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Ancient Words: The Torn Curtain and the Law

by Scott Johnson | July 9, 2021 at 8:34 p.m.

The Law was holy and good for man but the law fell short of God’s full expectation for mankind. A high priest beginning with Aaron had to go behind the curtain once a year carrying blood from sacrificed animals and sprinkle on the mercy seat of the ark and only after he had made atonement for his own sins. The priest was not a perfect man at all but he was chosen from the Levites to represent the people before God at the ark and the mercy seat, behind the curtain, and make this yearly intercession for the people. Caiaphas was the high priest in Jesus’ day. Caiaphas went behind the curtain, even though no ark was present, and offered the blood sacrifice for the people. It was also Caiaphas who said to have one man die for the people: Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life (Joh 11:47-53 NIV).

This high priest was upholding the law, this high priest had found an opportunity to use the law against a man who was giving him much consternation — a man called Jesus: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —- yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb 4:14-16 NIV).

The torn curtain allowed mercy and grace to walk in for everyone without exception. The torn curtain removed an imperfect law generated on tablets of stone and established the law of the Spirit—written on the tablets of the human heart. Behind the solid curtain was bondage and slavery; behind the torn curtain was now life and liberty: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1 NIV). Again: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Gal 5:13-15 NIV).

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He 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, thus obtaining eternal redemption….(Heb 9:11-15 NIV).

Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG. Bible questions can be sent to [email protected]


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