February 11th 2009

Peanuts And Grace

“Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”
Matthew 27:50-51 (NLT)

I am somewhere over Iowa, flying home. Our airlines no longer serve meals, but the Flight attendant offered me a small bag of peanuts. The bag was so tough I couldn’t tear it open. Since you aren’t allowed to carry knives on board I couldn’t cut it either. Sometimes these bags, which seemed to have been made with Fort Knox in mind, have a little nick in the edge, which allows you to get a start, but this one didn’t.

Eventually I managed to puncture it with my pen. But for a while those nuts were as off limits to me as – well – as the Mercy Seat that was behind a thick curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple in Jerusalem, in Old Testament times.

The Temple was designed like that to remind people that their sins cut them off from God. On only one day a year, the High Priest was allowed behind that thick veil, to perform certain rituals in this otherwise forbidden inner sanctum. If he, or anyone else, went in for any other reason, they were struck dead

At the moment Jesus died, that veil was torn apart, from top to bottom. The symbolism is clear – Jesus had cleared the way for all to have access to the Mercy Seat of God. ‘So’, the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, ‘let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.’ (Hebrews 4:16)

We know that, but somehow we do not believe it. We still think we must be good enough, or must ‘do’ something. It is as if Jesus, through his death, just put a nick in the edge of the curtain, but we still have to go to the effort of pulling it apart. So we try spiritual calisthenics, hoping to build up the strength to rip the curtain the rest of the way.

But there is nothing you can do can break down the spiritual barrier. Fortunately, there is nothing you need to do. II Corinthians 3:14, 16 & 18 say, “this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ…whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away… So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” When Jesus made his sacrifice, everything that needed to be done – everything that could possibly be done – was accomplished to open up the way to mercy, grace and forgiveness.

We’d better trust him. Because any other approach will get us precisely what my struggle with the plastic bag on the airplane got me.

Peanuts.

Prayer
We come boldly to your throne of grace, Father in Heaven, to thank you that we have access to your grace and mercy, through your Son, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice. Please change us through your Spirit into your glorious image as we reflect the glory of the Lord.”
Amen

Study by John Halford

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