Jesus hung on the cross suspended between heaven and earth. He cried out, "Abba, Father, why have you forsaken me!" God was not silent or still.
He sent a great darkness to cover the whole land. At that very moment of Christ's death, earthquakes rocked Jerusalem and the dividing veil was split between God's Most Holy Place in the temple and the people that came to worship.
I often wonder what it must have been like in the temple that day.....
Simeon looked out the door of the temple sanctuary. In all of his twelve years, he had never seen a dark night sky at noontime. Pigeons, doves and lambs stirred uneasily in the surrounding colonnades around the priests' court. Lightning flashed in the distance. The rumble of thunder could be felt as well as heard.
"Come away from the door. We have work to do. What happens out there is not our concern," Simeon's father said.
Simeon was of the tribe of Levi. His father and uncles served in the temple and Simeon often helped. On this holy week of Passover it seemed everyone in Jerusalem needed them. The visitors from surrounding villages and towns thronged the streets bringing their offerings to the temple. As the hour for the daily sacrifice of the lamb approached, many more people would fill the courtyard.
Simeon loved the festival days. Today would be almost perfect if it had not been for Jesus. Simeon heard him preach often around the temple. He liked Jesus' words. He liked Jesus. He made Simeon think about God in a new way--as a person--a loving father. In Simeon's family, God was a business, an endless list of chores and sacrifices.
Why did they have to arrest him? Why did they choose to crucify him?
"He was a trouble-maker," Simeon's uncle said.
Simeon's father nodded, "It is best for the people. He stirred fights between the people and Rome."
Simeon glanced up toward the Hill of Golgotha before turning back inside the temple sanctuary. He could not see the hilltop through the darkness but he had heard about crucifixions before. Jesus did not deserve that kind of end.
Simeon took his place at the doorway between the open Priests' court where the lamb would be sacrificed and the sanctuary where the oil lamp glowed and sweet incense burned continually before the Most Holy Place. His job was to make sure the incense continued to burn. The aromatic offering must not falter on this day of all days. He watched the priests and worshippers gather in the outer court around the massive altar.
The law prescribed the exact hour for the lamb's throat to be cut for the sins of the people each day. It was at this very moment that Simeon heard thunder rumble closer. His hair stood on end and the air grew tense. He looked about the courtyard. Men looked uneasy as they glanced to the open sky.
Simeon looked over his shoulder through the doorway to the inner sanctuary. The smaller altar table with the candles and show bread stood in their place. The rich brocade of the veil protecting the people from the Most Holy Place hung just as it should.
As long as he had been coming to the temple with his father, Simeon had been warned not to enter the Most Holy Place. He knew the story of Aaron's sons who were struck dead by God when they disregarded the Ark of God's presence.
His father had entered the Holy of Holies once, when it was his turn by lot. A priest entered only once a year as prescribed by the law of Moses. "One day, son, it will be your turn. Until then do not go near the entrance."
Simeon always hid his eyes when he witnessed the priest enter behind the veil each year. He did not want to risk even a glimpse beyond for fear of instant death.
The bleating of the young lamb drew Simeon's attention back to the Priest's courtyard. His uncles led the spotless one-year-old lamb up the ramp to the raised altar table in the center of the yard as onlookers gathered to watch. His father stood ready with the knife. Another uncle held the brass bowl to collect the lamb's blood. Simeon, himself, had prepared the hyssop branch to be used in sprinkling the blood on the altar. They must make the sacrifice at exactly the third hour as prescribed by the Law.
Lightning increased as flashes from the open sky overhead created hideous shapes on the walls of the courtyard. The thunder grew nearer and rumbled louder until it seemed to come from beneath their feet.
Simeon ran from the courtyard into the sanctuary when he realized that it wasn't thunder but the ground actually groaning. The floor rolled slowly at first then faster until it heaved. Simeon tried to secure the incense bowl and candles on the altar but was thrown to the ground. He huddled under the altar table until the floor stilled.
Cries filled the air as thick dust hung everywhere. The lamb that was to be sacrificed bleated as it scurried around the courtyard looking for a way of escape.
Simeon raised his head. Before he could look away he saw the veil to the holy of holies--torn--from the top down. Simeon looked straight into the forbidden inner sanctuary. The only light in the room glowed from within the Holy of Holies. The candles from the outer sanctuary lay snuffed out and scattered about the floor.
Simeon arose. Drawn to the glow within the Most Holy Place, he no longer felt terror. He peered within for the first time and lived. Was that an audible voice he heard or did it come from his own heart?
"For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed."
"We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" Hebrews 10:10
Have a blessed Easter weekend as you draw near to Jesus and celebrate His life given for us. Join Spiritual Sunday for more Easter refreshment.