"...and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Gen 28:14)
Jacob's dream (Gen 28). The Lord establishes his covenant with the fleeing Jacob. The same covenant that was made with Abraham and Isaac, God now makes with Jacob. In a dream he sees a ladder (Heb., sullam), most likely a stairway of ascending stones reaching to heaven. (Perhaps even like the ziggurat of Genesis 11, only in this case it is God reaching down to man.) He sees angels going up and down the stairway, and he understands this to be gateway to heaven. He names the place Bethel (beth-el means the "house of God"). Through Jacob's family line, therefore, will come blessing for the whole earth. The angels ascending and descending peacefully would indicate that God, through Jacob's descendant, would bring reconciliation between heaven and earth. Jesus himself understood this to be a prophecy of his work in restoring Adam's fallen race: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (John 1:51). Jesus Christ is the true Bethel, the house of God and our gateway to heaven.
"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split." (Matt 27:51)
Trials and crucifixion (Matt 27). The way to reconcile a sinful world to the holy God, it's Creator, will be the bloody death of God's own Son. We can hardly imagine the scenes of mocking, anger, scourging, and brutality. Injustice reigned on what we call Good Friday. Both Jewish and Roman authorities were aligned against Christ (Psalm 2) and it seems they have brought Jesus to a final end. He is buried and the tomb is sealed. But God's clock is ticking.
Suffered under Pontius Pilate. Pilate seems concerned about justice, at times, but history has revealed him to be a pragmatic and cruel Roman autocrat. He's mainly concerned with preventing a public riot and so he washes his hands of Jesus to appease the crowd. Some unique items: Matthew tells us that Pilate's wife had a dream and spoke to her husband about it, which I find intriguing. One day I hope we will know the rest of the story about her dream. This gospel also mentions the tearing of the temple curtain in two from top to bottom, probably during the earthquake. Like Jacob's dream this torn curtain (separating the Holy of holies from the rest of the temple) would signify that access to God has been opened up through the death of Christ. God reaching down! Matthew also tells us about another event which the other gospel writers don't mention: that there were other resurrections after Jesus rose. Tombs were opened and bodies of some saints (believers) appeared. I'm not sure what to make of that. It's taken me years to realize I don't need to have, or give, an answer for everything in the Bible. So, I'm sure we can ask the Lord about that at the same time we ask about Mrs. Pilate's dream!
My take-aways: In both chapters we see that God is the One who opens the way back to him. He alone reconciles the world to himself through his Son. All through recorded biblical history we see that it is God who takes the initiative, God who reaches down, and God alone who accomplishes our salvation....
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:18-19)
Image above: stone staircase, photograph by Michal Venera.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.