In The Holy of Holies
It is a fascinating theme that runs through the Bible; the idea of witnesses.
God will have His witnesses. He will have His witnesses because the acts of God are not something to be hidden away. They are to be done right out in public.
The theme is built into the Old Testament temple, where the ark of the covenant is placed between 2 Cherubim, one on each side. When God appeared to Abraham he was accompanied by 2 angels. When Jesus was transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration there were 2 witnesses, Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Him.
When Jesus stood trial, His accusers were unable to get 2 witnesses to testify because their testimony did not agree. But when Jesus was crucified there were the 2 witnesses, one on the right and one on the left. Those were the thieves, one of whom repented. God will have His witnesses.
Even more remarkable are the 2 witnesses in the tomb on Easter morning. John tells us that Mary Magdalene "stooped down to look into the tomb." Just like in the temple, there were 2 angels. They were "sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the feet." (John 20:12) God will have His witnesses!
This is a remarkable picture!
In the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant held the 10 Commandments, the Law of God convicting all sin. But that Law of God was covered over by the Cover of the Ark. The Cover became known as the Mercy Seat. Notice: 2 witnesses to the great acts of God, but this time the 2 witnesses are the Law of God and the Mercy of God.
The Mercy Seat was where the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled. That Day of Atonement Sacrifice was a picture of the sprinkled blood of Jesus, the One Great Sacrifice, as His blood covers our sins.
You might remember how the curtain in the Temple was torn in two at the death of Jesus. (Matthew 27:50-51)That was because the Mercy of God was coming into our world, bursting through all the separation built up between God and man. The Mercy Seat would be among us.
That Mercy Seat would be seen first by Mary Magdalene. When she stooped down to look into the tomb she saw fulfilled what the layout and arrangement in the Holy of Holies was pointing to. There in the tomb on Easter morning was the blood of the covenant, the blood of Jesus covering over the sin, death and judgment that the Law of God would pour out on us. And there were the 2 angels, one on each side, being the witnesses to the mercy of God.
By the way, another name for the Ark of the Covenant was "The Testimony." In the Old Testament it was the testimony about God's mighty acts, not only delivering His people through the Red Sea but God's own Testimony about all that He had done from the beginning of the world to bless us. If Jesus is placed between the 2 angels the He Himself becomes the Testimony, the witness by God Himself about all the merciful and saving acts of God.
But there is a wonderful and amazing difference.
The Ark of the Covenant did not get up and move itself. And the Cover, the Mercy Seat was stationary. But what happened on Easter morning with our Mercy Seat? He, Jesus, the Living Mercy Seat, rose from the dead and left the tomb to go and appear to Mary Magdalene, to walk with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to appear to the disciples in the Upper Room, to show them His hands and His side and to give them His peace.
He is still on the move, because He is a light to the nations, so that as His Father said, "that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6)
Lord Jesus, You are my Mercy Seat. You are the only place where I can find forgiveness, atonement, and the mercy of God. It is by Your cross and by Your blood that I have a place with God and belong. As Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!" Thank You. Let me walk with You. And let me hear Your invitation to come close and be with God in the Holy of Holies. Let me rejoice to hear Your word and be Your disciple. Amen.
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.