Well, the Lent season is over, so is the Easter day. The tomb is empty and it remains empty. Judas is dead, Pilate wishes he was…
How about us? What has these four or five weeks meant to us?
What has Jesus done for us? What has He accomplished through all this?
To understand the full impact of what Jesus has accomplished for us, we need to take a look at the concept of worship over the years and how Jesus made it all very different.
Worship typically brings to mind the place of worship, and the deity who is worshipped. The place of worship is the temple. Let us look at some of the concepts of the temples or places of worship
A Typical lay out of a Hindu Temple is shown below:
I was born in a Hindu family, (and my parents and siblings are still are all Hindus) and have been part of many Hindu rituals and been a visitor to the Hindu temples . Though the Hindus do not restrict their worship only to the temples, â€œseriousâ€ worship is done in the temples. The Hindu temple structure is well known to me. The Hindu temples have an outer courtyard where every one has access. The outer courtyard is used to go round before entering the more sacred place, generally the outer courtyard is lined with images and statues of â€œlesser godsâ€ or secondary deities. The more sacred place also has the provision for going round , and most of times also have the images and the secondary deities. After this comes the Sanctum Sanctorum , where the image of the Presiding deity is kept. Only the priests are allowed inside the Sanctum Sanctorum and the others have to have “darshan” from outside the Sanctum Sanctorum.
There is a clear separation between god (or in this case the image of god) and the people, and the people should not and cannot walk directly into the “presence” of god, and even then the entry into the sanctum Sanctorum or the Holy of Holies is restricted to few people only. Even for entering the outer courtyard, there are rules like, no shoes, dressed appropriately, only after a bath, not during a menstrual cycle etc..
Let us look at the Muslim place of worship
Muslims worship their god at their Mosques. There are different types of Mosques, but that is not relevant for this sermon. They do not have images and they do not have a Holy of Holy in their mosques. The only indispensable part of the mosque is the Mihrab, a niche in the center of the wall called Qibla. The Mihrab points the worshippers towards the Kaaba, in Mecca. Quran tells us that the Kaaba was built by Abraham or Ibrahim as the Muslims would call him, and Ishmail, born to Abraham through Hagar (Genesis 16 , Genesis 21). Some Muslim traditions assert that the Kaaba was built much earlier by the first man Adam and Abraham and Ishmail rebuilt it. However the tribes which used the Kaaba later converted into a place of idol worship, and it was Prophet Muhammad who converted the place back into an idol less place of worship and rededicated it to the worship of Allah alone. The Kaaba “reflects” a house in heaven called al-Baytu l-Ma?mur, and all muslims are expcted to turn towards the Kaaba while praying, and the muslims who are fortunate enough to travel to Mecca to visit the Kaaba go there and worship Allah. They also touch and kiss the Black stone layed on a wall of the Kaaba, as a corner stone. Here again we see that there is separation between god and men and men are far away from god, while worshipping god.
Let us come to the temple of the Jews, and let us go straight to the first Tabernacle built based on the directions from God to Moses, as per the instructions in Exodus. A closer look at the tabernacle reveals many interesting facts. The tabernacle had an outer enclosure which was more than 7 and half feet high, a courtyard where the brazen altar for sacrifices was kept, and from the courtyard you enter into the tent which is the Holy place, in the Holy place itself there is a segregation of the Most Holy place and before the Most Holy place is the table for the shrew bread meant for consumption only by priests.
The accessibility was highly controlled , with all Israelites allowed to only wait outside the outer enclosure, The Levites allowed to enter the outer courtyard and only the priests were allowed into the tent. Only the High priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies, and that too only once in a year. The entrance to the courtyard , the tent and the Most Holy place is covered by curtains. It is said that the High priest used to enter the Holy of Holies with a rope tied around his ankle, so that , in case he dies inside the Most Holy place others can pull his body out, without entering eh Most Holy place, the entry rules were so strict.
The message given by the linen wall to those outside was one of a barrier, representing God’s righteousness or holiness, barring the way to the presence of God. God’s righteousness shuts out the sinner (Isa. 59:2). In Numbers 3:10 and Numbers 3:38 it explains that anyone other than the levites who touched or came near the wall must die.
And this was as per God’s plan too..
So we see a common thread running through the worship ritual, all across the various religions. The accessibility to God is not easy or free, it is dificult and never accomplished in other religions.
Hebrews 9:8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
This is where Jesus makes a BIG difference. Let us go back to the God Friday sermons that we remember and look at the seven words spoken by Him from the cross. Afer he confirmed that “It is finished” about the work he come to complete on earth and “Committed his spirit into the hands of the Father”, he gave up his life. Something dramatic happens at that time and both Mathew and Mark record this. The curtain is torn into two from top to bottom. This is a profound and significant development, the curtain which sepearated man from God is torn and access to God the Father is made free for everyone.
The entire chapters of 9 and 10 in the book of Hebrews is a beautiful illustration of this fact, and this act, and how this has done wonders for all of us. Here is a thought provoking passage
Hebrews 9:12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!
There is another beautiful passage here
Hebrews 9:16In the case of a will,[d] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
How great it is to know that by His death, Jesus released that inheritance for all of us sinners.
The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the earthly Tabernacle is only a copy of the heavenly one and Jesus gave us access to the original one in Paradise through his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus through his act on the cross made all of us priests who have access to God.
Book of revelation reaffirms this.
Revelation 1:5-7 (New International Version)
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Peter says you all are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
So even as we wait for Him to come again, let us know that we know peace because of him, and let us examine ourselves to know if we are actually living a Christian life , an abundant life that he has given us or are we living on the periphery. Not all of us might be living in sin, but are we living the abundant life that Christ promised us?
A little boy who lived far out in the country in the late 1800s had reached the age of twelve and had never in all his life seen a circus. You can imagine his excitement, when one day a poster went up at school announcing that on the next Saturday a traveling circus was coming to the nearby town.
He ran home with the glad news and the question, “Daddy, can I go?” Although the family was poor, the father sensed how important this was to the lad. “If you do your Saturday chores ahead of time,” he said, “I’ll see to it that you have the money to go.”™
Come Saturday morning, the chores were done and the little boy stood by the breakfast table, dressed in his Sunday best. His father reached down into the pocket of his overalls and pulled out a dollar bill-the most money the little boy had possessed at one time in all his life. The father cautioned him to be careful and then sent him on his way to town.
The boy was so excited, his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground all the way. As he neared the outskirts of the village, he noticed people lining the streets, and he worked his way through the crowd until he could see what was happening. Lo and behold, it was the approaching spectacle of a circus parade! The parade was the grandest thing this lad had ever seen. Caged animals snarled as they passed, bands beat their rhythms and sounded shining horns, midgets performed acrobatics while flags and ribbons swirled overhead.
Finally, after everything had passed where he was standing, the traditional circus clown, with floppy shoes, baggy pants, and a brightly painted face, brought up the rear.
As the clown passed by, the little boy reached into his pocket and took out that precious dollar bill. Handing the money to the clown, the boy turned around and went home.
What had happened?
The boy thought he had seen the circus when he had only seen the parade!
Are you experiencing all that God has for you? The Christian life is a marvelous adventure, an exciting journey. Many people-including Christians-seem to be content to float in a sea of mediocrity, settling for second best. Do you want the abundant life that Jesus promised?
Do you want to live life to its fullest? Then aim higher. Don’t set your sights too low. Determine to become all that God created you to be.
Give yourself to Christ, follow Him completely, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. We have a lot more in life Because of Him!
I have shared my testimony with some of you. I was attracted to Christ because of the difference that I saw in some Christians, from other people.
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: â€œItâ€™s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy, which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life.
They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians and I am one of them.
Let us examine ourselves, are we one of those Christians who will attract other by the way we live our lives?
Horatio Spafford, a businessman in Chicago, sent his wife and three daughters to Europe by ship while he remained back in the States, intending to join them later.
En route there was a terrible storm and a shipwreck during which their three daughters drowned. Mrs. Spafford made it to safety and wired back saying, “All of our daughters have been lost. Only I have been saved.”
He took the next vessel. As they came near the place where his daughters drowned, the skipper of the ship pointed to the place where the other ship had gone down. It was there on the deck of the ship he wrote these stirring words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Even as we sing this hymn, let us continue to re examine our selves and see if we can really sing along truthfully.
Let us close with this beautiful passage which is used as a benediction in many services.
Hebrews 13:20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.