between conviction and affliction, the weight of the world in human flesh standing before you (Matthew 27:23).

No question, it’s a compelling scene: A headstrong Roman official desperate to spare a man he deemed innocent versus a bloodthirsty mob ignorant to Jesus’ Messiahship.

Ecce_homo_by_Antonio_Ciseri_(1)

Who knows what Pilate must have been thinking? What convictions were racing through his mind as he procrastinated the inevitable? If only we could jump inside his head into the tug-of-war, perhaps we could make better sense of such pivotal pressure.

For now, what we can discern is realizing the mob was threatening to riot…

“…he took water and washed his hands before the crowd…” ~ Matthew 27:24 (ESV)

Now, if you think is verse is random, I get it. Without context, this is simply an anecdotal observation; however, in context, this moment carries powerful significance.

For starters, the washing of Pilate’s hands not only symbolized his personal verdict but embodied what Jesus came to do in the first place – to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7) and free mankind from captivity (Luke 4:18). In addition, it gave future humanity the opportunity to identify with Barrabas. Like the notorious prisoner, we who deserve death have been given a second chance at life to know what real death is. Accordingly, the prisoner exchange (Luke 4:15-23) can be seen not only as foreshadowing but also as a microcosm of the Cross: Jesus, the son of God, taking the punishment that Barabbas, the anonymous everyman, rightfully deserved – a man guilty of murderous rebellion offset by the one murdered for every rebellion.

Reading on, note the verbal exchange between Pilate and the crowd (v. 24-25):

I am innocent of this man’s blood¹; see to it yourselves. 

His blood be on us and on our children!”

Again, it’s hard to ignore the irony of the situation considering these people, only a week removed from waving palm branches, were declaring judgment on the one who would soon take away their judgment. In a sense, those who knew not what they did were prophecying into those who know not what they do. Though the condemners didn’t understand the power in the blood at the time, they were essentially declaring what we understand today…

Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover the sins of mankind.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but marvel at this passage’s symmetry.

‘Cause truth is: While Pilate would ultimately relent to the unrelenting on the ground (v. 26), it was God’s unrelenting from on high that used all things to fulfill the completion of his Word.

And it’s here I want to zero in on since it’s this truth, this past/present/future reality that exemplifies why we celebrate Easter.

For God so loved the world, He had the Cross in mind before he created it. For God so loved us, he was making a way before we even needed it. How sweet it is to know the same God is still unrelentingly reconciling us to himself!

My prayer for you is that as you meditate on Christ’s death and resurrection, you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do but what he wants to do in you.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-2 (ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” ~ Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

And as you seek Him, I encourage you to pray the blood over your house and the generations to come knowing you can now receive it in joy. Unlike those pleading, ‘Give us Barrabas‘, we can now cry, ‘Give me Jesus‘.

What a way to live the new life we have.

Selah.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace, rest, and grace.

He is Risen…

untitled2

Footnotes 

1) Some manuscripts say ‘righteous blood’

Photo creds: Pinterest, Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri & jasongoronocy.com

A New Thing: 4 Easter Insights You May Have Forgotten

So recently I was thinking…

For the past two Easters, I’ve taken an exegetical approach to my content, dissecting familiar topics from unfamiliar angles.

Why the Torn Veil and Split Rocks Matter: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/04/19/rolling-stones-why-the-torn-veil-split-rocks-matter/

Saturday Night Lifehttps://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/03/31/saturday-night-life/

However, this year, I’d like to take a different approach. Rather than forge a new facet, I want to read the Easter story from the Message translation for each Gospel…and from there, reveal four underrated Easter passages before lending my commentary.

Sound good?

200

All right! Let’s go…

1. “When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 22:14-16

It’s interesting to note Jesus’ demeanor here. In past readings, I’ve often assumed Jesus’ mien at Gethansemne as the same during the Good Supper. But to consider the magnitude of His such enthusiasm, His anticipation…it adds a new dimension to the Passover passage. From the beginning, Christ never lost sight of this moment, but He also never lost the desire to be in community. And now here He was…the Son of Man pouring into man in the most literal way with the Cross, the climax of His mission, in clear view. I don’t know about you, but to know the gladness of Jesus never detached from the glory of His Father is truly inspiring…not to mention one of the more underrated parts of the Easter story. Despite the pain and betrayal before Him, the Cross was all the more. Even in the pre-Passover hour, the tone of Jesus’ final breathes was being set.

As for us, a body of vocationals, let’s remember the model behind this historic screenshot. If Jesus can joyfully partake in a preview of His own death, then we, with Christ in us, can do the same regardless of cost and circumstance. However, in the crossing of troubled waters, remember the bridges involved are not only paved in delight but with people in proximity. Accordingly, let’s not neglect community in our communion with God. Instead, trust God to anchor your relational intentionality within the context of sharing goodness and Good news.

2. “Jesus told them, “You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault. There’s a Scripture that says, ‘I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter.’ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you…” ~ Mark 14:27-28

Here’s a reason why reading the Minor Prophets can prove fruitful during Easter. Remember in Zechariah 13 when Zechariah prophecies about a fountain opening for the house of David to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness? And then in v. 7, he mentions, “‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones‘”?

If not, don’t worry. I had to look it up to be reminded as well. The key takeaway here is the alpha and omega of the passage itself. Having been buried and resurrected with Christ (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4), we can know full well any time our world seems to crumble and crack, Jesus is there because He has gone before us. Even when we feel like the one sheep going helter-skelter, astray within our own vanity, we can know Christ will go after us. He took the nails to set us free, but also to pursue us by His Spirit and assure us of His continual Immanuel presence.

BONUS: The last ten seconds of this clip give me goosebumps. Not only did Jesus prophesy Peter’s denial but also his recovery into restoration. No question, the Cross was at the core of everything He spoke into existence.

3. “If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?” ~ Luke 23:31

If you’ve ever had to recite the Easter story, chances are you didn’t quote this line. After all, it’s a tough verse to understand without context. Yes, we can deduce Jesus is the green tree and the deadwood as the ‘builders rejected’ (Psalm 118:22, Acts 4:11), but why would He bring this up in the midst of a death march? As research has shown, there’s plenty of room for debate; however, while some suggest Jesus was hinting at a specific eschatological event (i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), I’m just impressed He was prophesying at all at this point. Even with Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross, Jesus still had enough selfless awareness to redirect sorrow to its proper source and purify emotions in the light of His suffering. In a sense, not only was Jesus foreshadowing His request for God to forgive the ‘deadwood’, but also sowing truth (John 14:6) in His final moments.

4. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” ~ Luke 24:45

After Jesus’ resurrection, we tend to paraphrase the pre-ascension as ‘Christ making himself known’. And by all accounts, this is true. Before Jesus could ascend, he first needed to ‘show and tell’ before Operation: Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) could begin. However, to stop here would be to stop short. For if we look at this verse in context, we find Jesus was active in awakening faith in the faint of heart. From Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary (v. 10) to Cleopas, his wife (v. 31) and the 11…clearly, Jesus had more instruction and blessing to impart. But what ultimately makes these nine words stand out is the demographics behind them. In a poetic and somewhat symmetrical way, Jesus was tying a bow on what He started and cutting a ribbon on what He was about to start. At last the era of the synagogue was transitioning into the dawn of His bride, the church. And who would be in the middle of it but Jesus, the peace-making bridge-builder Himself? I know when we think Jesus as Savior, we think pre-Cross, but the post-Cross sequence, to me, is just as significant in affirming the nature of His love.

Selah.

So there you have it, my friends: Four insights among the thousands currently illuminating around the world.

As you approach tomorrow, my prayer for you is that as you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do, but what He longs to do in and through you in the days to come.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter weekend full of peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

~ Cameron Fry

46790

Cover photo creds: Unsplash

Rolling Stones: Why The Torn Veil & Split Rocks Matter

It’s the most pivotal moment in history…

…Jesus…on the cross…

…a joy once set before him, now the weight of the world.

Battered and bruised, he waits; the darkness of sin in foreign space. The epitome of innocence now weeping for his father…

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

One can only imagine what it must have been like to be a bystander watching this wonder working power helpless on a tree…to stand amidst this moment in time as it became a moment for eternity.

2ywqod

Would you agree?

If not, permit me to explain through the lens of some rocks, a veil and why it tore immediately after Jesus’ last breath.

During Jesus’ ministry, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the hub of Jewish religious life, a place where animal sacrifices and scroll readings were carried out according to the Law of Moses. In this temple, a veil separated the Holy of Holies from the outer court for three reasons:

  1. The Holy of Holies was a landing spot for God’s presence
  2. The Holy of Holies was a place of consecrated communion between God and the high priest.
  3. The Holy of Holies signified man’s separation from God by sin foreshadowing sanctification through atonement.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (ESV) and Hebrews 9:6-9 (AMP) capture this in tandem:

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

“…the priests continually enter the outer [or first section of the] tabernacle [that is, the Holy Place] performing [their ritual acts of] the divine worship, but into the second [inner tabernacle, the Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters [and then only] once a year, and never without [bringing a sacrifice of] blood, which he offers [as a substitutionary atonement] for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. By this the Holy Spirit signifies that the way into the Holy Place [the true Holy of Holies and the presence of God] has not yet been disclosed as long as the first or outer tabernacle is still standing [that is, as long as the Levitical system of worship remains a recognized institution], for this [first or outer tabernacle] is a symbol [that is, an archetype or paradigm] for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which are incapable of perfecting the conscience and renewing the [inner self of the] worshiper.”

To recap, that’s over a millennium of one high priest making one annual visit to encounter God under first covenant law. That’s intense. I can only imagine if memes existed back then, how many would hinge on ‘no pressure’ taglines.  Not to mention if John 3:16 was extrapolated back to Exodus:

Before God could send His one and only Son, He had one and only day to meet one and only mediator1, a high priest oblivious to how the blood of his lambs bode the blood of the Lamb.”

Of course, I’m being jocose in my paraphrasing. But perhaps you’re still wondering, ‘What does any of this have to do with Jesus dying on the cross?

To answer this, let’s compare Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-39, Luke 23:44-47 respectively:

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’”

Now, before we pursue our bottom line, let’s note some contrasts:

  1. In Matthew, we see the veil tearing and rocks splitting; no mention of the centurion.
  2. In Mark, we don’t have rocks splitting, but the centurion is introduced confessing Christ as the Son of God.
  3. In Luke, we have time stamps and are re-introduced to the centurion who this time confesses Christ as innocent. Unlike Matthew and Mark, the veil is said to have been torn prior to Jesus’ death.
  4. Interestingly, the common denominator in all accounts is the torn veil. While not mathematically confirmed by Scripture, Exodus suggests this veil was likely near 60 feet high and four inches thick meaning not even Samson could not tear this thing.

Merging the differences, the moment fleshes out…

 “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ Having breathed his last, the earth shook, the rocks were split, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was the Son of God!’”

From here, we can now grasp the magnitude of the moment.

Once Jesus surrenders his spirit, it’s at this point the veil tears; however, the orientation of the tear is significant as it didn’t occur randomly, but from top to bottom. The commentary on this can be simplified as follows:

  1. The significance of the torn veil was the consummation of Christ’s sacrifice and atonement.
  2. The significance of the torn veil splitting top to bottom was the Holy Holies now being open to all people for all times.

Put another way, the veil tearing top to bottom not only captured the movement of God’s holy temple from manmade structure to internal dwelling, but also foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  No longer was the Old Covenant relevant where high priests represented the masses; rather, Christ could now be both our High Priest and the way to get to Him.

Hebrews 8-10 breaks this down beautifully, specifically when 8:13, 9:8-9, and 10:19-20 (ESV) are linked together:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” 2

To quote Michael Houdmann, “The things of the temple were shadows of things to come, and they all ultimately point to Jesus Christ. He was the veil to the Holy of Holies, and through His death the faithful now have free access to God.

As for the rocks splitting, though often lost in context, this, too, is a meaningful anecdote. While the torn veil signified the tearing of Jesus’ flesh, reconciliation between God and man, and Christ’s post-salvation residence, the split rocks captured the effects these had on the physical world. A preview of the tomb, the split rocks were more than a consequence of the earthquake following Jesus’ final breath, but rather a permanent reminder for humanity that death is the ground of resurrection…that what happens in the spiritual can’t be excluded from the physical.

The rocks, in a way, also signaled the resurrection of our earthly bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54) and a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:18-29). Granted, theologies vary enough to warrant a second post for a different day; the bottom line is the rocks were both imagery and analogy to God’s sovereignty in creation, His power in death, and His intent for new life.

I love how John Piper paints this in Desiring God:  “The earth was shaken and rocks split by a sovereign earth-controller and a powerful rock-ruler. Human deaths don’t shake the earth and split rocks. God does. Rocks don’t have a mind of their own. They do what God bids them do. And they shook and split.”

Come to think of it, what a visual the rocks are to Christ’s identity as our everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:3-5), our fortress in whom we take refuge (Psalm 144:1-2). True, the veil reminds us the barriers once between God and man are now a pathway to walk in boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16), but the rocks remind us that pathway is also one we can walk in confidence.3

And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Easter: To commemorate Christ as our greatest anchor amidst a shaking world and our greatest security amidst a collapsing one. When life is unstable, He is able. How sweet it is to know the power of the Cross will always be enough to crack the rocks of life…

…that at the mention of His name, mountains bow down and the seas roar…

…the work of His hand having taken the nails for us

As we approach Easter, my prayer for you is that as you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do, but what He longs to do in and through you in the days to come.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

1-1-1-1-He-is-Risen

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Already the math gives me tingles
  2. Pretty remarkable how fluid those passages run when put together
  3. Courage is for today; boldness is courage matured; confidence is boldness matured. Shout-out to Benji Block for the breakdown. (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)
Cover photo creds: newagechristianity.org (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)