Matins Devotion: April 12, 2023
Our reading from the book of Hebrews this morning opens tells us that, because of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, we now have the right to approach God with the full confidence and assurance that we have been cleansed from all guilt.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the curtain of the Temple—that veil of separation which was meant to put distance between God’s holiness and the unclean hands of sinners—has been forever torn down by Jesus—our Great High Priest. The curtain is no longer necessary because the separation is no longer necessary. Jesus’ offering was completely sufficient to sprinkle our hearts clean from an evil conscience and to wash us pure from every stain.
You probably can recall that the rending of the temple curtain from top to bottom was one of those miraculous signs that happened at the moment when Jesus, from the cross, spoke the words, “It is finished” and gave up his spirit. But what you might not recall is the image that was to be embroidered on that curtain. In Exodus, God tells Moses that the curtain which separates the holiest space in the temple from the impurities of the people are to be decorated with the angelic figures known as cherubim.
The cherubim are always associated with God’s presence. And they are often pictured as the guardians of that presence. After Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned against God, they were expelled from God’s paradise—the place where they formerly experienced unbroken fellowship with God. The cherubim were tasked with guarding the gate to Paradise. They did so with a flaming sword. Announcing to anyone who approached that that way back into God’s paradise was forever shut to sinners.
Likewise, the embroidered cherubim on the Temple curtain and the carved cherubim on the lid of the ark of the covenant were visual reminders that the way to God’s presence and holiness was carefully guarded from the pollution of sin. Only once a year could the high priest approach—and even then, only through the sprinkling of blood could he approach and live.
But now the writer of Hebrews is explaining to us that the cherubim no longer stand guard. The curtain has been torn. The flaming sword has been extinguished by the blood of Jesus. We sinners no longer have to be kept at a distance from God’s holy presence. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has reopened the way back to God—the way back to Paradise.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.