I don’t normally watch T.V. but I have to admit to you, I have been watching some shows that have just not been good for me. I’ve been watching the Food Network and HGTV Everything looks so good on the Food Network I get hungry even if I’ve just eaten! And I’m pretty sure I gain weight just watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. HGTV isn’t any better for me either. I get inspired to renovate and paint, and reorganize a basement suite that I don’t own. Just this past weekend I had to run down to Homesense and pick up some throw pillows for my couch. That channel had me thinking about colour schemes and accent pillows and I’m not even married yet haha. One of my favourite shows on HGTV is Love it or List it. I love when they transform the house or when they’re looking for a house. I find myself yelling at the TV when they don’t agree with my vision for their life haha. Ultimately though Home is where the Heart is regardless of how beautiful the other options may appear.
There’s something sacred about homes though I find. I know for me personally when I’m invited into someone’s house I feel so much closer to that person. They invited me into the sanctity of their space. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, there is a sanctity to the presence someone establish in the confines of their four walls and when I’m invited into that it feels like a spiritual connection of sorts.
The Israelite people began an exodus from the land of Egypt where they had cities and homes to a land that God had promised them; Canaan The thing about their homes and cities in Goshen, Egypt was that they as a people weren’t free. While they may have established themselves there, the sanctity of that space was corrupted by their enslavement. When they travelled in the desert their homes weren’t permanent either. As was the custom of many nations the Israelites associated God’s presence to a specific space. So God had them build Him a tabernacle. This tabernacle (mishkan in Hebrew) means “residence” or “dwelling place.”
For the Israelites this was the place where God dwelt. This was the house of God. The Tabernacle was divided into the Holy and the Most Holy place and it was in the Most Holy Place where God’s presence would descend like a ball of light known as the Shekinah Glory. When God’s presence was in the temple a cloud would cover the tabernacle, and when it lifted, the Israelites would follow the cloud wherever it led. Time after time, in every society and culture, people built houses of worship; buildings sacred to their people because it was the place where they could encounter God. Pilgrims and worshippers would travel countless miles to reach these places and encounter God in a unique way that their house of worship provided. For the Israelites this was their tabernacle. The temple of Jerusalem was the place where Heaven literally descended and met with Earth.
The Temple was known to every Israelite to house the literal presence of God. This place was the focal point of worship. People would travel incredibly long distances to celebrate religious holidays in Jerusalem near the sanctuary. When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman in John 4 a point of discussion for them was where to worship, Jerusalem or the mountain of her ancestry. When The Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 there were thousands upon thousands of Jews from all over the world celebrating the Pentecost in Jerusalem. When Daniel prayed in Daniel 6:10 he would open his window and faced Jerusalem to pray. Every worship, every prayer, every celebration of God was directed back to Jerusalem as the central point of all praise. This place where Heaven met Earth. But if this is where Heaven and Earth meet, we have an issue. Heaven is perfection; goodness; mercy; it is full of all that God is: perfect holiness, but Earth is the direct opposite: imperfect, evil, merciless; full of everything God is not: sinfulness.
If we are full of sinfulness then we can’t enter into the space of God’s presence without first being cleansed. This is where the system of sacrifice comes in. The consequence to sin is death and so for us to be cleansed of that sin someone or something needed to die in our place. So the way the system worked was that the Jewish people would come to the temple, offer their sacrifice, either a spotless lamb, dove, or ox without defect. They would pray over the animal, symbolically transfer their sins onto the animal and they themselves would kill the animal, putting to death the sins they placed on the sacrifice. This would cleanse them and allow them to come into the sanctuary and into God’s presence. Our ability to enter into God’s presence used to be determined by what we did to make up for our sin.
But in the New Testament there comes a shift, one which John makes us aware of in the very first chapter of his gospel.
14The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John says that this Jesus is the one who holds the glory of the Son of God full of grace and truth. Jesus holds the glory of the Son of God, who is also the Word of God, who is with God, and was God. What John is saying, is that in Jesus rests the Shekinah glory that would descend into the Most Holy of Holies in the tradition of the sanctuary. The temple itself was never sacred; it was the presence of God in that place that made it sacred. This glory that would descend in a cloud and would ascend back up to lead the people where it should go is what made the temple sacred, and if this glory rests in Jesus, then Jesus was sacred. And just the like the Israelites followed the cloud wherever it went, it becomes our prerogative to follow Jesus wherever He would lead, regardless of how difficult the journey is; regardless of how controversial His teachings are; regardless of how insane His commands may seem to those who have not understood Christ
But that’s not all that John is saying in verse 14. He says, “The Word became flesh (in Jesus) and dwelt among us.” John uses a word here that’s only used 4 other times in the entire New Testament. He uses the word “skaynoh” which when translated means “to dwell as in a tent.” A literal translation of this word means “to tabernacle.” What John is saying, is that when Jesus came, He tabernacled among us. He didn’t just come as a human, but as the new tabernacle!
It’s so easy to miss this because we can get so wrapped up on the Word becoming flesh. That’s how John starts chapter 1, In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God, and this word was the light of the world in darkness but not overcome by it. So when we come to verse 14 it’s so easy to miss the significance of “skaynoh” because we’re wrapped up in the idea of this metaphysical Word become the physical flesh. But John doesn’t miss a beat here and continues with the idea that the Word didn’t just become flesh, He also Tabernacled, became the tabernacle!
Jesus becomes the new tabernacle, completely doing away with the old sanctuary. Every nuance, every tradition, every meaning would now be found in Jesus. Every worship, every prayer, every celebration of God would now be directed to Jesus as the central point of all praise!! If every religious celebration brought you to Jerusalem and the temple, now every religious celebration would bring you to Jesus. If every prayer was directed towards the temple in Jerusalem every prayer would now be directed to Jesus. If the Tabernacle was the meeting place of Heaven and Earth, then the new meeting place would be found in Jesus!
This temple was not like any other temple in the history of all Earth. People would travel to come to the temple, but now that Jesus was the new temple things changed. Instead of having to come to the temple to experience God’s presence, Jesus walked around meeting with people of all different walks of life creating pockets of Heaven on earth. Jesus met with sinners, he met with prostitutes, and tax collectors, liars, and thieves, lepers and cripples. But this is totally against the norm! The old mandate dictated that in order to even come near the tabernacle you had to be cleansed; you had to sacrifice for your sin to be made worthy of God’s presence. Instead of closing the doors to only allow those who were perfect Jesus. as the new tabernacle, opened the doors to everyone despite imperfection.
“29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’”
In the same chapter that John tells us that Jesus is the tabernacle—the center of all worship, and the holder of God’s glory—he tells us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the beautiful thing about this idea is that Jesus is now not just the meeting place of Heaven and Earth, but He is also the sacrifice for sin which allows us to enter into God’s presence. And He walked around forgiving sins, healing the sick, bringing the tabernacle and the presence of God, bringing Heaven to people who society and religion determined unworthy!
Jesus is so in love with you as His creation that He became both as the presence of God on Earth and the sacrifice for all mankind. It doesn’t matter what sins you’ve committed; it doesn’t matter what mistakes you’ve made; it doesn’t matter if you feel that you are unworthy of love; it doesn’t matter if the people around you are critical of who you are and what you do. The revolution of Jesus has forgiven you of your sins; He’s wiped away all your mistakes; He’s determined you worthy of love; He has justified you in righteousness all through the sacrifice He made on that cross. When Jesus approaches you in your mess, in your sinfulness, He says to you “Get up, your sins have been forgiven. Now go and sin no more.”
It’s not about what you do anymore. It’s about who you go to! Religion has always been about what you do to earn Heaven’s favour It’s always been about what we sacrifice to make us right with God, but that’s not the religion of Jesus. The revolution of Jesus is in declaring us righteous not by what we’ve done, but by what He did. This is insanity; to give salvation to the very people who crucified you, to forgive your murderers while they are murdering you, but Jesus was willing to go through that all to give you unconditional access to God.
The insanity of Jesus is that He came and did away with everything we knew, but the Genius of it all is that it’s through His revolution that we have an access to God never before experienced. Every worship, every prayer, every celebration of God is now directed to Jesus as the central point of all praise! Experiencing God isn’t about where you go, it’s about who you go to.
God help me to realize that no sin is too great to separate me from you because you are my sacrifice for sin. It was what you did on that cross that grants me the privilege of coming into your presence. Thank you for doing the impossible to make a relationship with you possible. Help me to experience you in ways I’ve never experienced you before. Amen.