Matthew 27: 50-53
Top to bottom. Jesus cried out again from the cross and then yielded up His Spirit into the hands of God. The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. This veil was four inches thick. It had done its job of symbolizing the separation of man from God because of the sin of man and the holiness of God, showing the difference between the common priests and the high priest, and protecting the sanctification of the atonement sacrifice on that yearly day of atonement. It had done this both in the tabernacle and in the temple of Solomon for about 1400 years with some interruptions during times of captivity and at least one replacement during the building of the temple.
It is said that this “handbreadth” thick curtain required 300 priests to manipulate so that security in the crowded temple could insure that no man would fall into the Holy of Holies on the feast days. I don’t know that these traditions are accurate, but I do know that a curtain that’s four inches thick and sixty feet high is a formidable sewing project and durable beyond any curtain I have ever seen (and certainly beyond any I have ever sewn)!
And, in an instant, it was torn, like a piece of paper from top to bottom. Any earthly tearing, by humans, of such a curtain would surely have been done from bottom to top. God was doing the tearing, thus he ripped it from His own heavenly vantage point. It was instantaneous. It was intentional. It was instructive.
And people knew about the tearing. The Jews knew. They were assembled there on the temple mound for the purpose of the celebration of the Passover ceremonies at that very spot. They knew that at the darkest moment in the history of the world—literal darkness, too—an earthquake and the resurrection of dead people occurred right there in the place of their assembly. The curtain was not the only action that was occurring from the vantage point of heaven.
And, for the first time in Jewish history, the High Priest had finished his work. It is finished. There was no dividing curtain. All of the priests—that’s you and me—have full access to and communion with the High Priest—that’s Jesus—and the sacrificial Lamb has been slain. Propitiation has been accomplished for all time.
The amazing irony? According to history the Jewish leaders got busy in veil repairing. They quickly assembled their craftsmen (How do you even repair a curtain that has a sixty foot tear when it is four inches thick?) and began the business of trying to re-separate God from man! Then they continued going about the business of offering the blood of bulls and goats for another forty or so years before the Lord came in judgment on Jerusalem. Unthinkable.
Don’t be foolish. Don’t let sin separate you from the Holy God. Don’t reconstruct the curtain that Calvary took away. Contact the blood of the One who cried with a loud voice signaling the finishing of the work of redemption for you. Be sure you know-that-you-know exactly why you are being washed in that blood at baptism—for the forgiveness of your sins. Otherwise, your immersion is just a plunging in a pool. Make the curtain tearing a very personal gift from God in your life!