The Mystery Unveiled
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29 (NIVUK)
Have you ever been at the unveiling of a sculpture or a painting? Sometimes what you end up seeing is less than you expected; at other times it may exceed expectations. There is always a sense of anticipation as the curtain is drawn back.
When Jesus offered himself for our sins on the cross, God’s view of atonement was presented to the world. This act of self-giving was not hidden. People watched the Son of God as he fleshed out all the scriptures concerning his atoning sacrifice, which signified humanity’s restoration to God.
It had been a long awaited moment. The Old Testament celebration of atonement hinted at it through its liturgy, the central point of which was hidden from view. On a set date each year the Israelite High Priest would enter the usually forbidden “Holy of Holies”, where the presence of God was supposed to be at its most intense. There he would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal in order to cleanse both his own household and also the whole nation of their guilt. The confession with its sin offering occurred behind the veil, which separated the Holy of Holies from everything and everyone. No one was allowed to see it. The veil remained in place.
The Old Testament ceremony never fulfilled its proper function of complete atonement. It was like a pattern, or a shadow, or a type of the reality of atonement that would come in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 10:1). The self-offering of Jesus opened up for us “a new and living way” through the separating curtain and brought all of us to the throne of God where we received acceptance and forgiveness (10:20).
When Christ died, “at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). This was the veil of the holy of holies that kept atonement hidden from view. Now it was for all to see. The mystery had become known. It was no secret anymore. Jesus is the atonement unveiled.
Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).
Thank you that the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleansed our consciences from acts that led to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14) In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This Saturday James is speaking at our Bridlington autumn harvest festival. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.