On November 9, 1989, an announcement was made that the 30 year old Berlin Wall would be opening soon. Overwhelmed with anticipated freedom, instead of waiting, the people flooded through gates and climbed over the walls as guards, who only days before would have shot anyone attempting to get out of East Germany, stood and watched. Family, friends and people simply wanting to escape from the prison of communism were now free.
The wall that had been built by East Germany, not to keep the West Berliners in but to keep the East Berliners out, was now breeched. The barrier was broken down. The way opened, never to be closed again.
A barrier is a physical structure that blocks or impedes something. Like a concrete wall, an Iron Curtain, or even a veil.
In ancient days, Moses was told to build a tent structure where sacrifices would be made and ceremonies carried out that would connect the Jews with God Himself. The tent would have two compartments with unique functions. The first compartment – called the Holy Place - would be used daily in servicing the Temple. But the second room – the Holy of Holies - was only to be used one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest could go inside and apply sacrificial blood to a piece of furniture called the Mercy Seat, which was over the Ark of the Covenant.
To keep anyone from seeing into that chamber and to create a barrier separating man from God, a huge and heavy curtain was hung to divide the rooms. That curtain was called the Veil.
You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver. You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the Ark of the Covenant there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. You shall put the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies. (Ex 26:31-34)
When the Temple that was built to replace Moses’ tent structure, the ceiling was raised to 60 feet high. So in Jesus’ day, that veil was now 30’ wide and 60’ tall. And more than an inch thick.
The Veil wasn’t designed to keep God in, but to keep man out. Only the High Priest, once a year, after he had been ceremonially cleansed could go inside.
There he would meet with God in behalf of the people. Nobody else got in.
This veil was literal and posed a physical barrier, but it also had a deeply spiritual message of the separation of Holy God from sinful man.
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isa 59:2)
Why? The rules of approaching a Holy God have never changed. Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord, who may come into His presence? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.
The Jewish High Priest had to be ceremonially cleansed for that one time per year moment. How on earth could a regular person ever hope to have access to God?
Now comes the Easter story: Two Parts
The cross: But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isa 53:5-6)
Jesus, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:14)
My iniquities – my actions in disregard to who God is – my unrighteousness caused this separation to fall on Him. He then took it away.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)
Righteous was the key. Jesus cleared out what separated us, then qualified us to come into God’s presence. Jesus makes us right with God.
No person can remove that barrier of sin that separates us from God. Fortunately we don’t have to. He did. And then gave us access to God.
The working of God was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Eph 3:11-12)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our access by faith into this grace in which we stand… (Rom 5:1-2)
But what about that veil? We’re told in an almost incidental manner – Oh by the way – that veil was torn in two from top to bottom. No other details, just the veil was torn from top to bottom. What seems to be insignificant to the story probably holds one of the most important messages within that Story.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record it. Here’s Mark: And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:37f)
Because of the height of the veil and its thickness, it’s clear no human could have done this. It would have taken super-human strength to pull it apart and, remember, it was torn from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Only God could have done this.
Which then begs the question: why? God wanted a literal demonstration of the barrier being torn apart. A visual of the separation being removed.
Think of what that would say to the Jewish people who had been told all their lives only the priest can approach God? And now, God is wanting to embrace them Himself.
My mother-in-law had a strange habit of reading her mail, tearing it in half and throwing it in the trash. I thought if she was tearing it so nobody could get her information out of it, anyone could put the pieces back together again. Years later when I saw my wife doing the same thing and her sister doing the same thing I had to know if this was some genetic abnormality that might be passed on to our kids. They said it just meant they were done with it and moving on.
When you’re done with something, you don’t keep doing it. If you pay off your mortgage, you don’t keep paying. If you complete your car loan, you don’t keep sending in payments.
When Jesus died, the penalty for sin was now paid in full. The old system was no longer necessary. The debt was paid. God was done with it and moving on.
What had kept us separated from God was the price of sin. The price was paid. The cross bridged the gap. Access to God is now available.
Paul explained it this way: you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:12-14, 18)
Peter said: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Pet 3:18)
Before the Berlin Wall came down, many of the people trapped on the communist side lost hope of ever being released, ever having access to freedom, friends and family on the other side—destined to live imprisoned to an empty existence. Some in desperation tried to cross the wall. Hundreds of people gave up their lives trying to escape. Why? Tired of their old life, wanting freedom, hoping for a better life. Wanting access but kept running into that barrier—that wall.
Then, the wall opened up and they rushed inside.
The veil has been torn and access to God is now available, still many haven’t rushed inside yet. Why is that? Man-made barriers:
Sin – how could I be forgiven for all I’ve done.
Anger – you have no idea what I’ve been through.
Doubt – I’ve been disappointed by so many people, so many times, I’m afraid to
trust any more.
Fear – I don’t want to get messed up any worse than I already am.
Hurt – I’ve got a lot of baggage.
Religion – They told me to just be good enough and do what’s expected and I’ll be
The torn Veil destroyed the power of any and all obstacles that might keep us from God.
But we still have the resurrection sides of the Easter Story. Apparently, God wanted to show us one more symbol. A stone can be a barrier. When Jesus was placed in the tomb a huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. On Easter Sunday, the stone was rolled away. Why? Not to let Jesus out, but to let us in and see He’s risen. If we know He’s alive He can bring life to us. He can do everything He promised because He is alive to perform His work in us who believe.
1. God loves you.
2. Jesus died so you could have access to a personal relationship with God.
3. He is waiting for you to tell Him you want this new life.
4. Everything God promised is now available because the veil has been torn and
the stone has been rolled away.