Incarnation Fleshed Out Word on the Week 21st December 2019.
“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” was the Prophet’s cry as he looked at the sinfulness of the people. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” He analysed our condition realising the depth of our depravity (Isaiah Chapter 64 verses 1 & 6).
Isaiah sees the heavens as a vast curtain concealing God and pleads with God to tear them apart and reveal Himself. Perhaps he was thinking of an earth shattering event such as Micah writes; “Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the people of Israel Chapter 1 verses 3 to 5).
But when Christ came it could not have been more different. It took the powers and authorities by surprise. None of the Religious were there to welcome him except Simeon a faithful old believer and 84-year-old Anna who recognised the Child as the one who would provide redemption for Jerusalem (St Luke Chapter 2. Verses 25 & 36).
Like today the powers and authorities barely tolerate Christianity. Herod embarked on the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ (St Matthew Chapter 2 verses 16 to 28). Today in many countries it is forbidden to follow Christ and in an increasing number of places the persecution of a Christian is condoned or even permitted at law.
But there was a time when God visited earth and broke through the curtain of the temple. This occurred the moment Christ died on the cross. The curtain which fenced off the altar of sacrifice and which was only parted once per year on the day of atonement, to let the High Priest enter with the blood of the offering for the sins of the people, was torn from top to bottom: – “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open … When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (St Matthew Chapter 27 verses 50 to 53.
From Isaiah’s cry for God’s intervention to Jesus’s cry as he gave up the Spirit we have a narrative arc in which everything moves towards its completion at the cross and resurrection. It is the cross, not the temple, where forgiveness of sins now takes place and a foretaste of the general resurrection was illustrated. Let the Apostle John have the last word: – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John Chapter 4 verse 10).