Tear down the barriers

temple curtain torn

When Jesus died, something miraculous and transformative took place inside the temple in Jerusalem: the curtain that separated the glory of God from people was ripped in two—from top to bottom.  With that torn curtain, God sent a message: Every barrier of sin and guilt that had separated us from God has been torn apart!  The implications of this are huge—not only in terms of our relationship with God, but also in terms of our relationships with each other: If the barrier between you and God has been removed, and if the barrier between God and me has been removed, then, in Christ, what barrier can remain between you and me?  In Christ, what barrier can remain between any of us?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem in the days leading up to His crucifixion, He presented a visible message to people in the temple that He had come to remove all barriers that would separate people from God or from each other.

What was this visible message He provided?  He cleared the moneychangers and the sellers out of the temple!

The moneychangers and sellers represented barriers that needed to be thrown aside.

Certain temple taxes were required of all Jewish men, and Jewish men from all over the world came to Jerusalem to pay their taxes.  But only Tyrian silver was accepted in the temple.  All other coins were considered unclean and unacceptable within the temple.  Moneychangers took the people’s common currency and exchanged it at exorbitant rates.  Similarly, the temple authorities appointed inspectors to make sure that any animal presented for sacrifice was acceptable.  If the inspector deemed the animal unworthy, the worshiper would have to purchase an approved animal from one of the temple sellers.  Quite often, the temple sellers would charge as much as 20 times more than what the same animal would have been sold for outside the temple.  Worshipers were being cheated.  The greed and the profiteering of the moneychangers and the sellers had become blockades to worshipers being able to come to God.

Years ago, when I was in seminary, some people tried to recruit me to sell a certain product that also involved recruiting others to sell so that I would receive a portion of their earnings.  These people argued that as a person who was preparing to become a minister, this would be a great opportunity for me to supplement my income, to “bless” others through the product I would sell, and to “bless” others by giving them opportunities to supplement their income.  I turned down their push to join up, asking them, “How would people know whether I care about them with the love of Christ or whether I care about them for the profit that could bring me?”

Any time a church or ministry or minister profiteers off a person in the name of God, that becomes a barrier to God that must be torn down.

The moneychangers and sellers had set up their tables in the Court of the Gentiles.  This was the portion of the temple where all who were not Jewish could have access to God.  But once the Court of the Gentiles became overrun by the tables of the moneychangers and sellers, there was no room left for the Gentiles to come near to God.  Those who were looked upon as “outsiders” or “not like us” were effectively blocked from God.

Jesus died to remove such barriers.  He died to give all people access to God.  The New Testament letters are full of counsel to believers to welcome into the church family people of all races, nations, ethnicities, genders, and social standing.

Whenever we exclude a person because they are “different than us,” or whenever we shun or ostracize or demean or mistreat someone because they are “not one of us,” such treatment is a barrier to God that must be torn down.

Jesus gave His life so as to tear the curtain and to remove all barriers between Himself and us.  He cleared the moneychangers and sellers out of the temple so that we might learn not to put up barriers that Christ Himself tears down!

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