By Anthony Casperson
Over the past few months, I’ve seen several tweets of people celebrating their completion of the video game Assassin’s Creed Origins. Their total number of hours poured into the game, since it’s release last October, reaching into the hundreds. These little celebrations have made me think about my introduction to the game series that’s been around for just over a decade.
While hanging out with some friends, we had gotten tired of the competitive game we had been playing. One guy asked if the other two of us had played any Assassin’s Creed games. We hadn’t. So, he fired up the game save that he’d playing. This was the third game in the series, subtitled Brotherhood.
He gave both of us a chance to play in the freeroam portion of the game. The controls were intuitive. I walked down the streets of Rome. A little thievery, a few guard kills, some hiding in haystacks, and even a rooftop chase after another thief who had stolen some of my friend’s well earned money. The game seemed fun.
Then I came across a bridge with some guards. The map said that it was still undiscovered. I wanted to explore. But as I approached, a strange wall of code sprang into existence. I walked closer wondering what that was all about. The code grew darker. My friend said that the story hadn’t progressed far enough to allow me to enter the Vatican.
I wasn’t allowed in.
“Well, that’s stupid,” I thought aloud. Why would I be allowed to see a place that I can’t go yet? It’s right there. Why is this wall keeping me from going to a location designed for me to go? Just because I hadn’t reached a certain level, I wasn’t good enough to be allowed in? This imaginary wall is keeping me from being able to experience everything that I’m supposed to.
This line of questioning might sound a bit naïve considering that we experience many walls in life, both visible and invisible. There are areas where we don’t go because we don’t work at the location. Or we don’t live there, so we have to be asked to enter.
But the thing about walls is that they separate us from having to deal with each other. This is especially true when the walls keep people from different perspectives apart. We don’t cross a line because we’re not rich enough. Or we don’t dare go down that street because we’re afraid of the people who live down it. Or we don’t enter into a building because the people in it hold very different beliefs from us.
During the Lent season, we’ve been focusing on what the event of Easter teaches us. Looking at different parts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, our thoughts in this season should change us to be more like the Savior who sacrificed himself for us.
This week, we’re looking at a very small part of the event with very big ramifications. The event doesn’t even take up the whole verse in any of the three places it appears: Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45.
It was the best Friday. Darkness reigned as the Light of the world hung on the cross. Jesus, God enfleshed in humanity, breathed his last. At that moment, back in the city of Jerusalem, the curtain hanging between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place in the Temple ripped. Not just a little tear, but from top to bottom, it split in two.
This was no small feat. The curtain would have been about 4 inches thick and 60 feet tall. To be torn in half from top to bottom meant a tremendous act of strength. Beyond the mobile wall, stood the room that God had chosen to represent his heavenly throne room here on earth. Only the high priest was allowed to go beyond the curtain. And that was only one day a year, on the Day of Atonement. On top of that, the high priest was only allowed to enter that day after certain ritual cleansings and a specific sacrifice had been made.
A precursor to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the Day of Atonement allowed humanity to enter the presence of God. But on that Friday that Jesus died, God rent the curtain that kept humanity from being able to freely come to God without a mediator. He broke down the wall that keeps us from coming directly to him.
This act was symbolic of tearing down every wall that kept any people from being in relationship with him.
The Temple had several courts. At the outermost ring, the Court of Gentiles kept people who were not of the Jewish heritage from coming any closer to God. Within that, the Court of Women left non-males from coming closer to holiness. Beyond that ring, the Court of Israel allowed any Jewish male enter. But if you were not of the tribe of Levi, you couldn’t go into the Court of Priests. And then, you get to the Most Holy Place, God’s presence.
When that curtain tore in reality, every one of those walls broke symbolically. The cross calls us to relationship with God. It allows us to come into his presence. And it was God’s choice to allow this. The cross undid everything that sin had broken. Before the Fall, God walked in the garden with the man and woman he had created. There was a closeness of relationship that sin sundered. And it has been undone as the God-man breathed his last.
But more than just that, the cross calls us to relationship with others as well. If there are no walls between us and God’s presence, then there’s nothing that should separate we who are his people. Ephesians 2:14 tells us that Jesus broke down the wall that separates us. In context, that refers to the wall between Jew and Gentile. But there’s so much more than just that dividing wall.
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (ESV). Race, socioeconomic standing, gender, nothing separates us from access to God. Thus, we are called in this to live with, love, and work alongside all who belong to Jesus.
The cross calls us to relationship. With God and others. In American culture, there has been a lot of talk about equality. We can find no greater place of equality than in the love of God that came through the cross. So, let’s stop trying to build up walls that have been torn down for millennia.
In this time where we celebrate the breaking down of the wall between us and God, let’s break down the walls between us an others.