Thank you to our Vox Springfield Team Member Dan Tedone for today's guest blog.
For most people (myself included), the Oval Office of the White House is an intimidating place. If I were to visit the grounds, I would feel a certain sense of reverence for what the room represents. I would tread lightly; my inner voice might say—"Don't talk too loudly," "Be careful what you say," "Be mindful about how you look,"… "Keep it together while you're here." However, for some, the experience of walking into the Oval Office is a part of everyday life.
There is a famous photo of John F. Kennedy Junior playing beneath his father's desk. For most children, going to work with dad is an exciting endeavor. I remember the days when my father would take me to ride in bulldozers and backhoes; he would let me push the buttons and pull the levers. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories. My playground was piles of dirt and giant metal machines; John Jr.'s was the Oval Office and The Resolute Desk.
At the time of this photo, John F. Kennedy Senior was the sitting President of the United States. John Jr. played beneath his desk. Where most of us would be trembling, he was at home. Look closely at the photo. The boy does not express any fear, concern, anxiety, or intimidation. While conversations about military strategy, economics, and geopolitics swirled around him—powers far beyond his boyish comprehension—he played lazily in the background. He simply enjoyed his father's company. He was at home. John Jr. had access because of who his father was.
In some ways, the biblical story can be summarized by the word “access.” In the beginning, humanity had complete access to God's presence. Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, they were deceived by a crafty serpent. They sinned, eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and forfeited their access to the Garden… and to God's presence. Their disobedience trickles down to all people, leaving humanity separated from and longing for God's presence (Rom. 5:18a).
From that moment on, one question dominates the landscape of the Old Testament: How do God's people regain access to his presence? God responded by assigning a group of people to mediate his presence to the people of Israel. In other words, God chose certain individuals who could communicate with him on behalf of the people. This special group was called the Levitical Priesthood.
The Levitical Priesthood had a powerful role to play in Israel's history. While the prophets became the voice of God to the people, the priests became the voice of the people to God. Andrew S. Malone summarizes the Priesthood's responsibility well; he says, "The majority of a priest's task is to facilitate the reduction of the gap between God and humanity."1 They achieved this task in three ways: (1) entering God's presence on behalf of the people, (2) praying for the people and connecting them to God, and (3) making sacrifices on behalf of the people.
The people could not make atoning sacrifices apart from the priests. Thus, without the Priesthood, the people could not stand in right relationship with Yahweh. Sadly, the Priesthood failed (see Exodus 32). When the priests faltered and sinned, the whole nation followed in their footsteps (see Numbers 16; 1 Samuel 2:12–17, 27–36). Rather than drawing near to God and reducing the gap, they turned from him and disobeyed his commands. The gap grew ever wider.
Thankfully, God did not abandon his people to isolation. Even though the people could not draw close to him, he decided to draw close to them. He sent his Son, Jesus (John 1:14), who altogether annihilated the gap. Though Jesus dwelt in perfect unity with the Father, he laid that aside by becoming a man. Then, he laid aside his human life by taking your sin and mine upon himself, dying on the cross. While he hung, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). Jesus forsook his access to God's presence so that you could have perfect access.
Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Jesus paved the way into God's presence for all who believe. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our Great High Priest, and through him, we can "confidently approach the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). Unlike the Levitical Priests, Jesus did not fail. He did not give in to sin or temptation, but he "was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8). Jesus crushed the gap. You now have perfect access to your Heavenly Father.
Do you believe that you are far from God? Do you believe that your mistakes limit your ability to access his presence? Do you think you've "missed the mark,” and can never recover? Do you think you've gone too far to be forgiven?
The Good News about Jesus says that you can have hope, freedom, life, and access to God's presence. Just as John Jr. could play in the Oval Office because of who his father was, God wants to adopt you as his child, giving you entry into his kingdom. Jesus was the Great High Priest; he paid for your access to God's presence. Through his death and resurrection, you can become a part of God's family, finding forgiveness, grace, and love.
View more about this in our recent sermon "The Distance".
 Andrew S. Malone, God's Mediators: A biblical theology of priesthood (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017), 46. Italics mine.