Author’s Note: On RedState back in September, I wrote, “A Quick and Compelling Bible Study for Those Who Don’t Read the Bible.”
After receiving positive comments from readers and many more via email, what appears below could be considered the second installment of an occasional series — but only when the Holy Spirit moves me to write about His Word. That said…
The topic of three passages we are studying today — found in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke — chronicle the same miraculous event: Immediately upon Jesus’s death on the cross, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two.”
Now, I hear you thinking, “Why is that so compelling and worthy of my time on this Super Bowl Sunday?” And my answer, “Don’t leave for the pre-game party until you understand the all-important context of the following three passages:
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks split” (Matthew 27:50-51).
“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).
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:44-46).
If you are still with me, hopefully, the context has piqued your interest regarding the perfectly timed correlation between when Jesus “gave up his spirit” and the tearing of the temple curtain.
First, it is essential to know why this was no ordinary curtain.
Second, what was behind the curtain?
Remember the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? The “ark” was based on the Ark of the Covenant — a magnificent gold chest housing the two tablets of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses, as written in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20.
Furthermore, according to the New Testament Book of Hebrews 9:4, the Ark also “contained the gold jar of manna” and “Aaron's staff that had budded,” — both connected to miracles described in Exodus. All three of the Ark’s holy contents were gifts from God when He made His presence known to the Hebrew people after they fled Egypt and wandered in the desert for four decades before reaching the Promised Land of Israel.
God conveyed precise instructions to Moses about how the Ark must be constructed, and you can read them in Exodus 25:10-22. Based on those passages, here is a depiction of the Ark, according to National Geographic.
After completion, the Ark was to reside within a Tabernacle — the place where God dwells among his people. God’s exact orders to Moses were: "Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain” Exodus 26:30.
And the tabernacle was to have a curtain.
God the Creator, Craftsman, Textile Expert, and Interior Designer commanded Moses to produce a curtain with these specifications:
"Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place” (Exodus 26: 31-33).
For emphasis and because the passage is central to this Bible study, I shall repeat: “The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.”
Now that you have learned how the curtain came to be and about the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant behind the curtain — let’s proceed to the moment when Christ “breathed his last” and “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Why and how did that happen? What does it mean? What does it mean to you?
I will attempt to answer all these questions before the first Doritos commercial airs.
A curtain, by definition, separates one thing from another. The curtain of the Tabernacle separated the place where God dwelled among his people on earth, from the people. Thus, since only God could have torn His curtain (specifically from “top to bottom”) and tore it the moment Christ died, it meant that God and Man were no longer separated. A direct path to God through Christ was opened. No barrier means Christ is accessible to you!
The curtain tearing passages are among my favorite Scriptures because, in my 20s, Christ made himself accessible to me — having been born and raised Jewish, with no knowledge of Him.
If you have no knowledge of Him and are learning about the tearing of the curtain for the first time, thanks for reading this far on National Super Party Day. It is my sincere hope that you think or pray about a “curtain” in your life that separates you from God. Know today that you can “tear it in two,” walk on through, and Jesus will be there to greet you!