April 3rd is my birthday – a day I always love to celebrate.
This year, April 3rd was also Good Friday – a day I have always observed with solemn reminiscing of what Jesus endured for me.
I wondered how I could reconcile the two.
Then, God gave me a gift.
I happened to be sifting through important papers in a strong box (birth certificates, marriages licenses and such) and came across a photo taken of me only minutes after I was born. I first came upon it a couple of days before my birthday, but last night, God showed me something really precious that accompanied the picture.
My mother had written a note about the moment she went into labor with me. It was 2:15 a.m. and she wrote about asking my father to dress my older sister and call the doctor and get her to the hospital. I didn’t know that my sister (who was only 17-months old at the time) had accompanied them to my birth.
She wrote about my baptism when I was ten days old (and how I had to be rushed to the hospital that same day because I’d been set down in my bassinet next to the oven as they were preparing to leave, and was overcome by the heat). She wrote about my first movements and when I crawled and stood and walked and said “Mama” and “Dada” for the first time.
And they are precious, precious notes to me because my mother is no longer here. Nor is my father - nor my sister. But in my mother’s own handwriting, and in different colored inks (just the way I write), I could read that she recorded the same thoughts that filled her with wonder about her brand new baby daughter, that I recorded when my own brand new baby daughters came along.
And that is an amazing gift to me.
On Good Friday morning, I sat down to read the gospel narratives about Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and death and in the reading, God gave me an astonishing revelation about Jesus’ gift to me.
First of all, although Old Testament Scriptures prophesy that the events of Good Friday would result in God the Son being led like a lamb to the slaughter, we can read that in fact, Jesus was in control.
At the moment of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciple Peter pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of a man who was a servant of the high priest. Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword:
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54 NIV)
When Jesus stands in front of the Roman governor Pilate, and Pilate says to Him, “Don’t you realize I have the power to either free You or to crucify You?”, Jesus sets him straight saying, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11 NIV)
And in that great climactic moment, when others who were crucified spent long hours in agony, followed by exhaustion and then unconsciousness, before finally succumbing to death, Jesus remained awake, aware and in control to the end.
He cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished,” and then and only then, He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. (John 19:30)
Do you get that? No one took it from Him. He gave it up!
And one more thing. The gospels tell us that in that moment, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple, was torn in two from top to bottom.
Now the Most Holy place is where the presence of God dwelt in the Jewish temple. No one but Israel’s high priest could enter there and he could only enter once a year to ask God’s forgiveness for all the people. But Hebrews 9:24 tells us this about the moment Jesus died, “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”
When the curtain of separation was torn into, it seems that it was by Jesus’s own Spirit bursting through it as He entered Heaven. And while that moment looked like the most grievously devastating loss imaginable on earth, on the other side of the curtain, all of Heaven must have been cheering a moment of unimaginable triumph.
We need to picture that moment from April 3, 33 AD because it was THE way in to the gift Jesus gave to me and to you:
So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua. He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet (curtain), by means of his flesh. We also have a great cohen (priest over God’s household. Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting — with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy.
(Hebrews 10:19-23 Complete Jewish Bible)