The last time I saw my grandfather alive he made fun of me for being a pastor. You’ve probably heard the jokes or even made them yourself. “What does a pastor do all week anyway? You only work like one hour.” I wanted to tell my grandpa we have two worship services on Sunday morning, and they go for three hours by themselves....
Imagine what it would have been like for Adam and Eve to live in God’s presence in the Garden. How could they have ever forsaken his commands when he was so close?
Paul says something in Acts that might help us understand: “In [Christ] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As Christians, we live in Christ and yet we forsake him too. We banish God from our vision in our day-to-day life.
We are no longer sharers in Adam’s sin leading to death, but sharers in Christ’s death and resurrection leading to life. In order to understand how this happened, and what it means for us, we should look at a brief history of God’s presence in Scripture.
God commanded Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But, as we know, Adam and Eve both ate fruit from that forbidden tree. Adam and Eve were then banished from communion with God in paradise.
And without God’s presence to accompany them and his voice to guide them, they faced death.
But death did not have the final word. God promised a Redeemer who unlike Adam would crush the serpent’s head. And in an act of mercy, God clothed them with garments from the skins of an animal slaughtered in their place, foreshadowing Jesus’s sacrifice for his people’s sins in order to clothe them in righteousness.
God preserved the Messianic lineage in a wicked world which rejected his presence and voice. Despite their faults, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sought God’s presence and held tightly onto his promises.
God’s people grew into a large multitude causing Pharaoh and the Egyptians to fear and enslave them. But God saved them from this and redeemed their freedom. He wanted them to be his people, with him, not enslaved by the Egyptians.
After redeeming the Israelites, God made his presence known to them. He invited them into his presence at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20). Here the Israelites would tremble in fear of the Lord.
They awoke to a mountain clothed with a thick cloud accompanied by great trumpet blasts and lightning and thunder strikes (v.16). After God descended upon Mount Sinai in fire, the people watched from the foot of the mountain (vv.17-18).
Such was the fire’s intensity that its smoke rushed upward like a furnace’s smoke (v.18). Once God descended to the top of the mountain, he called Moses to ascend to him (v.20) and told him that the people should not ascend Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:21-25). The Israelites shuddered with great fear and begged Moses to speak on their behalf so that they did not have to hear God’s voice (Exodus 20:18-21).
What does this tell us? Man could not enter God’s holy presence because he was unholy. We need some cleansing, some sacrifice, or mediator powerful enough to make us holy enough to approach God.
We need a mediator greater than Moses who will ascend into the thick darkness to reconcile us to God. Without a mediator, we like our first parents and the Israelites run away from God whose perfection terrifies us.
Jesus is that mediator.
Within Mary’s womb, the Holy Spirit orchestrated a mysterious and glorious miracle. By his power, Jesus, the eternal Son of God was conceived. And one night in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Fully God and fully man, Jesus would deliver us into the presence of God.
From childhood, Jesus lived in perfect fellowship with God and fellow man. His own people resisted him who came to offer up himself for them. Eventually, they surrendered him to the Romans for execution.
On the cross, Jesus entered great darkness to appease God’s wrath and to save his people. His righteousness was transferred to our account and our sin to his account. And the rod of God’s wrath crushed Jesus. Banished into the outer darkness, drowning in sorrow, Jesus exclaimed:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Remembering the Father’s love, Jesus cried out:
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).
And he gasped for his last breath.
Suddenly, the Word, who by, through, and for which all things were created and are held together, hung limp. And the temple’s curtain separating the people from the inner sanctum split into two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). The ground shook and rocks split (v.52). Freed from their tomb, saints were bodily resurrected and appeared to many (v.53).
Such was the force behind the unfolding drama that the centurion and those accompanying him to keep watch over Jesus proclaimed:
“Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
Jesus opened the way, through himself, back to union with the Father.
Such is the power of God’s grace in Jesus’s sacrifice.
Dead in our sins and trespasses, we were children of wrath, estranged from God and unable to commune with him. Alive in Christ, who is our peace, we are children of grace, pleasing before God’s presence and able to call out to him as, “Abba Father!”
But the best has yet to come. Jesus will return to claim us as his beloved bride. He will replace this world with a new one surpassing this one in glory. This promise will be fulfilled:
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)
Remembering our worst and best times alike in this life will be opportunities to cherish God’s faithfulness. And these times will be overshadowed with an eternity of celebrating our everlasting union to God and his people.
What a narrative of redemption! Praise God who made us for himself and restored us to himself! Reflect on this amazing news. And in joyful response, draw near to God in every moment, bowing yourself before him.