Thursday, March 24, 2016

Watershed Moments

Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a massive slippage beneath Prince William Sound in the northern part of the Gulf of Alaska triggered the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America in recorded history. Measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, it was even more powerful than the more recent destructive earthquakes in Indonesia and Japan.

All across Southcentral Alaska from Valdez to Kodiak, every city, town, village,including Alaska's largest metropolitan area, Anchorage, and connecting highways within a 300-mile radius were devastated--first by the quake itself and then by three successive tsunamis. Some villages were wiped off the map.

Seward before the Good Friday Earthquake
Seward after the Good Friday Earthquake
My family lived in Seward, 120 miles  south of Anchorage by road. To read about my family's experiences during the Good Friday Earthquake, go to my previous posts in 2014, Earthquake Part 1 and Earthquake Part 2.

Alaska frequently has earthquakes. Magnitude 7.0 is not unusual. But when Alaskans say "before the earthquake" or "after the earthquake," everyone there knows exactly which earthquake they are referring to. The Great Alaskan Earthquake of Good Friday 1964 was a watershed moment.

The Good Friday quake was a watershed moment in my life too. You can read about this in my previous posts from 2013: In a Matter of MinutesIn a Matter of Minutes Part 2In a Matter of Minutes Part 3In a Matter of Minutes Part 4, and In a Matter of Minutes Part 5. As a result of that quake, I met my husband. We've been married for nearly 49 years now. I often say that it took an earthquake to bring us together.

Another Good Friday earthquake over two millennia ago was even more momentous. The moment Jesus died on the cross on Golgotha's hill, the city of Jerusalem was shaken by a great earthquake.

Matthew 27:50-53 records that event: "Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."

The veil in the Tabernacle, which was replicated in the temple, was a thick curtain made of fine linen and blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. It divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, which was God had designated as His special dwelling place in the midst of His people.

Whoever entered the Holy of Holies entered the very presence of God. Anyone who entered except the high priest would die.

Even the high priest, God's chosen mediator with the people, could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement and only after meticulous preparation. He had to wash himself, put on special clothing, bring burning incense to let the smoke cover his eyes from a direct view of God, and bring blood with him to make atonement for the sin of the people.

The presence of God remained shielded from view behind this thick curtain, the veil, throughout the history of Israel. Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross changed that.

When He died, the curtain in the Jerusalem temple was torn in half from top to bottom. The curtain was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and four inches thick. It was too high for humans to reach and too thick to be torn. Only God could have done it.

As the veil was torn, God's presence was made accessible to all. Jesus' death atoned for our sins once and for all. The torn veil illustrated that Jesus' body was broken for us and opened the way for us to come directly to God. No longer do we need to offer animal sacrifices through a high priest. The sacrificial system looked forward to what Jesus would do for us on the Cross.

"It is finished!" Jesus cried. The ultimate offering has been sacrificed. God's redemptive plan is now complete.

"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:19-22).

This year, March 27 is Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day. We now have confidence that after death, comes the Resurrection! Alaska has fully recovered from that devastating earthquake of 1964. That earthquake was a watershed moment in my life. And the earthquake when Jesus died is a watershed moment for all time and eternity.

Jesus died, conquered death, and rose from the grave. He is interceding for us at the right hand of God the Father. Now, we can enter boldly into God's presence because of His all-sufficient sacrifice.

Happy Resurrection Day!


  1. What an excellent analogy...I will never think of the Alaskan earthquake in the same way again without remembering what took place on Ressurection Day.

    1. Thank you, Deb. Glad the post spoke to you as it did to me when the thought came to me. Happy Resurrection Day!AnnaLee