In the last few days we’ve talked about how God’s presence was found in the temple of Eden, the Tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple.
With all of this as our backdrop, we can now get to the symbolic reports that followed Jesus’ death, starting with the curtain. In all of God’s manmade temples the Holy of Holies was to be separated from the rest of the courts by a curtain. However, as Jesus breathes His last, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mk 15:38), thus symbolically unleashing the presence of God from this physical sacred space and giving us access to approach the Holy of Holies freely for the first time. God Himself is communicating this theme; for not only is this tear subsequent to Jesus’ death, but it’s torn from top to bottom. If a human was to tear this veil (if they were even capable of doing so), they would have to pull from the bottom, not the top.
The Bible continues to explain the symbolism, making note that we are now all, “a royal priesthood” (1 Pe 2:9). It is no longer specifically the Levites who tend to God’s sacred space, but all of us. And while the presence of God was once only approachable by one person on one day of the year, we are now all capable of accessing the presence whenever we want, for the temple is no longer a building, but a person; for as Jesus once said,
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (Jn 2:19-21)
God dwells in Jesus, the Son of God who is empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is no more need of sacred space in a building because sacred space is the God-Man. And that God-Man invites us back to the true presence of God that we once had in the Garden of Eden; for when Mary Magdalene goes to find His lifeless body in the tomb, she mistakes the resurrected Jesus for a gardener (Jn 20:15). Whether Jesus masked Himself in such a way or Mary couldn’t see Him clearly through the tears in her eyes, this gardener theme speaks volumes in light of what we’ve learned about the presence of God.
And so as this gardener invites us back into the garden and therefore into the presence of God, we find ourselves entering sacred space. And since we have the Holy Spirit in us because Jesus has asked the Father to send Him to us, so we too are sacred space. We are temples of God, both corporately as a church (1 Cor 3:16) and individually (1 Cor 6:19).
It deeply saddens me that these verses about having the Holy Spirit inside of us have been relegated to the topic of weight loss. Sure, health is important, but it has little to do with your body being a sacred place for the Holy Spirit to dwell. He can dwell in a fat person just as much as He can a skinny person. He was fine with a tent—it was David’s idea to build a glorious temple, not His (2 Sa 7:6-8). And the glory of the second temple only seemed to pervert the purpose of God’s sacred space, turning it into a spiritual Wall Street of sorts, and leaving one of his disciples gaping in awe of the building rather than God’s presence, saying, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mk 13:1).