A LENTEN ADVENTURE for 2024: He Chose The Nails - Part 8, The Gift of the Torn Veil II

A LENTEN ADVENTURE for 2024: He Chose The Nails - Part 8, The Gift of the Torn Veil II

A LENTEN ADVENTURE for 2024 - Tuesday March 26


In Matthew 27:50, 51 we see that something happened when Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross.  “At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Let’s examine this veil for a moment to understand what it was like and what it represented.  It was a curtain made of blue, purple and scarlet woven linen – an excellent piece of workmanship with cherubim. It was hung with clasps over four columns of acacia wood covered in gold. The veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, where God Himself appeared in a cloud over the atonement cover located above the ark of the covenant.  Only the high priest, and only once a year (on the Day of Atonement, when God cleansed the people of all their sins), could enter the Holy of Holies, and only if his body was washed with water and only if he was dressed with the holy linen garments. (Exodus 26:31-34 and Leviticus 16:2-4, 29-34)

The veil was a curtain in the Temple of Jerusalem that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. In the Holy of Holies rested the “shekina glory”, the glory of the Most High God, the presence of the living God in all His holiness and all His power. This is where the ark of the covenant was located, as well as the atonement cover with the two cherubim at either end. The common Jew could go as far as the exterior patio of the Temple; the priests as far as the Holy Place. Only the high priest – and only once a year – could enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of a calf for atonement and a ram for a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people.   

If and when another entered, he would die instantly. This is why the high priest always entered with bells on the hem of his garment and with a rope tied around him. If the high priest delayed in coming out and if the bells could no longer be heard, the other priests assumed that the high priest had died, and they would use the rope to pull out the dead body from the Holy of Holies so that they would not have to enter and also die. 

The veil of the Temple visibly demonstrated and symbolized that God is holy, set apart and unapproachable; and that we are sinners far away from Him.   

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up His spirit. At that moment the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:50,51) In the same moment that Jesus died, when He gave up His spirit, the veil of the Temple was torn.  One moment the curtain was whole, and the next it was torn in two. The curtain of the Temple was torn in two “from top to bottom”. It was not an accident; it was the plan and purpose of God that the curtain should be torn in two.  God Himself tore it from top to bottom.  Keep in mind that the curtain was 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and most likely made of a thick and heavy fabric. Human hands would not have been capable of tearing the curtain. Only God Himself could tear it. Could it be that God tore it in two (not in three, four or more pieces) so that it would be like a door, no longer closed to all except the high priest once a year, but permanently open to all those who desired to enter?

Hebrews 10:19,20 says, “So, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death.  We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us.  It leads through the veil – Christ’s body.”

“‘… The curtain – Christ’s body.’  According to the writer, the curtain equals Jesus. Hence, whatever happened to the flesh of Jesus happened to the curtain.  What happened to his flesh?  It was torn. Torn by the whips, torn by the thorns.  Torn by the weight of the cross and the point of the nails.”  (ML)  When Jesus died, the curtain was also torn.  What happened to one happened to the other.

As Hebrews 10:19 says, there was no freedom to enter the Holy of Holies before the atoning death of Jesus. Before, the curtain separated a holy and unapproachable God from a sinful human race. In the Old Testament, Job 9:33 says, “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together.” But in the New Testament, 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” 

“Is not a mediator one who ‘goes between’?  Wasn’t Jesus the curtain between us and God?” (ML)  Now by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, ‘through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us … [through] Christ’s body’, there is truly freedom to draw near to God.  There are no longer barriers between us and the presence of God in the Holy of Holies.  Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Priests are no longer necessary between us and God because Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus was a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God to atone for the sins of the people.    

There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to atone for our sins as Hebrews 10:11,12 explains,  “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins…” Christ did not literally enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, which is only a figure of the true; Christ entered heaven itself to present Himself for us before God. “Nor did He enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own … But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:25-26)

This is why we can do what Hebrews 4:16 exhorts: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

“But we have a tendency to put the barrier back up.  Though there is no curtain in a temple, there is a curtain in the heart.” (ML)

Sometimes, many times, our guilty and shameful conscience for the sins we have committed is transformed into a veil that separates us yet again from God. As a result, we try to hide from Him, maintain our distance, avoid His presence.  We think that God is disappointed or even angry at us. But it’s not that way; God is waiting for us, He is not avoiding us, and He is not distancing us from Himself.  The curtain between us and God is still torn.  The door to His presence continues to be open.  And He continues to invite us in. 

“Don’t trust your conscience. Trust the cross. The blood has been spilt and the veil has been split.  You are welcome in God’s presence.  And you don’t even have to bring cookies.” (ML)