And That Is Why The Curtain Tore: on what it means when God rips things in half

“Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

Mark 15:37-38

The curtain hanging in Israel’s temple separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. It barred the way to the presence of Jehovah.

Only once a year, and never without a sacrifice, one man could step past the curtain as the representative of a sinful people before a flawless God. One after another, animals’ lives were offered as their substitute.

They were granted atonement – the promise that God would overlook their disobedience. They would not be judged this day. A tenuous peace held, but the curtain and the division it represented remained.

“…The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship…For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins

But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time…For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”

Hebrews 10:1, 4, 12, 14

And that is why the curtain tore. God was done with the patch jobs that could never totally deal with the problem. He was done with living at a distance. The time for his promise had come. So he laid down his own life and paid the price for good. And he ripped in half the symbol of the division between himself and us.

The curtain was not taken down and reverently folded. It wasn’t pushed aside like the curtain of a window that can be drawn shut again. It was torn – in a violent, final display of how God feels about there being a barrier between us.

It was a door thrust open with enthusiastic invitation.

Colossians 1 says this: “You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

Lord –

May I remember that, because of the cross, I stand before you blameless, without a single fault. You do not draw a curtain shut between us; you do not close yourself off from me.

Trustworthy, steady hope casts aside my hesitations and leads me through a torn curtain and into your inner sanctuary – to confide in you, to consult with you, to beg for your help face to face, to rest in your company.

There’s no waiting room or receptionist I must find favor with or schedule a time with to get past the closed door of a busy God who’s in high demand.

I can breeze in with all the assurance of my excited one-year-old who yells my name, pushes his way past my computer and paperwork, and scrambles onto my lap with grin. He is totally confident that he is wanted there. And I am your priority, just as he is mine.

Your desire is not for me to pause at the curtain.

Thank you, Lord, for paying such a high price to deal with my sin once and for all. Thank you for ripping in half the symbol that would restrain me from entering into your presence boldly.

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