The hour had come for the Lord to depart from this earth. All had been accomplished that he needed to do while he was here and it was now time for the next stage of the work to be done. He had trained his disciples to the point that they needed to be taken and now Jesus had to leave the earth for the next stage to commence. He had fulfilled all of the prophecies that spoke of his time on earth and it was time to return to the Father so that the disciples could begin their work.
The Signs of his Death
This was both figuratively and literally earth’s and mankind’s darkest hour. It was a travesty of justice, or the lack of justice that the Lord was murdered in this way. And yet this was in the plan of God that Jesus should die, for without doing so we would not have been freed from our sins. It was necessary that he died to bring the new covenant into being for a covenant, like a will, only takes effect at the death of the one who made it. Similarly even the old covenant did not have any effect in terms of the forgiveness of sin, until the death of the sacrificial animals.
But we also see the physical signs attending Jesus death. The sun was darkened from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, that is, from about noon to 3:00 pm. Now this was no simple eclipse of the sun as some people suggest. If you have ever been in an eclipse of the sun you would know that the period of darkness lasts only minutes, and there is a short period of twilight either side of the height of the eclipse as the moon progresses across the face of the sun. Also a solar eclipse is very localized as it impacts only a narrow path across the face of the earth. But in this case we see there was darkness for three hours across the face of the whole land.
The Curtain of the Temple is Torn
The significance of the tearing of the temple is enormous. Firstly, this was no ordinary curtain. It was estimated that the weight of the curtain was quite heavy due to the materials it was made of and it has been suggested that it may have been up to four inches (100 mm) thick. No man could have torn something that thick and heavy.
Then there is the fact that it was torn from top to bottom. Again, no man could have carried out such a feat as the curtain was very high and would have required ladders or some other structure just to get to the top before the tear could be made. To set up a ladder or structure would have been a violation of the temple and the temple guards would have been called to remove anyone trying to do so.
Thus it is clear that it was torn not by man, but through the direct intervention of God and in another version of this event we see a powerful angel carried out this action.
But the significance of the tearing of the curtain is of most importance. Under the old covenant only the high priest was permitted to go behind the curtain into the holy of holies and stand in the presence of the Lord. And he could only go there once each year to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. The curtain stood as a barrier to prevent anyone else from entering into the holy of holies to stand in the presence of God.
But when the curtain was torn in two, it symbolized the way was now open for all mankind to enter into the presence of God, and that was achieved through the death of Jesus. As Jesus had said many times, “I am the way.” in Jesus all of mankind now has the ability and the opportunity to come to God and to stand in his presence. There is no longer any need for earthly priests to intercede for a man with God, for Christ himself has gone into the temple of God in the heavenly places and sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us directly with the Father.
The New Covenant Begins
This was now the beginning of the new covenant. It began with the death of Jesus and we begin to see the power and the working of the new covenant from this point forward.
And it is a wondrous thing that the Lord would do this for us. For he had to suffer and to die so that we could receive the gift of grace from God and freedom from our sins. The praise and honour he deserves cannot be even imagined for this act of love that he carried out on our behalf. The treasure of the gifts that he has given us that we might be able to find a place of perfection, a better life in this world and in the end a life eternal with Jesus and the Father is inexpressible.
Truly we have been blessed beyond all imagination in this one single act, in the obedience of the Lord to the wishes of the Father so that we can be saved. And all we need to do is to believe, have faith and accept this gift. May we always praise the Lord our God and Jesus Christ our Saviour for this wonderful gift and opportunity.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/)