An Invitation from God
The Bible is an amazing book. It tells the most wonderful story in history. It is filled with meaning. Every written word was chosen by God Himself. The Holy Spirit works to bring His messages to life as you read it. It is a living work of your Creator expressing His story to you. Yet, in your familiarity with this book, you can miss parts of the message. This often happens when you know the account so well that you take certain parts of it for granted. The tearing of the veil in the Temple is one example. It takes place in the midst of a world changing scene, Jesus on the Cross, so it is easy to overlook. It is also shortly before the greatest finale of any drama in history – the Resurrection of Jesus. It can be tempting to skip past the veil when you contemplate the Passion every year on Good Friday. Yet, this simple act of God is so heavily connected with the message of God’s plan of redemption, it is worth stopping and considering the question:
Why did God tear the Veil of the Temple while Jesus was on the Cross?
The short answer: It is God portraying what Jesus just accomplished on the Cross. It is an invitation from God to come back to Him. It is a symbolic expression of what Jesus said so beautifully in the Gospels:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
The more in depth answer starts all the way back at the beginning. Its root is in the worst moment in man’s story – the fall of Genesis.
Mankind started off in a wonderful position. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. This was a paradise created by God for them. There was no struggle, strife, death, or pain. There was something much better. They lived every day in fellowship with God. He walked among them in the cool of the day. Man was created to be close to God. This intimate relationship was destroyed, though, from the moment Adam disobeyed God. Sin entered the world and all of the terrible things you struggle with in this life came along with it. God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden. There was seemingly no hope for return…or was there?
Do you remember what God did to prevent man’s return to the Garden?
He placed cherubim, powerful angels, with fiery swords at the gates of the Garden. They were there to guard the entrance. They ensured that nothing unholy could get face to face with God again. This was as much a protection of man as it was a punishment. God’s holiness is much like the sun’ s heat. It is so intense that nothing made by man can get near it without being consumed. Sinful man could not be in the presence of Holy God without judgment. Sin let its presence be known with Adam eating the fruit. Soon thereafter, you have Cain killing Able out of anger. It goes downhill from there. But even in the angels keeping man out, God gives a clue that a plot twist is coming. These angels show up again in God’s narrative of redemption. Can you guess where?
Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem according to God’s pattern. The Lord decided how it should be laid out. It was set up as a series of courtyards one inside each other. The outermost one was for the Gentiles. The inner ones became more exclusive as you went. There was one for Jewish women then one for Jewish men and then the Levites and Priests. It was a system that kept most people at a distance from God.
The most sacred and exclusive place in the Temple was the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was there. It was the symbolic dwelling place of God. Only one man went there and only once per year. The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies only on the Day of Atonement. He approached God to ask that man’s sins of the past year be covered through the yearly sacrifice. This was such a daunting task that the High Priest offered a sacrifice for Himself before entering in. He also attached a rope to his leg just in case there was sin in him and God struck him down. The other priests who were not allowed to enter could pull him out if this happened. This is so far from God’s original plan of walking in in peace with Him in the cool of the day.
Do you know what separated this central holy place in the Temple from the rest of the structure? What kept man out? A heaven linen veil hung from the high ceiling of the Temple to its floor. It was said to be 6 inches thick and 60 feet high by Josephus, the Jewish historian. He also described the pictures depicted on the veil like a tapestry. There were pictures of cherubim woven in gold thread. These were the same might angels of God who guarded the entrance to Eden. The Jewish people believed it was a picture of the boundary between God and man. Are you seeing God’s message? It is so wonderful!
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: 50-51
What did Jesus say just before He gave up His spirit and veil was torn?
“It is finished.” The original Greek word translated there was an accounting term. It meant that something was completed, yes. It also indicated that a debt had been completely paid off. An account was cleared. Jesus ordeal on the Cross was over. That was finished. The debt of mankind that began to accrue with Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden was also paid off. You debt it paid!
The tearing of the veil is God’s clear invitation to you. therefore. Jesus paid for what Adam, Eve, Cain, and every sinful man did in history. There is no more need for the cherubim to guard the approach to close fellowship with God. You can run back to your Father whenever you like.
God tore the veil that symbolized that separation – cherubim and all – from the top where only He could reach it to the bottom. He threw open the doors to heaven and made sure everyone knew it! No more exclusion, no more outer courtyards, need for priests, or fear — just everyone getting to the presence of God through Jesus.
He is the door, He is the Way, He is the vine! You only get to the Father through Him.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
The tearing of the veil calls you to go boldly to God directly…no matter how many people try to make you go through them. Go to Him! Jesus is calling you!