Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 37 “HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Vinolin Caleb, Presbyter, CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese gives a meditation “HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
Lenten Meditations- Day 37 (for 17th April 2019)
“HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
Selected Texts: Matthew 27: 51-53 | Leviticus 16:3-13 | Hebrews 10:19-22
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split
When Jesus died with a loud voice, the veil of the temple which separates the holy of holies from holy place was torn from top to bottom. The Jewish temple was divided into three parts. First one is the outer court where all can come; the second one is holy place where the alter was set up and the daily routine like prayer was done by the priests, the third one is the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest can have an access once in a year. (Refer Exodus 26:33, Leviticus 16)
Gill’s exposition on the bible evidences;"R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said, on account of R. Simeon, the son of the Sagan, the thickness of the veil is an hand's breadth, and it is woven of seventy two threads, and every thread has twenty four threads in it: it is forty cubits long, and twenty broad, and is made of eighty two myriads; (which is either the number of the threads in it, or the sum of the golden pence it cost. Some copies read, is made by eighty two virgins (x);) two are made every year; and three hundred priests wash it”. The veil was torn at the time of death of Jesus and it is recorded in the synoptic gospels. The gospel writers emphasized on this fact to convey the significance of not only the veil but veil in comparison with the Jesus’ death and the impact of Jesus’ death. The temple played an important role in the Jewish people’s life. They believed that, God’s presence existed always and that God is a holy and the only God. No one can reach God easily. The veil separated God from ordinary people. Only for the religious traditional practices the high priest could enter into the holy of holies, only once in a year, otherwise the place was left silent. In my opinion, the so called place of God is left silent, so God has to be alone, but at the event of Jesus’ death, the veil tore; the tearing of the Rent veil is to be pondered upon at this time of lent, to understand the deeper significance of the experience in the temple.
The torn rent veil assured the imminence of God in our living space
Here we have to remember God Immanuel; now God is with people, no veil and nothing can separate God from people and people from God. This was witnessed in the death of Jesus. This is the happiness that we see in the martyrdom of Jesus. God is everywhere, which has become the universal truth after the death of Jesus. All people can feel the presence of God at all places; neither the holy of the holy nor the priest can stop people from feeling the presence of God. The omnipresence of God eliminates the possibility of preferential option of the rich and the might in the temple; ordinary people needing the help of the authoritarian priests and high priests to reach God came to an end. So the priests are considering themselves as special.
The torn rent Veil challenges religiosity
The temple was a place that sustained unnecessary religious sentiments and several ritual practices. In Jesus’ words the then existing temple had become the ‘den of robbers’. In the Jewish religion, the temple and its rituals burdened the simple people and had kept away people from relating with God, the rituals sanctioned these ideas, but the death of Jesus announces a slogan ‘no more ritual to reach God’, because God is the creator of all beings. For centuries the Indian churches are struggling with caste system, we the Christians are dreaming of life in heaven or paradise, We the Christians are saying to others we are the only ones who are saved by God, undermining the value of the torn rent veil, we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with tearing the veils of caste. Now there are too many veils in the name of class, gender and so on, how can we celebrate the death of Jesus which tore the veil? This is the real challenge. How are we going to tear the veil?
Rent veil assured the imminence of God with people, Rent Veil assured the presence of God everywhere; Rent Veil disqualified the category of Special People, and the rent Veil is the symbol of eliminating the unnecessary religious customs. The Death of Jesus has fulfilled its task and gave happiness to us. Are we ready to accept?
Let’s pray to God to empower us to face this challenge and fulfill God’s vision and Mission.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Our loving God, we thank you so much for the relationship you have with us. Help us never to categorize ourselves as special. Though we are your children, we are divided among ourselves. We know this is sin against you. Empower us to overcome this veil from our day today life. Empower us through the death of Jesus, your son and our Lord. We ask in His name. Amen
Rev. Vinolin Caleb
CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese