I remember my birthday parties as a child and being mesmerized by the wrapped gifts which accompanied those who came. The wrapping paper filled me with wonder and expectation: “what was I going to get!? What is the paper hiding from me!?” Maybe for many of us wrapping paper still has this effect.
I anticipated tearing into the wrapping paper with full force, working within the expertise of my ability to rid my present of that which separated me from it: the wrapping paper. It was fun, almost as fun as playing with what it kept hidden.
I wonder how much my walk with Jesus is kept “wrapped up.” Much like an anticipated present I can see it, appreciate its mystery, and even pull back the corners to take a look inside, but for some reason I don’t appreciate or anticipate the joy it will give me as I would a birthday present. I am not sure why, I know it will benefit me, I know there is great joy waiting, I know that God has “good things” in store, yet I leave it wrapped up, and don’t engage as I often know I should.
As you study the Bible you will inevitably find all sorts of cool literary tools that the authors used. The gospel of Mark is full of these and as you read it you will run into his heavy use of the word, “immediately”, and perhaps catch his use of chiastic structure1. I was reminded of one of these literary tools recently as I read Mark 15. Both at the beginning and conclusion of Marks gospel, we read very similar words, these words act as a type of bookends to the Mark’s gospel which bring emphasis to a big idea.
Mark 1:10-11 reads, “And when he [Jesus] came up out of the water, immediately he saw
the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voicecame from heaven, “You are my[God’s] beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Similarly in Mark 15:37-39 we read, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!””.
Do you see the similarity? Two things are torn, and two confessions are made of Jesus being the son of God. So why is this significant? The first scene in Mark 1 highlights that Jesus coming to earth was truly an act of God coming to man, as if to say, “The heavens opened and God stepped down.” Jesus being God is affirmed by the Father, who affirms who Jesus is by confessing him to be His son. This makes for a strong introduction of Marks gospel, but it also makes Mark 15 that much more significant.
In the way that the barrier of heaven was torn and God stepped down to live among us in the person of Jesus, so too that which separated us from God, the curtain in the temple, was also torn which made a way for mankind to have unhindered access to God through the person of Jesus. This tearing is similarly accompanied by a confession of Jesus’ identity, as if to say that this tearing could only have been done by the son of God, and it has indeed been done!
These book ends in Mark serve as strong message that the barrier between us and God has been torn open because of what Jesus has done. Easter is a time to remember what Jesus has done, it is a time to remember the very thing that served as a barrier between us and God, much like wrapping paper canceling a gift, has been torn away.
So why do we hesitate? Why do I live as if the veil is still in place, or as if God is somehow far off? Why do I at times keep Jesus at a distance or ignore his invitations to engage in life under his leading and guide? Mark’s gospel strongly communicates to us that the things which we believed separated us from God, the heaven’s themselves or the veil in the temple, have been torn, and now we have every opportunity to walk boldly with Jesus. God is not wrapped up or far off, hidden or kept under lock and key. No. The veil that separated, the stone that covered the easter tomb are no more. Which means that the things that separate us are not put in place by him, rather they are things we put in place.
This Easter take time to examine your own life and see the many ways you may keep separation between yourself and Jesus. Are there areas of your life that you want to keep hidden from him? Are there hurts youfeel that you don’t want to invite him into? Whatever it is, remember that at Easter we celebrate the work of Jesus which has made it possible for us to engage in life WITH God, there is no need for more separation; that which separated us from him has been torn open.