Today, our Jewish neighbors observe Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the highest of all holy days in Judaism.
It is the day atonement is made between humankind and God.
In Hebrew, “Yom” means “day,” and the root of “Kippur” means “to atone.”
In ancient Israel, it was on Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”) when the High priest would enter into the most sacred part of the tabernacle (and then later, the temple), to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation.[For a detailed look at this system, check out this past Sunday’s sermon entitled “Tabernacle.” Or, of course, you can read the book of Leviticus—which I highly recommend.]
The problem with this system of atonement, however, was that forgiveness…or at-one-ment was only as good as one’s ability to remain sinless. Some could make it a day or two. But then, sin would wedge a painful separation between people and God once more.
That’s what makes the sacrifice of our Lord unparalleled. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews says, when you think of what has happened in Jesus, think of it this way: His sacrifice upon the cross was a “once and for all” sacrifice.
“But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many…” (Hebrews 9:26-28)
That phrase keeps repeating in the book of Hebrews. The work of Jesus upon the cross was a sufficient “once and for all” event. He died once for all people, once for all time, once for all sin. It was utterly, totally complete.
In fact, we are told that in the hour of our Lord’s death, the curtain that hung before the holy of holies; the great veil that symbolically separated humanity and divinity, was literally rent from top to bottom. When you consider the material and the weight of the fabric, and the thickness of the curtain, it would be impossible for a human to accomplish such a feat. It was ripped from top to bottom symbolizing that this removing of the dividing wall came from above. There would now be NO separation between humankind and God. Complete and perfect “at-one-ment” has been achieved. It is accomplished. It is finished!
Believe the good news, beloved: your sins are forgiven!
Have I told you lately how much I love being your pastor?
Well, I do.
Rev. Dr. Shaun King
Johns Creek Baptist Church