How did people’s lives change when Jesus died and the veil of the temple was torn in two (Mark 15:38)? The Israelites in Jesus’ day were caught up in hate: hating the Roman occupation, hating tax collectors and fighting every human sin that we face today. God’s prescription for the Jews until that time was animal blood sacrifices to cover their sins.
That’s a startling concept for us today.
I’ve never lived under a requirement calling for such sacrifices for my sins. In fact, until my early 20’s I just ignored my sins.
For us now, the veil is gone; we have direct access to God because of the sacrifice on the cross by Jesus. Our sins are forgiven once and for all. The old requirement for regular blood sacrifices was paid, completed, perfected and eliminated, once and for all, by God’s own Son.
From Good Friday until now, everyone—Jews and Gentiles alike—are offered the choice to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for our sins. If we repent and transfer our trust from our own “estate” to a “living trust” in Christ alone, then we begin a new life of reciprocal love of God: a love that brings joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
We know we’re not naturally like that, but by God’s grace we have the Holy Spirit to give us this fruitful, abundant life, relieved of the bondage of sin.
After the veil was torn, each of us has full access to God. John 16:7-15 explains the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is “the Helper” to all who will consider drawing closer to God and looking beyond the veil. “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”“…He will guide you into all truth.”
With the Holy Spirit in our life, it’s like having an internal navigation system that constantly points us to Christ and the fullness of life and freedom that only He can offer.
But will we listen?
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Is Satan, the thief, distracting you with riches, comfort or entertainment that crowd out the blessings of God? Are we letting him steer us in a wrong direction?
Or now that the veil is gone, do we get our direction from God through his Spirit toward obedience and serving in his kingdom? My experience is that a life of abundance comes as we realize our security in knowing we have eternal life (John 6:47), as we bring the whole tithe to God (Mal. 3:10), as we seek to be a disciple of Christ and then make disciples, as we teach obedience to following God (Matt 28:19) and, led by the Spirit, we spread the joy of peace and security in resting in the certainty of his love.
With the veil gone, we more clearly see God’s love and provision in his Word. We have the gifts of the Spirit to empower us in ministry, knowing for sure we are obedient to his will. This Easter season, set your morning GPS to draw close to God, stay the course, and He will be close to you.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The upside-down nature of the kingdom of God didn’t start with Jesus. It’s always been a core element of the people of God. In Israel’s story, we see this in the inauguration of their nation at Sinai.
Imagine you are an Israelite after the Exodus and Red Sea miracle. You have witnessed your God display His power on the gods of Egypt and the human empire of Egypt. Then in the early days of the wilderness, you see how He can provide life (bread and water) in a desolate place. Following this, a leadership structure was established. Putting it all together, you have power, resources, and leadership; the key components to starting an empire. You come to Sinai to get commissioned, expecting to hear how you’re going to use these things to be the new Egypt, the new transcendent power with God as King. Instead you hear something completely different.
You are to be a kingdom of priests. Not a kingdom of power, or a kingdom of resources, or a kingdom of kings, but a kingdom of priests. In essence, a kingdom of servants. Priests by design represent the people to God, and God to the people. They are the embodiment of who God is while mediating who the people are to God to keep everyone in relationship together through a sacrificial system. This is the nature of who Israel was to be. They were meant to be an ‘on-display people’ of what it was like to be in relationship with God, thus drawing the nations to God.
This dynamic becomes the initial seeds of the kingdom of God that Jesus came proclaiming. It was never about power, resources, or leadership, but of being priests, now not bound by ethnicity or land borders, but going everywhere through the Spirit so that those filled with the Spirit would go to the nations and draw people to the living God.
As we near the celebration of Easter, our thoughts as Christians should be moving towards the events that surrounded Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and His burial and resurrection from the grave. The amazing thing about Jesus’ first coming is that He inaugurated the kingdom of God!
For most Americans, the concept of a kingdom with a king who rules over his subjects with complete authority is difficult to comprehend. Currently, we live in a culture that allows for a tremendous amount of personal freedom, so the concept of a king with absolute authority can seem distant for many.
But the kingdom of God is mentioned in the gospels 134 times and is a major theme in Jesus’ teachings. As Jesus said in Mark 1:15:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
While kingdom talk was much more common in Jesus’ day, the nature of God’s kingdom is unlike any on earth. His is an upside-down kingdom, totally counter-cultural to those of this world. Let’s look at some of the differences:
Jesus’ kingdom is present as well as future. It is an already/not yet It is already because God reigns in the hearts of His people through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The already aspect of Jesus’ kingdom is that God reigns now and delivers people from the grip of sin.
His kingdom is not yet because it is not currently present in fullness. That will come when Jesus returns and establishes His reign on earth for a thousand years. After this, He will fully renew His people and the universe.
Unlike earthly kingdoms, the moment a person repents and believes in Jesus, he or she is adopted into the family of God with all the rights of a family member.
Unlike earthly kingdoms, where people seek power and control to determine a person’s self-worth, in Jesus’ kingdom, God’s people are called servants. Christians should not seek power, position or status to determine their self-worth. In Jesus’ kingdom, humility and selflessness are most important and are an evidence that he or she is a kingdom citizen.
Jesus’ kingdom is established in the hearts of His people and in their relationships. It triumphs over sin, death and Satan.
All people are welcome to become part of Jesus’ kingdom. All a person must do is simply repent of sin and believe that Jesus Christ died for him/her. Once he/she turns to Jesus for forgiveness, they are a member of God’s kingdom.
As we turn the corner towards Easter, I am grateful for our King, Jesus Christ. He came not as a conquering and valiant warrior, but as a humble servant who sacrificially died for us, His people, and rose from the grave so that we can have eternal life when our time on this earth is done. Not only that, but He gives us abundant life on this earth in deep relationship with Him and in service for His glory.
But always remember this truth: One day Jesus will return, and when He does, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, we will have weekly blog posts that highlight the upside-down, counter-cultural nature of God’s kingdom. Please check back weekly to read and reflect. Our hope is that these posts will help prepare our hearts even more for the wonder of Easter.