In the last few years, I’ve become more and more fascinated with the Temple. I think of this beautiful courtyard, the altar overlaid with gold, with animal blood running down the sides and congealing on the floor. I imagine the beautiful implements being lovingly crafted, some of which would disappear into the Holy Place, or even into the Holy of Holies, and never be seen again except by a select few priests. I wonder what the veil looked like, the one that only one priest passed once a year. And I wonder what it was like on the day when it tore, top to bottom.
Were there priests serving in the Holy Place when it happened? Were there eye witnesses? What went through their minds when God tore through the curtain that had protected them from His raw presence? What did they feel when God broke free of the walls that they had built to contain Him?
The Israelites always seemed to try to avoid the Presence of God. They asked Moses to speak to Him on the mountain. They built Him an Ark that they could carry with them, but couldn’t get too close. They built the Most Holy Place with the very best they had to offer, but let someone else bring their sacrifices to the Lord.
Do God’s chosen people still do that today? Do we build Him a room, maybe small, maybe large? Do we put up a veil between Him and us and serve around the edges? Do we ask others to bring our sacrifices for us because we are afraid?
Good Friday, that best and worst of Fridays, says no. The veil was torn, top to bottom, because God would no longer be contained. He violently burst out of the carefully constructed room that had been built for Him. As the Spirit left the body of the Son on the cross, He also left the dead dwelling where we had consigned Him.
Good Friday says that the Spirit of God cannot be confined to a room, a building, a person, or a race. It is Gospel, good news, that nothing stands between me and God. It is also terrifying. Nothing stands between me and God. There is no one who will intercede for me except the Son Himself. There is no place to hide my secret sins and shame. Everything is laid bare and exposed.
No one understood that Friday, even though He had tried to tell them. It must have felt like He had been defeated and that His promises about the Kingdom of Heaven could not possibly be fulfilled. They must have felt like the greatest fools in history for believing yet another Messiah. And yet…they didn’t flee Jerusalem. Scattered and deserted, those closest to Him couldn’t quite bring themselves to go too far. When there was nothing left to believe in, they waited. Easter morning was coming.