Accessibility options

23 04 2011

Accessibility options are important in 21st Century life and have become part of what we think of as our human rights.  A wheelchair user has as a right of access to a building, a visually impaired person has a right to use a computer with all sorts of adaptations to make this reality, women and men have equal access to employment opportunities, and so on.

Things were very different in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, particularly in the Temple. There had always been a hierarchy of access, and the physical layout of the Temple and its environs reflected this.  Here is a model which may give you an idea.

The large outer courtyard was as far as Gentiles were allow to go; Jewish women were allowed in further, Jewish men in general further still, priests in particular still further.  Finally the Holy of Holies could only be accessed by the High Priest and that just once a year on the Day of Atonement.  At each stage there was a physical barrier to remind people, “so far and no further”.

Luke inserts an extraordinary sentence into his account of Jesus’ death – “And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle”  (Luke 23:44-46). It would be easy to dismiss this as an irrelevance, a domestic detail that could be sorted with a quick trip to Fabricland or B&Q.  So why does he tells us?

The answer comes much later in the New Testament when the writer to the Hebrews helps us join the dots –

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The old sacrificial system of traditional Judaism has been superceded and now we have the invitation of God – “Come on in and be with me.”  We have Access all Areas – but only with a sacrificial price.


If you are interested in finding out more about the Temple, check out 1 Kings chapters 6-8.  Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 talk about how Jesus has replaced the priesthood and sacrificial system.




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