While I was reading in John 20:11-18 about Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb of Jesus (there are some gleanings on Mary in this other post), something else stood out and the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance a bible study from years ago on this. It was a sweet ride as I dug more into the Old Testament. Here are the connections from the Old and New Testaments:
The New Testament
If we look at John 20:12, we see how Mary found Jesus’ tomb when she went to it that dark, early morning. It says, “And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” This in itself is a specific detail that to us nowadays may look like just detail added for the specificity of this historical moment. However, if we look back to the Old Testament we can see that it is so much richer and deeper in meaning. Bear with me as these next sections are going to be bible reference heavy and I’ve copied the bible verses completely.
The Old Testament
In Exodus 25:18-20, it is talking about the directions God gave Moses in making the Ark of the Covenant, “And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.”
In Leviticus 16:14,33-34, it is taking about how God directed Aaron to follow specific directions in offering up a sacrifice for atonement. It says, ”And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.” “He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.”
Connecting the Old and New
God had prescribed a very specific way of making the tent of meeting and all its content and also of how to sacrifice to Him. We know that these very specific instructions on creating it all was a pattern of that in heaven because of Hebrews 8-10. Ok, let’s read through some of the verses from these few chapters…
Hebrews 8:1-2 “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.”
Hebrews 8:5 “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” (references Exodus 25:40)
Hebrews 8:13 “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Hebrews 9:2-5 “For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section[c] called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”
Hebrews 9:11-14 “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Hebrews 10:1-4 “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Hebrews 10:11-12 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”
Hebrews 10:18-22 “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
The Comparison Breakdown
- The pattern God gave Moses in the Old Testament was based on the heavenly model.
- That included a mercy seat with 2 cherubim on either side of it in which the blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled.
- The high priest was to sacrifice and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat as part of the atonement process for the sin of the people.
- Jesus came down as our perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.
- His bloody body was laid in a tomb to stay for 3 days until He rose.
- Mary comes in to see the place where His body lay, now empty of His body but with 2 angels sitting on either sides of where He had lay.
It’s creates a beautiful imagery of the mercy seat, with the blood of Christ sprinkled between 2 angels, serving as an immediate picture of what had just been completed in heaven. Jesus, our High Priest, was our sacrifice and it was His blood sprinkled on the heavenly mercy seat to atone once and for all for the sins of His people.
We now, because of Jesus’ sacrifice and service as our High Priest, can confidently enter the presence of our Holy God and draw near to Him as redeemed people to be seen by our Father as pure and blameless before Him. Praise be to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!