And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom… (Matthew 27:50-51)
When this post goes live it will be Easter Sunday – resurrection sunday. The day that Christians throughout the world celebrate the literal and actual resurrection of Christ Jesus. As I’ve done for the past 3 Easters (doesn’t seem like I’ve been blogging for 4 years) I wanted to share a post on some aspect of Easter. First I posted about the meaning of the word “Tetelestai” that Christ shouted from the cross. Then I posted about what was good about Good Friday. Last year I posted about living in the shadow of an empty tomb.
This year, I want to visit Good Friday again and talk about the torn veil in the temple. You see, like with most things in the life, death and resurrection of Christ there is specific Old Testament explanations that go beyond just reading the words in the New Testament here. In the past I have talked of the proofs and historical evidences in favor of the resurrection of Christ as being great reasons to believe Christianity. The harmony of the Bible is another reason. There is no doubt from a scholarly perspective (from believing non-believing/even hostile scholars alike) that the various books of the Bible were written at different times by different authors in different professions (tax collectors, fishermen, Kings, prophets, farmers, shepherds, a doctor, a pharisee who persecuted the Christians originally). Yet… This collection of 66 separate books written over a stretch of 1500 years – is in harmony. Let’s talk about example – the significance behind the tearing of the temple veil in light of Christ’s mission and purpose of his life, death and resurrection.
What was significant about this temple veil?
The veil of the temple was no ordinary curtain. It separated the “Holy Place” from the “Most Holy Place”. You see in the temple and the tabernacle that came before it, the Priests would receive various offerings described in the Old Testament. The Holy Place was where most of this work was done. It was where most of the offerings were taken. It was a holy place and there were examples in the Old Testament of people not approaching it with the appropriate honor and spirit of Worship and their end was death. The Holy Place was still a set apart place, but the Most Holy place (the Holy of Holies as it is also referred to)??? That was set apart further. There was a large 60′ high veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. It was inside this Most Holy Place that only the High Priest could enter, and then only but once a year for the national day of atonement (Yom Kippur) to make a sacrifice for the sins of the nation. The High Priest himself had to make a sacrifice for himself and prepare himself before he went in there.. For in the Holy of Holies the physical presence of God dwelled. We are sinful, we are not able to enter the presence of God on our own. This veil represented that – on one side was God, on the other side was us in our sins, unable to directly approach a perfect and Holy God on our own. The veil was significant because it was a great sign of the relationship between us and God in Old Testament times… There were believers in those times, many people looked forward to the redeeming work of Christ and trusted that God would do what He said and put their faith in that work, many examples throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did fill people and work in people He chose to work in but it was not a permanent dwelling.
The Significance of the Tearing
Christ came to earth as a love offering of God. Jesus Christ was God wrapped in human flesh coming to pay the full satisfaction of our sin debt. Every wrong we’ve committed. Every small or large sin separates us from God and we are behind that veil of sin. On Good Friday some 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ – the judge of the world – stepped down from His heavenly bench, took off His heavenly judge’s robe and allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to pay the price of our sins. When He did this He gave us a new way of access to God, if we accept his gift. The tearing of the veil brings a few lessons to mind…
It was torn from top to bottom – This was an act of God – not of man. God made the step of sending Christ for us. God opens our hearts to allow us to accept (or reject if we so choose) Christ. When Christ’s redeeming work was complete on the cross, the veil in the temple was no longer necessary. We didn’t need to go through a High Priest and religious ritual to get to God. Not because we changed, not because we were any better.. But because God Himself bore the weight of our sin and opened that path in the person of Jesus Christ.
Significance for believers today – We should look to the veil that was once separating the temple as a reminder of the separation our sin creates from God. We should remember how we were when we were dead in our sins and what life is like now. It is also important to remember that the veil was torn from top to bottom.. God didn’t just cause the veil to be torn, God also paid for our sins. Our salvation is nothing we could earn (even if we wanted to!), we didn’t make the first move – God did. This should help us to remember to love others with the love we are called to, it should help us to stay grounded – we aren’t any better than anyone – we are sinners who happen to have accepted the grace of God.
We should remember what the veil signified also – separation. Even after believing, our sin can separate us – in a sense – from God. No, we aren’t cast away, we aren’t out of a relationship but our fellowship can be broken. God wants what is best for us. He wants us walking as Christ walked. He wants us intentionally choosing to live lives of Worship and let our direction be guided. When we don’t do that. When we let our flesh get in the way – that relationship is busted… We are still His, we are still Heaven bound saints but our relationship isn’t what it could or should be. Our fruit won’t be what it could be, our lives aren’t the examples of Christ likeness they could be. We’ve put a veil up and we need to let God tear it down by getting back to Him. We need to be in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship with other believers and seek daily to die to ourselves and live for Christ (A verse from a Bible Study I’m doing with some brothers from the SQL community comes out here – Luke 9:23 – “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” If we aren’t willing to do those things, that second veil won’t be lifted and our lives aren’t going to be what God intends for them to be.
Significance for non-believers – Quite simply, there is still a veil between you and God. If you have never trusted Christ but are leaning on your own goodness, leaning on a set of rules you try to follow, leaning on letting your good outweigh your bad, or a set of works – the veil to a relationship with God is still there. The Bible tells us that no one is good enough to cross that barrier for we have all sinned (I do daily, Billy Graham does daily – even your grandmother did/does). So there is a veil between you and God. On one side stands God – perfect holiness, absolute justice but also perfect love and mercy. On the other side is you – an imperfect person who has committed sins as small as a white lie – but just as much a sin to a holy and just God as any other. That veil is there because we can’t enter into a Holy God’s presence like this. He can’t accept us like that and still be just, Holy, Righteous and perfect Truth. The veil is thick and real. When Christ died and that physical temple curtain was rent in two, he provided a gap in this veil of your heart. That’s the heart of Christianity. That’s the theme of the Bible – God is perfect, we ‘aint – yet He provided a way that only He could provide. You can let Christ show you the gap through that veil, you can let Christ tear this veil in your heart from top to bottom. That’s the message of resurrection Sunday – that Christ was victorious over death – and because He lives – we can too.
I hope this Easter season we can reflect on the physical veil and contemplate the spiritual veils in our hearts. I can tell you that I’ve built and accumulated a lot of threads that have built a veil in my heart. I am God’s but I can’t say that I’ve lived Luke 9:23 every day or even many days. How foolish of me. I’m an adopted son of the living God’s and yet I try to lean on me, try to go it alone instead of in complete reliance and utter dependence on the one who wrote the book of life and already wrote it’s ending. Let’s work on our diligence in chasing after God and let Him finally remove the remnants of any veil over our hearts. Drop me a note if I can pray with you for anything.
God Bless and Happy Easter. He is risen!