“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38
The temple/ tabernacle was designed and purposed back in Exodus, though it had been rebuilt by the days of Christ. Solomon puts it all so well when he finishes building the more permanent temple in the Promised Land. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! “ (1 Kings 8:27) The temple was not so that God could have a place to live (1 Kings 8:28-30), but for our good, so that God can be near us. And when we turn toward the temple we would remember God is with us and listens to us and forgives.
The temple was about us having a good relationship with God.
The curtain was made to look just like the others that made up the temple, with blue and scarlet and purple fine yarns and “with cherubim skillfully worked into it.” (Exodus 26:31) But there was something special about this curtain; not how it looked but the purpose it served. “The veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.” (Exodus 26:33) Why was the separation needed? Here are just a few examples of people who got a little too close to God and His holiness.
- Moses asks to see God’s glory. God says He’ll show Moses His back, not His face. Otherwise he would die. (Exodus 33:17-23)
- Moses comes down from the mountain after talking with God and his face is shining. Not like a light around his face, but the skin on his face shone, so bad that Moses had to veil his face so he could interact with the Israelites. (Exodus 34:29-35)
- Little background- the ark of God was housed in the Most Holy place, unless it was in transit. Once while in transit, the oxen carrying the ark stumble and good little Uzzah tries to keep the holy ark from touching the ground. But God gets angry because he touched what was holy without being clean. Uzzah died on the spot. (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
The curtain was to keep us from death, distancing us from God.
So what? God had promised that He would change the way things were done in regards to our relationship to Him. The old way was sacrifices and laws and a God who dwelled in a temple. The new way promised an internal law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), forgiveness for all our sins without constant sacrifices (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 53:6,12), and a personal relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus Christ was the means to this new way of doing things. His death replaced the need for constant sacrifices. God accepted the blood of goats and other animals as a sacrifice worthy of making us clean. Then He provided the perfect sacrifice- the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:13-14). At the moment of his death, all our sins were forgiven and we were made clean. There was no need for the curtain anymore as separation from God and His glory. So God got rid of it, hence the tearing from top to bottom.
It’s all about having a close relationship with God!