“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51).
I recently started reading the Bible again from the very beginning. I’ve read it through many times, and with each reading I gain some new understanding or insight. This time it came in the very first chapter. In the Genesis account of creation one thing stood out to me: separation. Over and over, the author of Genesis either used the word separate specifically or by implication.
He separated the light from the darkness (v. 4).
He separated the waters above from the waters beneath (v. 7).
He separated the land from the seas (v. 9).
He separated the day from the night (v. 14)
He created plant life and animals: birds, sea creatures, livestock, wild animals, even reptiles according to their kinds – an implication of separation (vv. 21, 24, 25).
Then He created man – after His own image, separated from all the other life forms (v. 27).
From the very first day of creation, God established this principle of separation. He maintained this principle consistently. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, He separated them from their perfect home—and from Himself. He called Abraham to separate himself from his ancestral home and practices (Gen. 12:1). Then He commanded the people of Israel to remain separated from the nations around them (Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-11). And most significantly, when giving Moses the directions for the Tabernacle, He commanded that a curtain would shield the Ark of the Covenant—separating the people from God. When King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, a curtain again stood between God and man.
For centuries the Hebrew people were required to keep distance between themselves and God’s presence. Only the high priest could enter, only once per year, and only by way of a blood sacrifice. No common person dared draw near.
Until that dark Friday afternoon.
Until the day Jesus died.
Jesus – the God-man – hung on a cross bearing the sin and condemnation for every human that ever lived. He took your sin and mine upon His own shoulders. He bore the weight of His Father’s rejection, crying out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 15:34). Jesus was now separated from His Father. And as death begin to crush the life out of Him, an unseen hand reached down from heaven, into the Temple, and tore the tall, heavy curtain in two – from the top down (Matt. 27:51). The perfect blood sacrifice had been given and man was no longer separated from his Creator.
Jesus’ death closed the chasm that stood between us and God. We no longer have to stand apart from His holiness because Christ’s blood makes us holy. We are free to enter into God’s presence through the sacrifice of the His one and only Son. Paul confirms that we have been reconciled to God in his great doxology:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword. I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”
(Romans 8:35, 37-39).
God began creation by separation, and for centuries He maintained a distance between Himself and man. But through the blood of Jesus, God threw the barriers aside and He now invites us to “draw near” and to “approach the throne of grace” (James 10:22; 4:16). When He tore the curtain God said, “No more separation.” He declared “You are welcomed into My presence.” We are no longer sinful creatures on the outside looking in; we are dearly loved children of the King of the Universe.
Holy Father, it staggers my mind to think that I can draw near to You. I am in awe that You made it possible through the death of Your Son. Now nothing stands between You and me, not a curtain, not a power, not anything in creation—not even my sin—because of Jesus. Thank You Lord for loving me so much! Amen.