As a child, I was always fascinated with how Peter Pan could separate his shadow from his body. How cool was it that he could grab and hold his shadow?! I mean, what a great trick to show off to your friends. I wanted to be able to do that so badly, but it’s just not possible. A shadow is not something to grab or hold. A shadow is just “an image cast by an object and representing the form of the object.” It’s not the real thing; it’s a representation of the real thing.
In Hebrews 10, the author calls the law a shadow of the true form. I spoke this past Monday night at our Women’s Ministry Event, and I shared five shadows and five truths from Hebrews 10, and as Easter approaches, I want to share my favorite again.
We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do know who it was written for: the Jewish people. In the tenth chapter, the author is comparing what the priests had to do to ask forgiveness of sins (the shadow) as compared to how Christ died once for all (the true form). One time a year, the high priest (and only the high priest) would enter the presence of God and offer a sacrifice to ask forgiveness for the sins of Israel for that year (see Leviticus 16). The presence of God dwelled in the tabernacle and later in Solomon’s Temple in what was called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place. It was at the heart of the tabernacle and temple and sectioned off by a huge curtain (or veil). While the Bible doesn’t say exactly how large or thick the curtain was, tradition suggests it was about 15-18 feet high and was thick enough that if tied to two horses going in opposite directions, it would not tear. Only the high priest could go behind this curtain into the presence of God, only one time a year and only after a strict cleansing process.
The shadow is God’s presence was closed off from His people.
But my favorite part of the Easter story comes just as Jesus breathes his last on the cross:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. – Matthew 27:45-46; 50-51 (emphasis mine)
The moment Jesus died, that tall curtain that couldn’t be torn by two horses going in opposite directions tore from top to bottom. No one cut it; it was not ripped by human hands. God made a way for us to have access to Him like never before.
The true form of what Christ did on the cross made God’s presence accessible.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near 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. – Hebrews 10:19-22
We no longer have to stand at a distance! His body opened a way for us to draw near. His blood gives us confidence to enter “the holy places.” We no longer have to get all cleaned up before we can come to God. He meets us where we are. His sacrifice does once and for all what the years of sacrifice could never do: bring forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 10:17-18), a finished work (Hebrews 10:12-14) and cleanses us by the blood of His perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 10:22-23).
I will never get over what He did for me. I don’t get it. I do not deserve His grace, forgiveness and love. I continually find myself returning to the same pit of sin, and every time, He meets me there, pulls me out and says “I forgive you. I love you. No matter what.”
You see, Wendy wasn’t satisfied with Peter’s shadow. She didn’t settle for the representation of Peter. She wanted the real Peter.
Don’t settle for the shadow of Christianity. There is no life He cannot redeem. No one is too far gone. That curtain tore in two so we can with confidence draw near to our Creator. I pray that this Easter you draw close and find time to reflect on what this weekend means for us as believers. Not one of us is good enough to do it on our own. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your amazing grace.