(Part 1 of 2)
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”-Matthew 27:50-53
During the lifetime of Jesus, the temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully.
Hebrews 9:1-5 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies, the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence, from the rest of the temple:
“Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.”-Hebrews 9:1-5
The veil separated God in all His holiness from the sinfulness of mankind:
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”-Isaiah 59:2
Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond the veil once each year to enter into God’s presence to make atonement for the sins of Israel:
“But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;”-Hebrews 9:7
To understand the magnitude of the veil being torn in two, we need to look at the size and scope of the veil. In some translations the word veil is translated as curtain. This could cause us to picture it as a common curtain hanging in front of any window in your home. It wouldn’t take a tremendous amount of force to tear one of these in two. However, according to 1 Kings 6:2, Solomon’s temple was 30 cubits high (which is somewhere around 50-60 feet) and according to early Jewish tradition the veil may have been as much as four inches thick and was not constructed of paper thin material, but was designed to provide a barrier between God and man. For this veil to be torn in two would have required a tremendous amount of energy and would have communicated a humbling truth to those who were bound up in religion.
By this time, thousands of years after the Law of Moses had been given; Judaism had become steeped in the traditions of men. The Law which was intended to point men to God and reveal the nature of God, instead had become a checklist of do’s and don’ts that men used to gauge each other’s spirituality.
Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church