By Jaime Sherman
How fitting it is that as Good Friday draws near we are studying the Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the Jewish year when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood on and before the mercy seat to atone for his sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. This solemn feast day was a special sabbath and one spent in humble reflection as the Jewish people considered the ugliness of their sin committed in the past year and the costliness of having their transgressions covered by the blood of another life.
This bloody day for the nation of Israel was repeated annually, for the blood of animals was only a temporary solution to be made right with the holy God. When the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, some 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the sacrificial system was derailed. Sacrifices could no longer be offered at the Temple, and the high priest could no longer enter the most holy place to cleanse his people from their sins.
The weight of their sins yet to be atoned for must have been more than they could bear, and the Jewish religious leaders added to God’s instructions for the Day of Atonement, trying to secure God’s forgiveness. What many of them missed 40 years prior to the Temple’s destruction — and continue to miss today — was that Jesus was the final, once-for-all sacrifice to cover all their sins past, present, and future. They missed the burden-relieving truth that Jesus was the best high priest, offering continual intercession before God on their behalf and the only covering they would ever need for all their sins.
They missed Jesus’ final words uttered in agony upon the cross on that first Good Friday, “Tetelestai” (John 19:30).
It is finished.
The sacrificial system had come to an end, for the final Lamb had been sacrificed. The wrath of the holy God had been satisfied, for the only perfect One to ever live had given His life.
It. Is. Finished.
And it remains finished today. No amount of striving or shouldering shame will earn God’s favor, for we are accepted through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The only work we are given to do for salvation is to believe in Him (John 6:29), and in Him, we are given eternal life with Him (John 3:16-18).
As we reflect on our study of the Day of Atonement and pause in just one week to remember the final day of atonement, may we each take time to reflect on the costliness of our sin and thank Jesus for setting us free from the burden of sin. We will each do this in different ways, for we are not bound by the law or the expectations of religious leaders. Here are just a few ways we might choose to remember:
- Join other women of UFC in a fast of food and in a commitment to prayer from the evening of Good Friday until sunrise on Easter (more details to come early next week).
- Engage in the Way of Jesus display hosted by UFC on Friday, April 15 with an evening communion service (more details to come early next).
- Set aside a special rest day during Easter week to express trust in God’s provision of daily needs and all the more for His covering for sin.
- Spend the day following Good Friday in solitude and silence, journaling, studying God’s Word, and praying in remembrance of the long, dark day of waiting between Jesus’ sacrifice for sin and His conquering of death.
- Immerse yourself in the story of Easter week with last year’s Come and See feature.
However we collectively and individually mark this time of remembering, “Let us draw near (to the throne of grace) 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. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without waving, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:22-23).