The Reading: Matthew 27:45-54
“… the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;” (v.51) RSV
How can we approach the death of Jesus on the cross in a few words? So much has been written. His death is pungent and pregnant with meaning. There are so many wonderful elements; the more we survey the cross the more sparkling sides of the diamond we see. Yet today I want to highlight one often overlooked facet “… the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;” (v.51). What can this mean?
The curtain in the temple hung between the Holy of Holies where God (symbolically) dwelt. Only the High Priest could go in once a year taking blood with him in order to atone for his own sins and the sins of the people. God was otherwise unapproachable, shrouded in darkness, behind the curtain/veil. People respected him, worshipped him, and tried to serve him. But the un-passable or unbridgeable distance remained.
When Jesus died, his death unveiled or revealed God. The curtain was not reverently drawn back, no, it was wrenched away. What a flourish! And it was torn “from top to bottom” (v.51). This was no act of miniature man getting a grip on the bottom of the curtain and trying to remove the barrier. It was God himself who stretched down his mighty hand and rent away the division between himself and his beloved creatures from the top!
From that moment on the way was open. God has opened a door that no man can shut. Through Christ and his death we have access into the very presence of God. He has now become our Father. We may speak directly to him. What a joy, what a privilege!
Thank you Lord that on this day Jesus took my sins away. He took away guilt and shame and made a way back from the dark paths of sin. Praise be! Amen.
1 Note how Hebrews describes the way through to God.
2 What does John say about doors to God?
Revelation 3:8, 4:1