The MRI machine drums an awkward melody like it’s chasing a rhythm and can’t quite catch up. The cold hard metal in front of me steams up as I breath, disguising my reflection just for a second before dissipating again. In tough times like these, I’m reminded we can confidently trust in the Lord during tough times.
The mass they found in my previous test is probably nothing. But it might be something. For this reason, I find myself in an MRI machine preparing for a breast biopsy.
Being squeamish of needles, and, well, anyone in a white coat, I practice my favorite trick to overcome anxiety (When Anxiety Knocks and God Answers). In my head, I say Jesus’ name over and over again. It seems way too easy, but I promise, it works.
This time I was singing to myself the simple chorus of a worship song from college:
Jesus, Jesus, You are the Holy and Anointed One. Jesus.
Repeating those lines over and over in my head, I remembered why Jesus is designated “The Anointed One”.
In Old Testament times, priests were anointed in the same way as kings. In preparation for the Day of Atonement, oil was poured on the High Priest to symbolize the Holy Spirit’s anointing. His job was to make sacrifices to God on behalf of ALL the people of Israel for that year’s sin.
Before stepping into the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence would dwell, precise preparations had to be made. The High Priest sacrificed a ram, goat and bull and he wore specific garments after a time of physical and spiritual purification. Over 400 priests were involved and all of Israel was commanded to fast.
Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, the most inner part of the temple, on one day a year. If he entered on a day other than The Day of Atonement, he would be killed.
Leviticus 16:11-14 describes the burning of incense in the Holy of Holies for two specific purposes. The act of offering incense was representative of the High Priest offering the prayer that God would accept their sacrifices and forgive their uncleanliness.
The incense also created a kind of smoke screen to prevent the High Priest from catching a glimpse of the Holy Presence of God. Doing so would result in certain death because no man could look upon God’s perfect holiness and live.
Can you imagine how stressful this must have been to the High Priest? Picture yourself waking up on the morning of the Day of Atonement and remembering the exacting role before you and the cost of screwing it up. It gives me a knot in my stomach just thinking about it.
Understanding the requirements of the Day of Atonement helps us to grasp the great cost of our sin and the tremendous freedom available to us in Christ’s sacrifice.
Christ’s death provided us with once-for-all atonement for sin as THE Anointed One – our Great High Priest.
When Christ died on the cross, He uttered the words “It is finished”, which echoed through the barren hillside (John 19:30).
At the same instant in Jerusalem, the temple curtains seemed to jerk as if hit by lightning. In the blink of an eye, they were torn from top to bottom by the hands of God Himself. In the moonlight, a cloud of dust was released from the heavy curtains in the same way that Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the burden of the Law.
No longer would we be separated from God’s presence by the curtain.
No longer would the power and guilt of sin belabor our souls.
And no longer would we be tethered to the burden of the Law.
As believers under the New Covenant, we don’t have to wait for the annual Day of Atonement for our sins to be dealt with.
We no longer have make daily sacrifices at the temple.
Christ, our Great High Priest, atoned for our sin once and for all, allowing us to enjoy His Presence every second of the year.
A smoke screen of incense no longer separates us from the Presence of God. Revelation 5:8 tells us our very prayers rise up to Him like a sweet aroma of incense the second we say them.
The second our prayers are uttered, God is already working on the behalf of his beloved children.
Imagine your prayers instantaneously lifting up into the throne room of God as a sweet fragrance to Him.
Because Christ is our Great High Priest, he continually intercedes for us before the Father.
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, He manifests His presence within us permanently through the Holy Spirit. We have permanent access to the very God whose presence could not be looked upon.
Christ becomes our Mediator and greatest Advocate.
Even if we are at the supermarket or in the carpool line, Christ dwells within us.
Whether we are neck-deep in family drama or enduring holiday stress, Christ dwells within us.
The peace of Christ stands between us and every single aspect of our lives.
It all must go before the Great High Priest. Every struggle, hardship or temptation must first get though my friend Jesus, before it can get to me.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Did you catch that? Unlike any other priest, Christ can sympathize with our struggles. Whether we are worried, fearful, or anxious, Christ can relate to our struggles in a way no one else can.
As you step into the inevitable of this holiday season, know that your prayers are heard every time they are uttered.
No matter what hardships come your way, know Christ indwells you and goes before you as your greatest advocate.
When you pray, remember Christ is your Great High Priest that permanently indwells you, God’s permanent sanctuary.
As I lay in the MRI machine, my breath steams up the metal surface before me once again. The steam dissipates and I see my reflection. This time, I’m reminded that my contact with Him is no longer shielded by a smoke screen or a curtain.
Instead, I’m comforted that my body is a permanent dwelling place for the Holy God of Israel.
He is already at working on my behalf to answer my prayers the moment I say them.
2019 Update: MRI Results
So you might be wondering what happened with my MRI results. I’m happy to say they were benign. When updating this post, I stumbled upon the following post I never published. This is significant because from where I stand entering 2019, everything turned out ok:
- My health is better than it has ever been
- We ended up getting a new dog named Jake
- Our house is completely recovered from the flood.
Here is a post from the other side of that horrible year and hopefully some encouragement to know that there are better times ahead for you as well for God never ever wastes hardships:
- Every trial involved some sort of waiting period.
- In every single trial, I ended up better than I started.