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In a world of famine floods and fires and a world of disease and death and the disruption of our everyday activities, today we remember that God in the flesh understands our pain.
He knows what it feels like to hurt. He understands what it feels like to be confined in the tomb or on the cross. But his suffering on the cross opened the way for us to draw near to God. Let me try to explain by telling you an imaginary story.
In olden days entering into the presence of God would have been an unattainable privilege for a Gentile woman like myself.
If I’d stood on the desert sand dune and overlooked the Israelite camp in the wilderness following the Exodus from Egypt, I would have seen a sea of tents that stretched out on the horizon of my vision.
In the midst of the encampment, I would have noticed a much larger tent surrounded by a dazzling wall of linen that shimmered white in the scorching desert sun.
If I’d left my vantage point on the sand dune and slipped closer I might have found a bystander who would have been willing to answer my questions.
The most obvious one would have been, “what is that big tent?”
If there had been someone patient enough to explain I expect he or she would have replied with eyes as widened by surprise, “Don’t you know we’re God’s children and that tent is the Tabernacle where God is said to dwell in our midst.”
“Can I go in?” I would have naively asked.
“Go inside the Tabernacle? You must be out of your mind. It’s obvious you’re not an Israelite and you’re a woman. You could never go inside.”
“Surely there must be some way I could enter.” I would have persisted. “I’d like to draw near to God too. I long to be in his presence.”
“Well let me tell you something lady. The only way you could ever enter into the presence of God is if you were totally born all over again.”
Looking over his shoulder I might have inquired, “What’s inside those linen walls?”
“On the other side of the walls are the altar, the Laver and the tabernacle itself,” would have been the blunt direct reply. “And what’s inside the Tabernacle.”
“The Tabernacle is divided into two rooms that are separated by a heavy curtain or veil. I’m told that in the first room there’s a lamp a table and a loaf of bread on it and an altar of incense. Beyond the Veil in the second room is the Most Holy Place of God’s presence where the Ark of His Covenant rests.”
I would have longingly cried, “If only I had been born an Israelite. Then I could go into the Most Holy Place of God’s presence five times a day.”
“Lady, you still don’t get it.” My informer would have said with a tone of exasperation.
“Israelite men can’t go inside the tabernacle either. Only the priests are allowed inside and even the priests can’t go inside the Most Holy Place of God’s presence. Only the high priest can go beyond the veil.”
“Oh, how I wish I was an Israelite man who is also the high priest. Then I would go into God’s presence every day. In fact, I would just stay there. I would live in God’s presence.”
Perhaps with a sympathetic softening to his eyes the bystander would have replied gently but with finality, “But the high priest himself can only enter within the veil once a year.”
And I would be turned away with no hope of ever entering into the most holy place of God’s presence until Jesus came. And Jesus has come.
When he died on the cross that veil between the holy place and the most holy place was torn from top to bottom and He opened the way into the most holy place of God’s presence.
Hebrews 10: 19-22 says, “Therefore since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way open for us through the curtain, that is His body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God let us draw nearer to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”
Come into God’s presence. Draw near. You’re welcome. Tell Him about your problems. Tell Him about your pain. Confess your sin, ask for His forgiveness as you remember that His blood was shed, and His body was broken for you.
Pray with me for a moment:
Father God we’re in awe that the God of the universe has invited us to draw near to You. And when we do You’ve promised that You will draw near to us.
We know from Scripture that You have ears to hear what we’re crying and eyes to see us right where we are and arms that are long enough to reach us and strong enough to hold this.
So, I’m asking You dear Father God, all the people in their homes on this Good Friday, would You hold them close. Would You be near to them as we draw near to You. And we ask this please In Jesus’ name and for His glory.
Adapted from Anne Graham Lotz’s Good Friday sermon for Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland. For more from Anne click here to visit her website.