Hebrews 9:1-14, Matthew 12:1-6
In Jesus day, the central point for all things faith related for the Jewish people was the temple in Jerusalem. It’s where worship happened and the different festivals were celebrated. Different forms of sacrifice were performed so that different kinds of sin would be forgiven by God. A couple of months ago we talked about the central area in the temple known as the Holy of Holies. It was a room within a room within a room kind of setup and was surrounded by a curtain to create a barrier between what was inside the Holy of Holies and everything, and every one, on the outside. In the early days, before the Babylonians came in and trashed the place, the Holy of Holies is the place where the tablets with the Ten Commandments were stored and it was the place where the temple high priest would come into the presence of God and offer a sacrifice on behalf of himself and all the people.
As a sidenote, I’ve read in a couple of places where it was believed that if the high priest had a sinful thought while in God’s presence inside the Holy of Holies, then he and all the rest of the people would be destroyed. How would you like to be the high priest and have that pressure on your shoulders? No sinful thoughts for the next hour or we all die! Good luck with that.
Anyways, it was truly a sacred space and served a special function in the life of the Jewish people. It was where the presence of God was found and from that presence was found forgiveness. Not an inconsequential thing, really.
It was a place that was so holy, that contained a holy God’s presence, that there had to be a barrier, that curtain I mentioned earlier, to separate the holiness of God from the unholiness of God’s people. Think about that. A God so holy that there needed to be a barrier between God and us. Between God and you. An understanding of God that requires a barrier between you and God. That’s an understanding of God that is difficult to grasp, don’t you think?
It’s also not what God’s ultimate desire for us looks like, either. Since the beginning of creation, God has been present with all of creation. That means us. God hasn’t put any barriers up to keep us away. God keeps trying and keeps trying to stay connected with God’s children.
The trouble is, we’re problem children. We’re problem children who keep putting up barriers to separate ourselves from God. We can look at the temple in Jerusalem and snicker a little bit about the curtain surrounding the Holy of Holies but in our heart of hearts are we so much different? Are we so much wiser? Are we so much better that we don’t put up our own barriers between ourselves and God? Even when those barriers are unseen and unspoken?
That’s the trouble with people. We have a tendency to trust unto ourselves first and foremost rather than trusting unto God first and foremost. Sometimes we close the door quietly to keep God in the next room and other times it’s like we slam the door. On God. Really? What kind of sense does that make? Not much but we do it anyway, far too often. We may not like to think about it and we certainly hate to admit it but we do.
The hard question to ask is why are we slamming a door? Usually we slam doors because we’re angry and want nothing to do with whomever made us angry. I suppose that can be God on occasion. Mostly we do it because we’re out of control of a situation and don’t know what to do. Slamming a door makes us feel better.
Someday maybe we’ll understand that we really aren’t in control. God is. The difficulty for us is grasping the idea that God is in control. Recognizing that and taking it a step further we recognize that we really can trust God. Once we put our trust in God we no longer need to slam the door.
Until that time, and fortunately for us, God doesn’t need and certainly doesn’t want any barriers between us. We can slam the door all we want but God is going to be right there with us. We know this because in Christ Jesus, with his sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, that barrier has been taken down. The barrier we put up between God and ourselves is permanently broken apart. The curtain is torn.
When we slam the door it’s as if God just lets the door bang right back open. Thank God for that.