Yesterday we focused on the physical and emotional agony that Jesus underwent, both before and during the crucifixion. But there was more, actually far worse, that he experienced, and it’s all bound up in those nine words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We don’t know all the details, but for a moment in time our sinless Savior became sin itself. John said that “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Let me introduce a word here: propitiation. This means the full satisfaction of God’s righteous wrath against sin. The 1984 version of the NIV had an alternate translation in its footnote on 1 John 2:2 which said that Jesus’ death "turns aside God’s wrath," away from us towards himself. In that moment, his fellowship with the Father, perfect up to that point, was broken. This is a dark mystery for us, so I don’t think I’ll say anything more on this issue, lest I dig deeper than I should and end up saying something wrong.
I also want to note that every detail, down to smallest trivia, had been worked out by the Father, and this is displayed in vs. 48 of today's passage. Hundreds of years before, the Psalmist, under inspiration by the Holy Spirit predicted that the Messiah would be given vinegar for his thirst. This whole event was not a tragedy, nor a senseless act of violence. This had been prepared by the Father before the universe was spoken into existence.
Finally, I’d like to write a few lines about what is to me the most meaningful aspect of this passage. When he cried out and gave up his spirit, the curtain at the temple was torn in half. This was the curtain that separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the temple, and thus the world. The high priest was the only man on the planet who could step into that chamber, and then only once a year. Why? What separated us from God? Only one thing, the same thing that had caused the exile of our first parents, and that has kept us away from him ever since: sin. As soon as that was dealt with, the barrier was down. And it’s extremely important that it was torn from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Man, with all his efforts, could never have torn that barrier down. But God could, and did.
Why is this so important? Because we now have access to the presence of God through Jesus, we are invited—no, commanded—to come into his throne room. For the rest of the universe, for the assembled angels, that room holds a throne of judgment, of power, of justice, of awe and majesty. But for us, it’s more than that: It’s a throne of grace, where we can “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Now, our sins are forgiven and our relationship is restored. We who were once enemies of God are now reconciled to him, and he can adopt us as his children and shower blessings upon us, like he’s always wanted. All of this was accomplished by a naked man on a cross.
Lord Jesus, you are my High Priest, and you’ve escorted me into the presence of the Father. May I take full advantage of every right, every privilege you've earned for me. Starting now.