“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” (Mark 15:37 NIV)
The very moment Jesus, Having cried again with a loud voice, gave up His spirit. The temple curtain was torn from the top down (Matt 27:51 NIV). This curtain, known as the “veil,” was made of fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn. This veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. The word “veil” in Hebrew means a screen, divider or separator that hides. What was this curtain hiding? Essentially, it was shielding a Holy God from sinful man. Whoever entered into the Holy of Holies was entering the very presence of God. In fact, anyone except the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies would die. Even the high priest, God’s chosen mediator with His people, could only pass through the veil and enter this sacred dwelling once a year, on a prescribed day called the Day of Atonement.
“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” (Hebrews 9:7 NIV)
The veil was a barrier to make sure that man could not carelessly and irreverently enter into God’s awesome presence. So the presence of God remained shielded from man behind a thick curtain during the history of Israel. However, Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross changed that. When He died, the curtain in the Jerusalem temple was torn in half, from the top to the bottom. Only God could have carried out such an incredible feat because the veil was too high for human hands to have reached it, and too thick to have torn it. The curtain that was about 60 feet in height, 30 feet in width and four inches thick. Furthermore, it was torn from top down, meaning this act must have come from above. The torn veil illustrated Jesus’ body broken for us, opening the way for us to come to God. The age of animal offerings was over. The ultimate offering had been sacrificed.
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)
As Jesus cried out “It is finished!” on the cross, He was indeed proclaiming that God’s redemptive plan was now complete. He has done everything that God himself had required of him. He completed the work God gave him to do, “It is finished,” was his cry. These are the words of exultation of the man Christ Jesus. Aren’t we delighted to finish a great task? You type the very last footnote of the Ph.D. thesis,three years work! – “it’s finished” you say to your husband. You walk out of prison after a ten year sentence – “it’s finished” you say. You make the last payment of a thirty year mortgage – “it’s finished.” You complete rebuilding a derelict house from the foundations to the roof with additional extensions – “it’s finished.” You sail around the world single-handed and finally step ashore in the harbor you left months earlier – “it’s finished.” Here is the Christ Jesus expressing a deep inward sensation of relief.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)
Jesus torn down the temple curtain through his sacrifice of death on the cross. We are now free to come to God and speak to Him directly. The High Priest of yesteryear who for centuries needed to part the curtain in order to enter the sanctuary is no longer necessary. Jesus has torn away the curtain and has said, “Come and be with me.” Today, the veil is gone! Because of Jesus Christ, our “new and living way,” we can come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in our time of need. Through Jesus, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only is God not hidden from us, he indwells within us. By the New Covenant, He no longer must hide His face from us for we are made worthy by his blood. “Don’t you know that your yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? God’s temple is sacred; and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NIV) We often forget the seminal nature of the New Covenant: through his blood, Jesus has given us the opportunity to have a deep personal relationship with God.
God is not far away, He is very near and you Indeed can have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ!