Each week this year, I am challenging myself to memorize a verse (or verses) of Scripture. I hope you will join me!
This week’s Memory Verses are Mark 15:37,38. In these verses we see God unveiling His heart through Christ on the cross…
This passage gives us a glimpse into knowing God better. The tearing of the Temple curtain, or Temple veil, shows us God’s heart for us. Let’s look at the miracle that happened at 3PM on Good Friday afternoon.
The Temple curtains hung down about 60’ from the ceiling of the Temple, covering an opening 30’ wide. They were a woven fabric; threads of gold and silver braided together. The curtains were about as thick as a man’s palm, several inches. Technically, there were 2 curtains.
Temple worship was – more or less – based on concentric squares. There was the outer court, the court of the Gentiles, where Jesus upset the tables of the venders and the money-changers. This was the only place non-Jews could worship. From there was the Court of Women. Getting closer from there was where Jewish men would worship. Even further still was the Holy Place, where the Jewish priests would offer sacrifices. This was separated from the outer courts by a curtain.
But, even further still was the Most Holy Place, called the Holy of Holies. This was, in the people’s minds, the dwelling place of God’s presence. In the original Temple built by Solomon – the Temple of Jesus’ day was actually the 3rd temple, built by the scoundrel Herod the Great, who had tried to kill Jesus as a baby – the ark of the covenant was kept in the Holy of Holies. The ark was the box made to keep the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. On the beautifully decorated lid of the ark was the mercy seat; there the blood of an innocent, unblemished lamb was poured out on the Day of Atonement, now called Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday in the fall. The ritual sacrifice was for the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, of God’s people.
Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies behind the curtain.
It was this curtain, the inner veil, that split in 2 when Jesus died. The presence of God was no longer limited to one person once a year. This miracle unveils 3 things about God’s heart for you and me:
– God’s Approachability
All people were now admitted into God’s presence. Because of this, no person can stand between us and God. We don’t need to go through a priest or church leader. In Christ, every person has direct access to the presence of God. The torn veil is God’s invitation to approach Him.
– God’s Availability
In people’s minds then, God’s presence was confined to the Holy of Holies. Worship was more or less limited to the Temple. But the curtain was ripped in 2, from top to bottom. That was a sign God wanted to be let out, as if anyone could contain Him to a single building anyway!
– God’s Affection
The Gospel of Mark is an action-packed story, telling us little of Jesus’ teachings. But, it reveals how God felt about His Son Jesus. Marks’ introduction says Jesus was and is the Son of God. At Jesus’ baptism, God announced: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At Jesus’ transfiguration God said this: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” And, at Jesus’ death, God responded as any Jewish father would at the death of His Son. What did Jacob do when he thought his son Joseph was eaten by wild animals? He tore his clothes as a sign of deepest sorrow. What did Job do when he heard his children had all been killed? He ripped his clothes as a sign of deepest sorrow.
When Jesus bowed His head and committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, God tore the curtain from top to bottom, as a sign of deepest sorrow, flowing from His love for Jesus. By this vivid gesture, God showed He had been nearby through that horrible ordeal.
God is not distant from your sufferings. God mourned when His Son suffered for you. And God orchestrated the whole thing – God allowed Himself to suffer deeply – because of His love for you.