Have you ever been somewhere, or seen someone who has a lot of security? I remember being taken on a weekend away to Brighton with my brothers and sisters that happened to be at the same time as the Labour Conference when Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. The place was swarming with anti-capitalist protestors, who I was amused to see, all went and ate at McDonalds instead of smashing the windows as was there wont at the time, because the weather was just so bad. Because of this big event there were police everywhere. The place was swarming with people with guns, there were snipers on the roofs, looking miserable in that sideways cold rain you can get by the sea. We were there for a break, but we couldn’t move without someone in uniform looking on. There was no way commoners likes us would ever be allowed near someone like the prime minister.
The thing is, when we read about God in the Old Testament, this seems to be true too. Although there are encounters with God, one need only read about Isaiah’s vision or Moses seeing God’s back, it was understood that to be in the presents of God, whose holiness is so powerful that a fallen human was assumed would die instantly. God was by His nature, in some senses distant, surrounded by the security of His holiness. The only person allowed in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem was the High Priest once a year, and even then, a rope was tied around his ankle just in case that if he was to die being so close to God’s holiness, the other priests could pull out his body. In the temple was the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was, separated from everyone with a huge thick curtain, to stop the harm that might come to others who may come into the presence of God.
What a radical difference then, Jesus makes. In our Gospel reading we have this small section of Mark describing how Jesus is mobbed by crowds eager to be healed, to be blessed, to be freed. So much so that the only way Jesus can safely talk to any of them is to be stood on a boat away from the shore. Here is the Son of God and people are not killed by His undoubted holiness, but are able to mob Him, to press close to Him, to be blessed by Him.
The question then is, if Jesus is God, how come these people weren’t killed? Well this is the glorious thing about the incarnation. This is why, in this Christmas season in this season of revelation that is epiphany we cannot overstate the amazing miracle of the incarnation of God come down to Earth. You see the barriers between God and us were never God’s intent but a consequence of our sin our fallen human nature. In Jesus, God, fully human and fully man, began breaking down the barrier between God and His people. Began taking away sin from humanity by living as we do, but without sin. By carrying all that separates us from Him on the cross those barriers now broken for all who wished it were smashed. This is why we hear that at the moment of His death, during an earthquake, the curtain in the temple, separating humanity from the holiness of God was torn in two. The curtain you see was no longer needed. From now on, to this very day, through the work of the cross, everyday people like you and me could be made Holy and enter the presence of God, or in fact the presence of God enters us through His Holy Spirit. Instead of a High Priest needed in a temple, the author explained in our first reading, we now have Jesus who is our eternal High Priest. The more you think about it, the more amazing it is what Jesus does for us.
Maybe this is a long winded way of saying this – Just like the people found with Jesus, we have a God who has provided a way for normal folk like you and me, wherever our background, to approach the God who heals and who loves. There is no security in our way, there are no snipers on the roof, but we all have access to the king of the universe who wants to bless us and heal us and set us free. All this is possible through and only through Jesus. So my friends, access the grace won for you on a cross, share with others who need healing the story of God who came down to earth to set us free and be confident to approach the throne of grace where we find the arms of the star maker ready to receive us with love. Amen