44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
One detail of the crucifixion story that has always amazed me is the account of the curtain in the temple being torn in two. It is stated so matter-of-factly in Luke that it seems almost a throw-away comment. But these 10 words changed everything for the Jew, and for us.
To suddenly witness the tearing of a curtain that not only was too heavy (at least 4 tons) and too thick (over 10 cm thick and 20 meters high) to be torn by a human, but was also torn from top to bottom, must have been staggering. For the casual onlooker this may have been impressive because of the size and weight of the curtain, but for the Jew, this was life-changing. God did not wait for us to find a way to Him. He tore the division between us by sending His Son to pay our penalty for sin. The bloody sacrifice of lambs was over. The yearly practice of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people was now obsolete. Anyone could come before the throne and ask forgiveness for sins.
This tearing down of the dividing wall between us and God is both terrifying and freeing. It is terrifying because we cannot hide from the God who judges our sin. His holiness is overwhelming. It is freeing because the sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins is now complete. Jesus, THE Lamb, has been sacrificed once for all time and now we have access to God. What an awesome privilege we have to “approach the throne of grace with confidence”! (Hebrews 4:16)