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Daily Devotional • January 22

Elizabeth Baumann
The Man Behind the Curtain
A Reading from Hebrews 10:19-31

19 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy “on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Our lesson from Hebrews today mentions Jesus making a way for us through the curtain. If you’ve never read the later chapters of Exodus (after the exciting bit about the Ten Commandments), or if you missed the obscure details of St. Matthew’s account of the crucifixion — neither of which is uncommon — you might miss the significance of this image and assume it’s only a metaphor. But the curtain goes all the way back to the desert of Mt. Sinai. After giving the commandments, God also gave Moses a lot of fairly detailed instructions about building a place of worship.ust as our altar rails continue to divide our churches into their distinct spaces, these buildings were divided by a curtain that literally hid from view the place in which God came down and dwelt among the people. Only the priest was allowed to go through the curtain, and then only under particular regulations.

When Jesus dies on the cross, St. Matthew tells us that that very curtain — then hanging in the temple — tore from top to bottom. The way Jesus made through Hebrews’ curtain is quite literal. Jesus, as High Priest, as victim, performs the all-sufficient sacrifice that makes the barrier between the real presence of God and us unnecessary. The people at Mt. Sinai saw the pillar of cloud and fire and all the bells and whistles that portended God’s presence among them. God told them — they probably wanted to anyway — to put up a curtain to hide it. And when the curtain is torn? What do we find but a man, Jesus.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Dallas
The Church of North India (United)
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