I wrote last week about the tearing of the curtain in the Temple at Jesus’ death and suggested its significance was that of an invitation: an invitation into the presence of God.
It’s a really big deal, speaking volumes about God’s grace.
Note that, normally, the only person who could enter the Most Holy Place was the High Priest of God’s people. He had to be a descendant Levi, the son of Jacob. He had to be a descendant of Aaron, Moses’ brother. He could only enter once a year, and when he did, it had to be with an offering of blood. To enter any other time carried a death sentence. For anyone else to enter was unthinkable.
But Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi. Though he was a High Priest, he was not a descendant of Aaron. Though his priesthood was much older than Aaron’s, entering into that Most Holy Place still cost him his life, for the blood of his admission was his own.
In doing this, God opened the way into His presence not just for one man, but for all. In doing it, God changed everything. He changed everything for us. Oh yes, the change was all a part of God’s original plan. But the plan was to involve a demonstration of the lengths to which God would go to give us fellowship with Him. It was a demonstration of His grace and love for us.
Consider what God has done for you. And then, consider what you can do for God.
“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all write about the tearing of the temple curtain – the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (the place of God’s dwelling). Other than the fact of its tearing, they make no other point.
In the days of Moses, the curtain was made of “blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman” (Exodus 26:31). That curtain was replaced by Solomon when the temple was built and described as “made of blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, with cherubim worked into it” (2 Chronicles 3:14). The Jewish historian Josephus described the curtain in Herod’s day as ninety feet high and thirty feet wide. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and made with marvelous skill. On the curtain was an image of the heavens. That last part is important.
The writer of the book of Hebrews noted that Christ at his death entered the Most Holy Place with his own blood to obtain redemption for us all. It is by that same blood that we too enter into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:19).
I find it interesting that when the gospel of Mark begins, the heavens are torn open and God proclaims about Jesus: “This is my Son.” At the end of the gospel, a curtain with the heavens depicted on them is torn open and I imagine the significance was not to announce Jesus’ divinity nor even to receive Jesus back, but to call all of us into God’s presence.
He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36)
Jesus knew he was going to die. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that at least three times, Jesus told his disciples he was going to be murdered..
But Mark makes plain Jesus did not want to die.
More vividly than the other gospel writers, Mark describes Jesus’ panic in the garden. In Matthew Jesus prayed “if it be possible, let this cup pass.” Luke has it “if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” In Mark, however, Jesus is more direct. First, he leans heavily on his relationship with God calling him “abba Father” (or daddy, father). It’s the only time Jesus uses this most familial of addresses. Then, he says “all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” It’s not a request, but a cry of desperation.
You have to see all this to appreciate what follows. They don’t forcibly drag Jesus away, kicking and screaming. Jesus willingly goes to meet the mob, and then goes with them. And though the story that follows is shorter in Mark than the other accounts, it’s obvious Jesus is in charge all the way. He criticizes the mob for their hypocrisy. He refuses to answer the High Priest except to warn him of impending judgment – a judgment Jesus himself will inflict. He refuses to answer Pilate except to affirm that he is king of the Jews.
Jesus will go to his death in control all the way, because he had, in the end, entrusted himself to God. In days of difficulty we pour out our hearts to God for deliverance. Sometimes it is received. Sometimes not. Either way, life is to be lived under His hand, and that means there comes a time when prayers for deliverance stop. Not because we lose faith, but because we have resigned ourselves to the will of God, and trust Him to see us through.