Coming down the hill from some time with David and Joyce Cowart, something occurred to me concerning the veil. It was rent from the top to the bottom. Another way of saying this is that external authority was rent from top to bottom.
In the first instance, and in its narrow sense, this veil represents “the law.” Certainly this is the first instance of my understanding. But understood as external authority, a number of possibilities present themselves. External authority can certainly be external commands, and written regulations, but it can also be authority structures.
As an external authority structure, I am reminded that “judgment begins with the household of God,” and in Ezekiel 9, it begins with the elders in front of the temple. There is an interesting scene in the Mel Gibson film, THE PATRIOT. The British general is objecting to the patriot and his men shooting the British officers first.
As an authority structure, rending the veil from the top to bottom, is to begin with the leadership. At a more personal level, the “futility of Gentile thinking” or a religious mind-set, rending the veil from top to bottom means being set free from faulty thinking, which starts in the head. Jesus not only rent in his own flesh this veil of pre-existing external regulation, thus making possible real intimacy with God, but he rent every such veil, past, present and future. We don’t have to tear anything down. He tore it all down on the cross. Institutional Christianity has already been torn down at the cross. All we need do is walk through the rent curtain with the life that He put in its place.
Pursuing this in a little greater depth. One way of looking at external regulation is to see it as a kind of Paradigm. According to Webster, paradigm means, “a pattern, example or model.” Contemporary usage has it more in the sense of a grid or filter on perception and understanding. A Paradigm is a kind of filter that we look through. That filter acts as a kind of external pattern or structure, which governs how we act and react toward the world around us including other people. The word pictures in the Bible are paradigms, designed to indicate facets of who we are as God’s people. Mike Bickle speaks with great passion of the “bridal paradigm,” we are the bride of Christ. This is one way of looking at or understanding who we are. There are many such paradigms, Biblical analogies, which can help us in our understanding.
I’m sure the following list is not exhaustive:
Ambassadors – Representatives of a foreign government
Body – The functional expression of Christ in the earth
Branches – The place where God’s life results in fruit
Bread – One loaf, ground together, and baked.
Bride – A people in intimate relationship with God
Building – A structure according to plan
Church – Those gathered by life, out of the world
City – A protected place of great variety in relationship
Family – The life structure of the children of God
Field – A place to raise crops
Fig Tree – God’s provision for the healing of the nations
Garden – A place wher variety grows
House – A place to live
Household – Those under one roof
Israel – Having prevailed in strugle, those fit to rule
Kingdom – One people under one government
Living stones – Divine building material
Mount Zion – A place of joy
Nation – A distinct people among peoples
New Creation – Those with a fresh start and eternal future
New Jerusalem – A city with Godly foundations
Olive Tree – God’s anointed
Priesthood – Those who represent others before God.
Servants – Those who embody Godly authority
Sheep – Those who are totally dependant
Soldiers – Those equipped for war
Temple – The dwelling place of God
Vineyard – A place to grow grapes for crushing into wine
Wheat – A crop sewn by God and looking toward harvest
The summary statements are not finally definitive, but this gives us, at least, a taste of the various facets on the truth of who we are in Christ.
There is a paradigm in the heart of God that transcends all of these. It is in the passion of the heart of God that all the rest come together. The mind of Christ is a kind of paradigm, a kind of way of looking at things and people, a perspective on reality. In fact reality is found only in Christ, in the mind of Christ.
To get to the mind of Christ requires what, in the current vernacular, is described as a “paradigm shift.” When the veil was rent, we were given a divinely initiated paradigm shift. We were given a lot more than that, but the paradigm shift is what is necessary for us to appropriate what we have been given in Christ. There are a number of passages, which come to mind as I think about it in these days, even in these last days. We had no access into the heart of God. That access was opened for us by what happened to Jesus on The Cross.
The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, (veil) that is his body,…” Hebrews 10:19, 20
Mark puts it this way, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain” (veil) of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark 15:37, 38
Paul puts it this way in Ephesians and Colossians 2, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” “…having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Ephesians 2:14, 15, Colossians 2:14
In the Most Holy Place is the heart of God. We get a little glimpse of the heart of God in Song of Songs: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal over your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs, 8:6, 7.
Exodus puts it this way: “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14,
Song of Songs speaks of the seal of God’s love. This brings to mind Ezekiel 9: 4, 6 where the judgment of God followed the seal “…Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it….. So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.”
Judgment began from the top down.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of Heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:13-15
There is a passion in the heart of God. He wants us to enter into, and share that passion. What does that passion look like? For us who believe, or claim to, it looks like Jesus on the cross. “This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other.” God redefined “agape” on the cross. Until then, it was only good for friends, after that it was good for enemies, Romans 5:10
The heart of God, the love of God, the passion of God is the nuclear reactor that empowers the doing of God, Isaiah 9:7 It must be the reactor of our doing as well. In inviting us to embrace the “bridal paradigm,” Mike Bikle is careful to warn against a carnal minded preoccupation with the paradigm of human sexuality, and with that disclaimer, is quite correct when he says that, “workers will go only just so far, but lovers will go all the way.”
The relationships of Jesus, had their source in His Father, and now for us, Jesus is Lord of Relationship. Faith works by love. A “church” without relationships that come from God is no church at all. Relationships that are not energized by the passion of God, even the passion of God in our own hearts, are no relationships at all. God’s kind of passion lays its life down for enemies.
What is the content of our hearts even for each other??
In general our inability to get along as Christians has something to do with the violation of our expectations. Expectations certainly come in great profusion and variety. Expectations are largely determined by the paradigm through which we are seeing and responding to the world around us. There is a set of expectations in every one of the paradigms mentioned above. Somehow there is a paradigm in the mind of Christ, which sets us free to love.
The day Jesus said, “I love you,” His expectations were nailed to the tree. Even our expectations are an external authority structure determining how we act and react. Jesus should be Lord of both action and reaction. If this is going to happen the veil must be rent, and it must be rent from the top down. Judgment begins with the
household of God, and it begins with the elders in front of the temple. Let us not be numbered among the satanic gate keepers, those who maintain the barriers to intimacy with God and each other, but rather let us plunge into the passion of God’s heart through the veil of rent expectations even our own. They are only images anyway. The reality is found in Christ.
Oh yes, and again, we don’t need to tear anything down, we are too late for that, Jesus tore every barrier down almost 2,000 years ago. All we need do is plunge boldly through it all.
Jay Ferris – 8/27/2000
James Jay Ferris, Author
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