And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51
I’ve been watching the mountains behind our house lately. In the Spring, they turn green from the bottom up as the trees leaf out. In Fall, they do just the opposite and turn color from the top down. I don’t know if it was that we celebrated Easter not too long ago, or my appreciation of the arrival of Spring or a combination of the two, but somehow, looking at those mountains thinking about that bottom to top and back again made me think of what Jesus’ death on the cross really accomplished.
Matthew records one of the events that happened as Jesus died. The veil of the temple was torn in half from the top to the bottom. In order to understand the significance of that we need to take a quick look at a portion of the Jewish Tabernacle. It had an outer courtyard where most people could enter. After passing by some of the various elements there hung a very heavy veil. Now remember that the Tabernacle was constructed according to the plan God gave Moses in Exodus 24. It was incredibly detailed. On the other side of the veil was the ark of the Covenant protected by two seraphim. The Shekinah glory of God came down upon the ark. Only the High Priest could enter what was called the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) where he made special atonement for the sins of all the people.
Because of this, the veil represented the separation between God and man because of sin. It showed the separation of sinful man from the absolute holiness of God. That made this instance of the tearing of the veil momentous. It signified that Jesus’ blood shed on the cross made the necessary atonement for the sin of mankind. This dramatic act opened the Holy of Holies to all mankind.
The other thing this dramatic act symbolized is the fact that there is only one way to enter into God’s kingdom for all eternity and that is through the blood offering of Jesus Christ. There is no other religion; no other sacrifice; not one other thing we can do apart from that to spend eternity in heaven with God. Jesus’ death on the cross removed the barrier that existed between man and God. There is no special prayer that saves us other than the prayer of a repentant heart to a forgiving God asking Him to enter in with His free gift of salvation. And that, my friends, is grace.
The book of Hebrews has much to say about the Tabernacle and how Jesus was the Tabernacle made without hands. I think I love this passage in Chapter 4 as the best place where we see what the torn veil really did for us:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
What a great encouragement the author of Hebrews gives us! No matter what we encounter in life, Jesus was tempted with it Himself and understands our weaknesses. And even so, God has made provision for us through that torn veil to enter right into His throne of grace to find what we need when we need it. I don’t know about you my friends, but, this is encouragement I need every single day.