What’s the big deal of Matthew 27:51a? A Sunday School Lesson

By Sidney Terhune - Religion Columnist

Take your Bible and turn to Matthew 27:51. At the time of Jesus’ death, even the physical environment reverberated with the effects of that death. The veil in the Temple, a very heavy linen curtain embroidered with spun gold, was torn from top to bottom. The veil formed the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred and the innermost part of the Temple. The Holy of Holies represented the presence of God with Israel. (Numbers 20:6, 7 is similar). Only once a year could anyone enter it, and that was on the Day of Atonement when the high priest alone, after a period of cleansing, would enter into it through the veil. Only he could enter into God’s presence. There he, as a representative of Israel, would intercede with God for Israel. For this reason the veil represented the separation between God and Israel. At the moment of Jesus Christ’s death, this separation was done away with. Ephesians 2:12 and 14 teaches us that his death also abolished the separation between the Gentiles (you and me) and God.

The tearing of the Temple veil from top to bottom (note: not bottom to top. Wow!), demonstrated that it was God’s work in Christ which abolished this separation between Israel (Jacob and his descendants) and God. God had been in Jesus (note: does not say God was Jesus), reconciling the world unto Himself. Man could not work his way into God’s presence. So God was reaching down to man, giving free access of Himself to man. Since the death of Jesus and the tearing down of the Temple veil, every believer has access to the presence of God. This further corroborates the Lesson I wrote that was published in the Record-Herald Sept. 18, 2015, particularly, “Jesus’ primary mission was not to save Gentiles (you and me); it was to save Israel.” (Matthew 15:22-28; John 10:7; Acts 2:22, 10:36). Note: When reading the Bible, remember that words like Jew, Judean, sheep, circumcision, in the law, Galilean, etc., refer to Israelites. Words like Gentile, Greek, dogs, stranger, foreigner, uncircumcised, without the law, etc., refer to non-Israelites.

The above paragraphs explain why Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Jesus (John 20:17), but Thomas could eight days later (Verse 27). Here is where it gets deep. Jesus was the first-fruits from the dead. The wave-offering of the first-fruits, in which the first-fruits of the spring barley harvest were presented as an offering to God in the Temple, was to occur that same day, Sunday. Jesus would now replace that offering as the true first-fruits from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). Normally, the priest presenting the offering would go up to the Temple to present it before the Lord. That is the meaning of the expression, “I ascend unto my Father….” Christ would go up to the altar and, as the high priest, present himself before God as the first-fruits from the dead. It does not refer to his ascension to heaven which was yet 40 days away. If one believes every word in John 20:17, then it is impossible to believe Jesus is God. Son of God: yes. God the son: no.

In preparing to present himself as the first-fruits, Jesus would, in accordance with Leviticus 22:1-9, keep himself separated and clean (Mary Magdalene was considered unclean), until it was accomplished. The wave-offering of the first-fruits was a public offering, meaning it was performed by the priests on behalf of the nation. Therefore, a priest would maintain a state of ceremonial purity before bringing the offering before the Lord in the Temple. Besides being himself the first-fruits offering, Jesus was the priest making the offering. He was showing himself as the true high priest to Israel. (Hebrews 5:5, 6; 8:1). Amen.

Sidney Terhune

P. O. Box 6, Wash. C. H., OH

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist