Chaplain’s Corner: LXVII

“The True Holy of Holies”

The “Second Temple” of Judaism-the magnificent center of worship that stood in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus-represented an architecture of exclusion. A few people were in. Everyone else was out.

Around the perimeter of the Temple was the Court of the Gentiles. A few decades ago archeologists excavating the site found an ancient sign that promised death to any non-Jew who tried to enter the Temple courts. Females could access the main portal into the Court of Women. But a grate prevented them from going any farther. Jewish men could walk beyond the grate into the Court of Israel. But only the Levites-those who could demonstrate an unbroken genealogical link to the Old Testament patriarch Levi- could occupy the Court of the Priests.

But there was one place even more exclusive. In the heart of the Temple’s interior was the Holy of Holies. Just one man-the current Jewish high priest-could go beyond the thick curtain that hung in the Temple ceiling between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. And that could happen one day a year on the Day of Atonement, when he would offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the entire Jewish nation. The Temple was a kind of architectural Purity Filter in which fewer and fewer people were granted access to the presence of God.

In fact, way more than 99% of humanity-every non- Jew-was excluded from setting foot inside the Temple complex. In the time of Jesus, Gentiles could never get close to God. EVER.

But all that began to change during the last week of Jesus’ life. Jesus openly declared that the Temple and its corrupt spiritual vanguard would disappear in a generation-something that happened in A.D. 70 when the Romans overran the city. He reminded the crowds that the Temple was always intended to be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17) -not an exclusive club, but a representation of God’s open arms.

The crucifixion of Jesus was God’s greatest loss but turned out to be our greatest gain. For the barrier is down. The way is now clear. You and I have access to the true “Holy of Holies”- the privilege of walking with God every hour of every day. By God’s grace, don’t miss that opportunity today.

Faithfully, Ron Naylor, Chaplain