What if there was someone you loved so very much . . . respected, revered, honored, but you could never personally encounter their presence? You could only experience their presence through someone else. And that “someone else” was not even one of your closest friends but one religious leader that you did not know, much less have a personal relationship with.
How close would you ultimately feel to that person you loved?
This was a problem that Jesus wanted to confront during his time on earth.
He did so by trying to address their perceptions of how they could encounter and abide in the presence of God.
Within the Jewish tradition during the time of Christ, people believed in ten degrees of holiness. As you went from the outer circle to the inner circle, you became closer and closer to God.
This was their way of life, their way of worship and connecting to God. They did not know any other way.
Those who were most holy resided in the inner sanctum of the temple.
The least holy resided farthest from the place of sacrifice and worship.
Jews believed Israel and the city of Jerusalem were akin to the outermost rings of holiness in God’s eyes.
The third ring was considered to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and anyone could go there. Then you moved on to the fourth ring – the Court of the Gentiles. Then . . . there was a stone lattice wall with one gate, and through this gate, only Jews could pass. Death was sure and swift for any non-Jew who trespassed. Then, there was the Court of the Women (females only). Then the Court of the Israelites where only men and priests could go . . . this continued with two more circles, finally ending with the tenth circle, the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was a small room, completely dark, and they believed once a year it was graced by the appearance of God.
To only encounter God once a year? And even then, it just is one man who was able to do so? The rest of the time it was a disconnected experience that was lived out by following 630 laws?
What if you had an honest quest to find and experience God but because of origin, gender, or disobedience of rules you were never going to be able to get closer to God?
Jesus came to remove religious barriers so that the pure in heart, those who sought God, could find God and God’s love. Yes, this ticked off those who lost their religious constructs and liked status quo. But, he didn’t care.
He deconstructed the barriers and needs us to do the same.
What religious barriers exist today that keep people from encountering the presence of God?